Upgrading from a shared server to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) is like going from living with roommates to getting your own apartment: no more fights over dirty dishes, no more strangers helping themselves to your food, and always enough room in the refrigerator. Or, in server terms, no vulnerabilities from other people's poorly configured software, nobody else's website overloading the shared resources, and a guaranteed amount of memory.
In short, with a VPS you still have neighbors in the same building, but everybody has their own space and their own utilities.
You have more freedom to run the programs you want and to configure the server as you see fit. Someday you might get your own house, or dedicated server. But that comes with extra costs and responsibilities. For now, VPS apartment living might be just the right choice for you.
There are so many VPS providers that it can be difficult to get a good overview of all the options in 2020. The big names have been established for decades and provide blue ribbon service, but that comes at a price. Some upstart providers have offerings targeted for specific use cases, such as gaming or WordPress. These can be a very good deal, but they come with trade-offs in terms of support.
The plans in the following table are the entry-level VPS offerings from top providers in several distinct categories. They start at bare-bones Linux virtual servers with root access and go all the way to fully managed servers with many extra security bells and whistles. The list includes a category for speed that summarizes key hardware indicators. Creating actual speed charts, on the other hand, is a complicated matter beyond the scope of this particular article.
Namecheap simplified its VPS options to two in late 2017: the entry-level Pulsar service and the powerful Quasar plan. Each one is fully upgradable with extra storage, more RAM, and server-management options.
|IONOS Root Access VPS||GoDaddy Root Access VPS||InterServer VPS||DreamHost Managed VPS||Namecheap Root Access Pulsar VPS||Bluehost cPanel VPS||Namecheap Managed Quasar VPS||A2 Hosting Managed cPanel VPS||InMotion Managed cPanel VPS||HostGator|
|Cost||$2/month||$4.99/month||$6/month||$10/month||$11.74/month, free domain name (1 year)||$29.99/month, Free Domain for 1 year||$44.88/month, free domain name (1 year)||$49.99/month||$64.99/month, Free Domain||$79.99/month|
|Speed||1 vCore CPU, 512 MB RAM||1 CPU core, 1 GB RAM||1 Core, 2 GB RAM||1 GB RAM||2 CPU cores, 2 GB RAM||2 CPU cores, 2 GB RAM||4 CPU cores, 6 GB RAM||4 cores, 4 GB RAM, HTTP/2||Up to 48 CPU cores, 4 GB RAM||2 cores CPU, 2 GB RAM|
|Disk space||10 GB||20 GB||30 GB SSD||30 GB SSD||40 GB SSD||30 GB SSD||120 GB SSD||75 GB SSD||75 GB SSD||80 GB|
|OS||Linux (Ubuntu, Centos, Debian, CoreOS, OpenSuse); Windows $10/month/vCore||Linux (CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian)||Linux (Debian, CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu and more)||Linux (Ubuntu)||Linux (CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian)||Linux (CentOS)||Linux (CentOS)||OS||Linux (CentOS)||Linux (CentOS)|
|Traffic||Unlimited||Unlimited||2 TB||Unlimited||1 TB||1 TB||3 TB||2 TB||4 TB||1.5 TB|
|Reliability||99.99% availability||99.9% guaranteed uptime||99.9% uptime guarantee, automated cloud-based node-switching||100% uptime guarantee||RAID 10 disks, 99.9% uptime||-||RAID 10 disks, 99.9% uptime||99.9% uptime commitment||Real-time cloud redundancy||RAID 10 disks|
|Flexibility||Upgrade any time via control panel||Seamless upgrades anytime||Upgrade any time||Upgrade RAM and storage anytime||30-Day money-back guarantee, fully scalable any time||30-Day money-back guarantee, upgrade storage any time||30-Day money-back guarantee||Anytime Money-back guarantee||90-Day money-back guarantee||Fully scalable any time|
|Security||SSL, firewall, packet inspection||SSL, DDoS protection||Secure containerization||SSL||SSL, hardware and software firewalls||SSL, extra protection optional||SSL, hardware and software firewalls||SSL, DDoS protection, firewall, virus detection||SSL, DDoS attack protection||Firewall, DDoS protection|
|Data center||USA, UK, Germany, Spain||North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific||USA (East or West Coast)||USA||USA, UK||USA (Utah), UK, India, China||USA, UK||USA (Michigan)||USA (East or West Coast)||USA (Utah, Texas)|
|Backups||Not included in base price||Automated weekly backups||Extra service||Not included||Extra service||Extra service||Weekly||Automatic server rewind||Up to once a day||Weekly off-site backup|
|Support||24/7 control panel, domains, basic networking, server hardware||Limited support||Managed support is an extra service||Unlimited 24/7 support||24/7 chat support||24/7 technical support||24/7 chat support||24/7 phone, chat and email||24/7 phone, chat and email||24/7 phone and chat|
These all offer a great variety of options. Also noteworthy: the horsepower of Namecheap’s Quasar plan is already available for $19.88 a month without the managed-server features, and with no hidden costs for renewals.
