This hosting guide is dedicated for those who wish to learn more about virtual private server (VPS) or simply looking for how-to-choose advice in VPS hosting. As VPS and shared hosting are two very different hosting environments; we need to look into a different set of factors when choosing a VPS plan.
How Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting Works
The easiest way to explain what VPS hosting – or Virtual Private Server hosting – entails is to think of it simply as a server within a bigger server.
Root access, dedicated server resources, and isolated hosting environment
In VPS hosting, every website is hosted on a virtual private server on a more powerful hardware.
A physical machine is divided into several virtual compartments, and server software is set up on them separately, making each unit capable of functioning independently. Thus, though other websites may be hosted on the same physical system, yours would be the only website(s) hosted in the virtual compartment allocated (with independant server resources as CPU, RAM, disk space, etc) to you, and other websites on the machine won’t affect the performance of yours. That would mean you get exactly the same system resources you pay for.
It’s like each website residing in an isolated room with sufficient resources to live with.
You get complete root access to your server as if it were your dedicated server. But technically you are still on the same physical machine and sharing its CPU, RAM and bandwidth. VPS hosting gives you complete control over your server and almost the same benefits of the pricey dedicated server. This way, you can get a virtual dedicated server for a much cheaper price and get high performance for your website than a shared server.
VPS vs. Shared Hosting
Think of it like real estate… Hosting in a shared hosting environment is like renting an apartment; there is one landlord (the hosting company) who owns the full space and all assets.
That landlord leases out the space and communal assets such as a pool, workout facility, parking lots, etc. (or in hosting terms, CPU, RAM, disk space, etc.) – and all residents share those communal resources. VPS hosting is like the next step “up” – or a condo – in which you actually own your own space. You’ll still share communal assets – though you have actual claims to certain portions of them, but unlike the apartment (shared hosting), you are responsible for maintaining your own interior space and making your own repairs and modifications. Additionally, there are significantly fewer residents and, as a bonus, assigned parking. More or less, you have rights to your space and a specific allocation of the resources – rather than pulling from a shared pool all of the time.
VPS vs. Dedicated Hosting
VPS is kind of like entry-level home ownership; you have the benefit of lower costs, but still enjoy shared community amenities – versus the next step up, dedicated hosting, which is like owning your first free-standing home.
In dedicated hosting, you have your very own space and are responsible for everything on the property – think interior cleaning and maintenance, as well as the exterior and landscaping. You’re on your own in this hosting scenario, and as such, need to have some technical experience and prowess.
The VPS hosting is the middle ground, providing a step up from the shared “apartment” hosting that comes with more assigned allocations and guaranteed resources – but still affords you the benefit of a “landlord” should you need repairs, maintenance, or support.
Disadvantages of VPS Hosting
All of this having been said, before you make the switch from shared server to VPS hosting, you need to know that there are some disadvantages.
For one, VPS hosting is generally more expensive than shared server hosting environments. Also, you’ll need some technical ability – especially if you are planning to use an unmanaged VPS host. Beyond that, VPS hosting can entail some extra time and effort to manage – for example, monitoring and maintaining the server to ensure that it remains secure and in reliable condition requires some time and know-how.
How To Choose The Right VPS Hosting?
As you look to make your choice, there are some general factors to take into consideration.
Factor #1: Windows vs Linux
To start with, you need to know which type of VPS environment you will run: Windows or Linux. Linux is a different ballgame than Windows, but certainly has its perks. Regardless of wants and comfort levels, if your site is running on ASP or ASP.net, you will need to use a Windows environment.
Factor #2: Managed vs Unmanaged
In shared hosting, you don’t get root access to the server and hence the question of managing the server does not arise.
But when it comes to VPS hosting, the whole virtual server is handed over to you. So, there needs to be somebody to look after it and monitor its performance. If this is taken care of by your VPS provider, then it is called managed VPS, whereas in unmanaged VPS you need to take the responsibility of your server all by yourself.
Unmanaged hosting requires you to monitor the performance and keep the server running in good health. If your server software happens to crash, or some security issue manages to creep in, you are the one to fix it being the only administrator of your VPS.
So, if you are a seasoned geek, who knows ins and outs of server management and are familiar with stuff like shutting down, repairing, restarting, rebooting the server, then you are a good candidate for unmanaged hosting. Else, you should choose to pay a little more and go with managed VPS.
The extent to which a VPS is managed varies from vendor to vendor and even with different plans with the same vendor. So, you should keep this in mind while comparing different VPS plans or vendors before you go ahead with finalizing one for you.
Most VPS hosting providers offer managed VPS hosting by default, but unmanaged does allow for some additional freedom – provided, of course, that you know how to and are comfortable managing and configuring everything by yourself.
Factor #3: Redundancy and Scalability
Redundancy basically refers to having a backup resource in place, especially at the datacenter. If the regular power supply fails, generators and UPS systems should be there; if the services of the ISP are interrupted, some other alternative arrangement should be there, if one server is overloaded, other standby server should be there; so on and so forth. Scalability on the other hand indicates the ability to handle sudden, occasional increased loads on the server, usually by making use of the redundant resources in the system. Both of these combined together translates into higher uptime and consistent performance.
Factor #4: Server Configuration & Features
Configuration of your server plays an important role in the speed and performance of your website. What capacity processor you will get, how much RAM you will be allocated and how big your share in the disk size will be, all matters. Apart from this, you should also find out about the quality of the physical machine your VPS is created on. It should be of reputed brand and high capacity; if the foundation is weak, you can’t expect a strong construction.
