When it comes to hosting a website, the choice used to be pretty limited. You’d typically start with an affordable shared hosting plan, and when your website grew popular enough, you’d move to a pricey dedicated server. Indeed, hosting companies would provide several solutions before the service would become really expensive, but you pretty much had no other choice but to share the resources of a server with many other users until you were big enough and could afford a dedicated solution.
Then, Virtual Private Server (or VPS) hosting started to emerge, and its ever-growing popularity shows that it has solved quite a few of the problems traditionally associated with shared hosts.
Table of contents:
- Why VPS?
- What does a web hosting provider do for you?
- Signs of a good VPS hosting provider
- Questions to ask before choosing a VPS provider
In recent years, the price gap between shared and VPS solutions has shrunk significantly, and some people might be tempted to think that a VPS plan is nothing more than a slightly more expensive and a bit more powerful shared package. This is not really the case.
The entire setup in a VPS is different. When your website is hosted on a shared host, the hardware resources of an entire server are shared between dozens of websites. They are not distributed among them, though.
If at any given time, one of the websites on the shared host needs to use 50% of the server’s CPU resources, there’s usually nothing to stop it from doing that. The downside of this is that the rest of the projects on the same server need to make do with the remaining power.
This is not a problem with a VPS because this type of hosting offers you guaranteed resources. Once again, you can have multiple accounts located on the same physical server, but each VPS gets a predetermined amount of storage space, and CPU and RAM resources that are reserved just for it. There’s also a dedicated IP for each virtual server, meaning that you don’t need to worry about someone sending spam and putting the IP of your website in a blacklist.
In many respects, a VPS is more similar to a dedicated server than it is to a shared hosting plan. At the same time, it deals away with the two main disadvantages associated with a dedicated machine, namely, the price and the ease of use.
Virtual private servers are priced closer to the shared hosting solutions and are much more novice-friendly compared to the expensive dedicated servers. The majority of dedicated servers are unmanaged, meaning that the hosting provider’s job is to power up the server and give you control over it.
It’s then up to you to configure it and create the best possible environment for your website. Advanced users who have specific requirements for their websites will consider this an advantage, but for inexperienced website owners, this may be one challenge too many.
You can find unmanaged VPS services as well, but the managed virtual servers are much more common and are often the better solution. With them, the hosting provider is responsible for setting up the VPS, configuring it, and monitoring its performance, leaving you to focus on your online project.
What does a web hosting provider do for you?
Speed and reliability are the most crucial characteristics of any hosting service. You pay to have your website load quickly and be accessible for as much of the time as possible. If your current hosting provider can’t deliver this, you might want to consider your options.
There’s more to a good service than uptime and performance, though. The hosting industry is an extremely competitive place nowadays, and providers know that if the clients aren’t happy, they’re going to walk away. As a result, the requirements for a good service now span beyond ensuring that your website runs smoothly.
Getting started as quickly as possible is essential. You could do worse than research the different hosting providers to see what they can do to speed up the process.
Because so many new projects are built with content management systems like WordPress, many providers offer free one-click installers that can get you going in no time. In the absence of such tools, some companies have technical support teams that can take care of this task. These support teams can also transfer existing websites to the new server, and some providers offer this service for free.
All these things add value to the service and are definite advantages that must be borne in mind when you’re considering the different options. Some providers, however, choose to go beyond that.
Many of you have probably heard about cPanel – an easy-to-use management platform through which you can control many aspects of your hosting service, including email and FTP accounts, MySQL databases, subdomains, etc. Over the years, cPanel became one of the most popular products of this type, and right now, many people can’t run their websites without it. Last year, however, cPanel shook the industry when it announced that a change in the pricing policy is about to put the licensing fees through the roof.
Some hosting providers covered the increased costs by hiking the prices for their customers, while others decided to try and offer cheaper alternatives. A third group, however, set off to build in-house solutions that offer more or less all of cPanel’s functionality at a fraction of the cost. This kind of behavior shows that some providers care not only about their bottom line but also about their customers.
Signs of a good VPS hosting provider
You might get quite a few different answers to the question of what makes a good web hosting company. Users who are just starting work on a brand new project won’t appreciate the ability to have their existing websites transferred for free, for example, and a one-click WordPress installer will be of no use for those who manually write the code of their website.
It’s a deeply subjective matter that can’t be summarized in a few short sentences. Nevertheless, there are some things that everybody should be looking into.
Nobody likes a slow website. It’s been proven that the website’s speed has a direct bearing on its SEO performance. Poor ranking in Google automatically means that your site will be visited by fewer people, and if it’s slow to load, those who do stumble upon it will likely never want to come back.
The speed of your website is dependent on a number of different factors, and there are numerous things you yourself can do to optimize it. That being said, the hosting environment is just as important, and you could do worse than check what sort of features different providers offer.
Putting the site through a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is one of the easiest steps you can take to improve your website’s loading speeds, and some providers integrate the service into their management panels.
There are some server-side measures that can help, as well. In addition to powerful hardware and a strong internet connection available in the data centers, support for faster web servers like LiteSpeed and Nginx can significantly improve the hosted websites’ performance.
Many website owners ignore the security issue until it’s too late. Hosting providers shouldn’t make the same mistake.
By default, a VPS is a more secure solution than a shared hosting package, but this doesn’t mean that hosting providers can rely solely on the setup to protect people’s data. VPS services must be properly configured in order to maintain a high level of security.