The cheapest plans might promise “unlimited bandwidth.” But those providers often slow connection speeds down when traffic for a given period exceeds a certain amount. So your bandwidth may be unlimited, but its speed most certainly will be — if you have a busy website.
Make a note of providers that offer a good period of free trial. This will give you enough time to set your server up fully and to benchmark its performance to make sure it meets your needs before committing for the long haul.
Managed VPS are offered at several tiers of service depending on how powerful the control-panel options are, and how much extra security the host provides. But in all cases they should apply the necessary security patches to the operating system (OS) and to the programs installed via their control panel.
When you purchase a higher level tier of service, you might be responsible for understanding a more complex configuration. You will also be responsible for keeping up with security patches for all your installed programs and to the operating system itself.
Regarding disk space on a VPS, the OS takes space on that disk, and you have to factor that into your storage calculation. Keep in mind that if you plan on administering your server as a remote desktop with a graphical user interface, it will take up quite a few gigabytes. Depending on the needs of your server, you may require more disk storage capacity, especially if you are using the server for database backups. VPS can serve as a backup storage provider in addition to a database server.
The type of VPS you get will depend on what you want to do with it. How much processing power will you need?
If all you need is a static HTML website with a few pages describing your business, a few graphics, and photos, then you will not need to go beyond shared hosting. But if you are planning a content strategy such as promotional campaigns, growing your user base,сonsidering custom software that requires root access, or need more hosting firepower for slightly more ambitious enterprises, then VPS could be the answer.
To make an income from affiliate programs, you need to focus on engagement. You need fresh content to keep people interested and search engines happy. You need social-network integration to help spread the word and analytics to monitor your site's impact.
To add these and other dynamic features, you will need to install new software on your server. In a shared environment, you will face restrictions that might derail your plans. With each new package, your website's resource needs will grow. You won’t want to be at the mercy of unpredictable resource squeezes on a shared server. That’s where VPS hosting can be a major asset.
A VPS is a great solution for WordPress installations that experience a high rate of traffic, such as e-commerce businesses. With plugins for affiliate marketing, for Amazon sellers, and for analytics, WordPress can easily be set up to provide all the tools mentioned above. Many managed VPS feature one-click installation with cPanel and Softaculous. If you run a VPS with root access, you can download and install the code yourself. It’s not very hard, but you will need to stay on top of software updates to keep your setup secure.
In terms of server load, a lot depends on the WordPress plugins you install. You can already serve a standard WordPress site with thousands of visitors a day with 1 or 2 GB of RAM. If you want to host several blogs for multiple domains, a WordPress dedicated host might be able to accommodate your needs, but having your own VPS will simplify compartmentalizing them securely between different clients.
