Is it time to upgrade your blog to VPS hosting? Before we tackle that though, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is an additional service sold by an Internet hosting company. Generally speaking, signing up for VPS hosting gains a higher level of privacy and control. For example, a normal hosting package assigns multiple users to the same operating system (OS). When you switch to a VPS you’ll have your own copy of the OS installed and can rest assured no other third party client will have access. Though not technically a separate physical server, this is the functional equivalent. How do you know if it’s time to bump your blog up to this level of hosting? Here are three situations that might make you consider the idea.
Outgrown Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is a wonderful, affordable option for those just starting out. Unfortunately, if you have one or more high-traffic websites, you’ll probably start to notice performance issues. Most shared hosting plans limit bandwidth to a certain level. As anyone who has experienced serious traffic knows, once you hit the ceiling, you’re losing money. Visitors who try to access a website under this condition will get an error message, which is financial death to an Internet entrepreneur.
At this point you have two options. The first is to sink a boatload of time and money into a separate physical server that can handle the workload. Did we say this is an expensive option? This is an expensive option! Luckily, there is another route that cleaves a middle ground between shared and a separate physical server. This is VPS, which offers most of the benefits of a dedicated physical server at much less cost.
With a VPS account you will be able to perform the majority of the functions provided by a physical server – install, delete, reboot. If you have multiple high-traffic websites, consider a separate VPS server for each. If one gets hacked, you can shut it down for repair, leaving your other websites unaffected. The bottom line: when your website gets too big for its britches, think VPS hosting.
While shared hosting accounts are an inexpensive way to get your website online, they are a cookie cutter approach to hosting. Due to the low cost, you’ll have to make due with the pre-installed programs selected by the hosting company. If you need the specific technical flexibility offered by a program not on the shared server – sorry – you’ll just have to do without it.
You upgrade to a VPS server! For the modest additional fee associated with the upgrade you gain a world of power. A VPS account allows root level access to the server. This means you can delete and install your own software, choose user permission level, and create accounts. You gain complete control over the server environment but don’t have to worry about the headaches of maintaining and securing a physical server. Another benefit not mentioned yet. It is much easier to transfer a website hosted on a VPS server than one sitting on a separate physical server. And if there is one certainty about web hosting it’s this – you’re going to want to change hosts at some point down the road.
Webmasters are familiar with the term “sandbox” as related to building and deploying websites. The basic idea is you are able to test changes in a safe environment before rolling them out to the real world. The problem with shared hosting, and one big reason a hosting company doesn’t allow root-level access with these accounts, is you could screw something up on your website that affects all the other people sharing that physical server.
With a VPS server, you can tweak programs and functionality to your heart’s content and never have to fear accidentally publishing a non-functional website OR doing damage to someone else’s website. For this reason, having a sandbox to “play” in, as provided by a VPS account, offers a peace of mind not to be found in a shared account.
Keep in mind that, while a VPS serves as a great way to test your website, you can create a lot of headaches for yourself if you don’t have a certain level of expertise. If you suspect you don’t have the chops to safely make changes yet, do so only under the supervision of someone who does.
For not much extra money, a VPS offers a world of advantages over shared hosting. A shared account can be bought for as little as $2 or $3 monthly if you pay a year in advance. With a VPS the cost might run you up to $5. That’s not much when you consider all the benefits we’ve just discussed. The bottom line is this: a VPS account can be the perfect solution when you’ve outgrown a shared account but aren’t ready to swim with the sharks of running your own server.