- Server RAM & Storage – How much RAM and disk space are offered and included? In my opinion, you’ll need – at a bare minimum – 1 GB RAM and 20 GB storage. Of course, your exact needs will vary based on your website traffic, space requirements, etc.
- Data Transfer – Are there any restrictions on data transfers? If so, what are your options if you exceed those limits? Most VPS hosts will impose some limitations – make sure you know what they are and what happens should you need to exceed them.
- Distributions – What are your choices in VPS operating system? Does your site need to run on a specific Linux distribution (or depends on the latest version of the distribution)? It’s important that your VPS provider supplies the right distribution and update the OS regularly.
- Backup – What type of backup protocols are in place? How is your data and site architecture protected?
- IP address – How many IP addresses are included with your service? If there is a limit, what is the cost for additional addresses?
- CPU core – Web servers tend to use very little CPU power – unless you are running a game server. But still, you might want to find out how many core you were given in your VPS account.
Factor #5: Customer Support
No matter how efficient and feature rich your VPS hosing provider is, some problems arise from nowhere at times. In such situations, you need a handy support team to sort things out. If they are unable to provide 24/7 customer support, they simply are not worth the money you spend. If you face some serious issue with your website and it goes unfixed for too long, you may lose your potential visitors and that could mean you a lot depending on the type of website you have. It is better to test the customer support team of a hosting provider before determining whether to go with them.
Factor #7: Affordability
It is always important to check the pricing of more hosting providers before choosing the right one for you. Cost is always a factor that you shouldn’t completely ignore. Hosting providers charge more for their plans with managed servers and higher level of resources. It is up to you to decide upon a plan most suitable for your requirements.
Factor #8: Trialperiod
Most hosting providers will offer a free trial period (which is really a money-back guarantee should you be unsatisfied with the service). Find out what the trial period is – then, during that period, make use of server monitoring systems, such as Pingdom or WHSR Uptime Monitor, to track server uptime and responses.
When Is The Right Time To Switch?
Most websites launch using a shared hosting plan (for shared hosting choosing guide, read this) – it just makes sense since it’s the most budget friendly and requires the least technical knowledge and ability to get started and make it work.
As mentioned, shared hosting accounts share a pool of resources as assigned by the web host… which means that if one of the shared hosting accounts sucks up a large portion of the resources, you’re left in a canoe without a paddle (or in more technical terms, you will suffer slower load times or even an outage on your own site).
Which brings me to answering the initial question… When is it time for a change to VPS?
In truth, that depends on your needs and situation. If your website is working well – you have strong uptime records, decent site load times, and other quality metrics along with satisfying service, you really don’t have a reason to change.
However, if you need a hosting environment with better reliability, storage, etc. – or, if you need added flexibility or better security, it might be time to make the switch to VPS hosting.
Not sure if it’s time for you to make the switch? Here are a few indications that VPS hosting might be a better option for you.
- Heavy Traffics – You have a high amount of incoming traffic. Sometimes you will receive a notification from your shared hosting provider if you are pulling too many resources from the shared server – this is a tangible way to know that you need to upgrade your server capacity. If you don’t receive a notification from your provider, watch your load times and visitor traffic – your growth is an excellent indication.
- Better Reliability – You need a stable stream of resources for better website reliability.
- Secured Hosting Environment – You need to implement better backups, advanced monitoring capabilities, and enhanced security features (such as SSH – or secure shell access)
- Site Branding – You want to better brand your website with dedicated IP addresses and private nameservers.
- Server Root Access – You have reached a point that you require complete control over your web host to perform more advanced actions, such as installing custom software or a custom server configuration.
- User Control – You need to manage hosting for multiple clients’ websites on your own account. For example, if you are a developer who helps clients to design and host their own websites, you likely take on some of that hosting work and responsibility – VPS hosting will give you better control over user access, while also allowing you to give your clients access to the servers.
VPS Hosting Price: How Much Should You Pay?
As is the case with any purchase, price will play a part in your decision as to whether you move to VPS – and with which hosting provider. Price varies considerably for VPS hosting, simply because of the variability and nature of the hosting environment. VPS hosting costs depend on numerous factors, such as customization options, the different hardware specs, service levels, and more.
That said, to provide something of a baseline, you should expect to pay somewhere in the range of $8-$15 for a basic VPS hosting package that includes 1 GB RAM and 20 GB storage.
VPS Hosting Pricing Guide (last updated on April 16th, 2015)
|AltusHost||Arvixe||A Small Orange||BlueHost||DreamHost||GoDaddy|
|Storage||40 GB||20 GB||30 GB||30 GB||30 GB SSD||40 GB|
|Data Transfer||2 TB||Unlimited||1 TB||1 TB||Unlimited||1 TB|
|RAM||1 GB||1 GB||2 GB||2 GB||1 GB||1 GB|
|Storage||50 GB||60 GB||25 GB||50 GB SSD||24 GB SSD||30 GB|
|Data Transfer||Unlimited||2 TB||1 TB||Unlimited||2 TB||250 GB|
|RAM||4 GB||4 GB||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB|
|Storage||60 GB||40 GB||60 GB||20 GB||3 GB||40 GB|
|Data Transfer||1 TB||500 GB||1 TB||1 TB||250 GB||800 GB|
|RAM||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB||512 MB||64 MB||1 GB|
* Note: All prices and hosting features are based on 12-month subscription on the lowest Linux VPS hosting plan offered by each provider respecitively.
A VPS hosting becomes a necessity at some point of time in the growth of your website. You have to be careful in choosing the right one that suits your preferences. Obviously you can’t do this without knowing your needs and requirements. So, start off with your calculations and try to quantify your estimated requirements. This will be a big help in fixing down on a suitable VPS provider for your project.