If a customer has picked a managed service, the hosting provider’s job is not only to set the server up but also to maintain it in good working order. This includes configuring the server’s firewall, installing an up-to-date operating system, and taking care of the all-important patch management.
Constant monitoring and an incident response plan ensure that every attack can be taken care of, and a security solution that scans the accounts for malicious behavior in real-time can be an invaluable help in the early detection of a potential breach.
Even if you’ve got plenty of experience and are confident that you’ll have no problems running your website on a virtual private server, you still need to be sure that your hosting provider has a team in place that can take care of any glitches.
The mere creation of a VPS is not always automated, and often, if you are to start using the service, there needs to be a team of specialists that can set it up for you. The same team must also ensure that your server runs correctly, and if there’s an attack, it must follow the procedures to eliminate the issue.
All in all, the importance of high-quality support can not be overstated, no matter how experienced or qualified you are.
One of the main advantages of VPS hosting is the flexibility it offers. Hosting providers offer standard VPS packages that come with predetermined sets of hardware resources, but many also give you the chance to configure how much power your VPS will have yourself.
By choosing the exact number of CPU cores, the RAM, and the storage space, you can ensure that you won’t pay for hardware you don’t need. Don’t forget, however, that you expect to see your website grow and evolve. Check the mechanisms the hosting provider has for upgrading your plan and adding more resources whenever they’re needed.
The ability to easily scale your hosting plan without any delays or downtime is an essential part of a good VPS hosting service.
The budget is an important consideration in the planning of any project, and sometimes, the money you pay for a hosting service is a not inconsiderable part of it. The market is pretty overcrowded at the moment, and the price variations are remarkable.
First, you need to decide whether you need a managed or an unmanaged VPS. Unmanaged servers tend to be cheaper, but as we mentioned already, they require certain levels of technical knowledge to set up and configure correctly. Once you’ve had the type of hosting figured out, you can start looking at the options hosting providers offer.
Bear in mind that a more expensive plan doesn’t necessarily give you more in terms of hardware. You can find seemingly pricier packages with less CPU and RAM resources but more in the way of features that can make your life easier. And vice versa, cheaper solutions might offer a lot of resources and be more of a challenge to maintain. It’s your job to find the balance that suits you the best.
Questions to ask before choosing a VPS provider
Some people tend to underestimate how important a quality hosting service could be for their website. They often choose their provider without doing any research – a mistake that could prove costly. As a website owner, you need to look into all the available options and must carefully consider quite a few things.
The hardware resources you’ll get will obviously play a key role in the performance of your website, but you need to find the plan that adequately serves your requirements and yet doesn’t leave a lot of unused resources. You don’t want to overpay for your hosting service.
The additional tools and features different hosting providers offer are also very important. Even experienced users who have been in the business for a while will appreciate it if their hosting accounts are easier to control and manage, which is why many hosting companies invest a lot of time and effort into making the experience as hassle-free as possible.
Last but not least, you need to check out what other people think about the hosting providers you’re considering. Companies can spend hours bragging about the powerful hardware and the state-of-the-art technology they incorporate into their plans. Only users who have been with these companies can tell you, however, that the service might not be as reliable as advertised or that the technical support team is may not be as responsive as it should be.
This sort of research is essential and can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Going for a VPS rather than a shared hosting plan is a good call. Indeed, the service is more expensive, but the price difference is not as big as it used to be, and the advantages you get with a virtual server massively outweigh the additional costs.
Nevertheless, you need to make sure that you’ll get everything you need from the hosting provider you’ve chosen. Crucially, because the competition is so stiff, you need to make sure that you get it at the right price as well.
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What is the main difference between a VPS and a shared hosting plan?
A virtual private server has a number of advantages over a shared hosting setup. With a VPS, you don’t need to worry about other websites or users interfering with the security or the performance of your own project.
The virtual server has its set of hardware resources that are available for use at any time. The isolated account gives you much better security, and the dedicated IP address means that you don’t need to worry about getting your emails flagged as spam.
What makes a good VPS provider?
Uptime and speed are the most important aspects of a good hosting service. That being said, in this day and age, providers must work harder and offer more to their clients. Expert technical support is now considered a must, and a decent set of tools and services that come included in the package show that the provider is ready to go out of its way to ensure that your website’s requirements are met.
What are the different types of VPS hosting plans?
You have two types of VPS hosting. An unmanaged VPS gives you more control over the virtual server. If you go for this type of plan, you will be asked to choose the operating system, which will be installed by your provider, but from then on, pretty much all of the responsibility falls on you. You need to make sure that it runs smoothly and is securely configured.
If this sounds like too much of a challenge for you, you can opt for a managed VPS solution. In this case, the VPS will be created, configured, and maintained by the hosting company. You won’t need to worry about things like installing patches, configuring firewalls, and monitoring the server’s performance. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on running your online business.
Which is the best VPS hosting plan for me?
Choosing the right provider is not enough. You also need to pick the correct plan if you are to be sure that your website will perform well. This is sometimes easier said than done because the speed with which your website loads is dependent on a number of different factors, including the location of the server, the number of visitors, and the technology on which it is based. Ideally, your hosting provider’s customer support team should be able to assess the requirements of your project and advise you on which plan fits your needs the best.
What is a VPS – Everything you need to know!