[Note: this is the first guest post on Web Teacher. I hope to use more guest posts in the future to provide content that I think will be valuable to the readers of this blog. This post by Roko Nastic provides information that educators and students need to know about web hosting.]
A VPS (Virtual Private Server) has become a popular transition tool for webmasters who have outgrown their shared hosting plan, but still do not have the need for a full dedicated server. To understand if a VPS is the best choice for you, it is important to understand what a VPS is and some critical characteristics that you need to keep in mind when choosing the right to fit your needs.
What Is a VPS?
The easiest way to think of a VPS is like a dedicated server, with a few minor differences. A VPS is a single server that utilizes multiple hard drives or a single drive that has been partitioned, for separate users. Limits are placed on each partition to ensure that the lagging problems that are associated with shared hosting do not come into play. Every user has an independent operating system which allows changes to be made without affecting other users. Think of a VPS like you would a giant row of townhouses. They are all part of one unit, but operate independently from each other.
People choose to use a VPS because it offers the same advantages of a dedicated server, yet the multiple users are leveraged to provide a lower priced option. While each VPS does not have the total power or capacity of a dedicated server, they do carry benefits such as independent operating system, root access, and much more.
How to Choose a VPS?
The criteria that is used to choose the perfect VPS varies from person to person, however there are specific factors that must be taken into consideration in order to make a satisfactory choice.
RAM is always at the top of the list when choosing a VPS. Oftentimes, RAM is a primary factor in determining the overall cost. In fact, it may be the only variable between one account and another. Unlike a shared hosting environment, your RAM will be used to run your own operating system and server. This means that you will be using more RAM for your website than you would in a shared hosting environment.
If your hosting provider offers “burstable” RAM, you may be able to use that RAM in addition to dedicated RAM amount. Burstable RAM is like backup RAM that is used when you get a traffic spike, commonly from Web 2.0 websites such as Digg, Twitter, or Facebook. While this is a great fail-safe, most hosting providers will make you upgrade your account if you consistently tap into the burstable RAM.
Managed or Unmanaged
VPS hosting offers both managed and unmanaged options. As with any type of hosting, the more managed it is, the more expensive it will be and the less control that you will have. However, unmanaged VPS hosting can quickly consume a large amount of your time as well as will require a large amount of technical knowledge. If you are just moving from a shared hosting environment, a managed account is probably the best choice. In an unmanaged environment, the hosting company will only do required reboots, hardware maintenance, and deal with network issues, the rest will be up to you.
Bandwidth is always a concern regardless of what type of hosting package you are looking at. While nearly every hosting company offers unlimited bandwidth, it is important to find out what unlimited really means. If your website caters to visitors from one primary geographic area, it is a good idea to find a hosting company that is with or near that area.
It is important to choose a hosting company that provides exceptional security and monitoring. Certain types of server attacks, such as DDOS attacks, can slow down the entire server to a point where your website will no longer load. If the hosting provider offers adequate monitoring and protection, these attacks can be quickly stopped and even prevented. This is critical to prevent downtime.
A VPS is considered to be a very affordable option, when compared to a dedicated server. Normally, a VPS will start as low as $10 a month. However, as with all services, the more features you want, the more expensive it will be. Additionally, managed VPS environments will always be more expensive than an unmanaged VPS.
There are a variety of additional features that you may want to keep an eye on. It is important to choose a VPS that utilizes a control panel that you are comfortable with. The two most popular options have consistently been cPanel and Plesk. Choosing a control panel that you already know will make managing your VPS much easier and eliminate some of the learning curve. Another feature is the server uptime. Most companies offer a 99% uptime guarantee and anything less is a waste of time and money.
Choosing to utilize a VPS can seem like an overwhelming decision at first. However, once you understand what a VPS is and some of the important characteristics to consider, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
About the author: Roko Nastic is a full time webmaster and blogger passionate in helping other webmasters and website owners create faster, better and more profitable websites. He enjoys writing blog posts and news articles for WebmasterFormat.com and making connections with the like minded bloggers all around the web.