Running the WordPress code on a VPS you control completely will also mean you can develop and test your own plugins. And if you have the disk, RAM, and CPU resources available, you can run other services besides WordPress, such as a VPN or a mail server.
In a broader sense, a VPS can also be used to good effect across a range of more general business functions. This is especially so in key areas like e-commerce, social media and even managing people.
If hooking your site up to the world's financial infrastructure is important to your plans, then a VPS with its own IP address is the easiest way to leverage your own SSL certificates for e-commerce. In addition to providing authentication and encryption guarantees, SSL certificates also boost your rankings in search engine results. Root privileges with process control and config files rights will also allow you to manage your cryptocurrency wallets if you want to accept payments in bitcoin or other digital currencies.
In the social media arena, staying on top of your engagement is the name of the game: likes, comments, shares: the internet never sleeps. There are tools that can handle complex auto-like, auto-follow, and auto-share flows across many accounts.
VPS is an excellent option for accounts to run daily, 24/7. You will need a Windows VPS for JARVEE, a leading multi-network social automation server. With 2 GB of RAM and 2 CPU cores, you will be able to manage 2-3 social accounts posting 10 posts a day.
You can also use a VPS to organize your team or business’ audio and video communications. There are a lot of free platforms allowing you to do this, but for privacy and reliability, nothing beats running your own video conferencing server.
If you have a distributed support team, you can set up an elaborate Voice over IP phone exchange to manage their calls. An example is Asterisk, an open-source, multi-protocol communications server that can help you achieve untold levels of automation.
Moving across to areas that span business and beyond, a VPS can be the go-to hosting type for many interests and enterprises.
The ability to run any kind of server software in your own access-controlled environment makes VPS a natural solution for multiplayer gaming setups. A VPS will reduce the latency that is crucial to a smooth experience. For example, for Minecraft, a virtual server with 2 GB of RAM and 20 GB of disk space will allow you to host up to 25 players.
A VPS can also be a great solution for when you plan on hosting your own multimedia content. There are setup guides for Plex media servers on VPS that show how to combine cloud storage with a VPS outfitted minimally at 1 GB of RAM, 1 CPU core, and 20 GB of disk space. This will produce an affordable solution for making your media library available anywhere alongside a ton of Plex content. But, not to anonymous users, only to you and other registered Plex accounts.
You can also set your VPS up as a personal email server. If your needs are basic, and you don’t expect a high volume of email, you can easily run your mail server alongside your web server. It can be a very cost-effective solution. It only requires a few well-established open-source tools. These only need a small amount of RAM and a minimal CPU, but you will want to plan your disk storage needs carefully.
If you have a web server and an email server running on the same VPS, an attacker who successfully exploits a vulnerability in your web server may be able to gain access to all your communications. You can eliminate this risk by running each server in its own virtual container inside your VPS. One option is to install Docker with the appropriate pre-packaged containers such as docker-mailserver and httpd:2.4.
Taking things up a level from Shared Hosting can be a great choice for all the digital coders out there. With a broad spectrum of possible programming languages and database engines, a VPS is a solid choice for developers whether you are just beginning or at an advanced level.
With root access, you have full latitude to install unrestricted modules, plugins, and extensions to the popular server programming languages or platforms such as PHP, Python, or node.js, or powerful higher-level frameworks such as Django and Laravel.
When you make it to the next level, the ability to manage multiple virtual environments contained on different subdomains makes it easy to have a test site next to a production site on the same VPS. The control over software installation and automation makes it possible to run professional bug-tracking and continuous-integration tools. For maximum performance, you can boost your server’s response times by tweaking FastCGI and memcached.
Most of the established hosting companies have terms of service (TOS) that exclude certain kinds of usage. At Namecheap, this covers both bad behavior and questionable content. It is a violation of the TOS to use any Namecheap hosting plan for:
In addition, questionable uses that are prohibited include:
Be careful if you plan on using your server for bug bounty hunting or penetration testing too. You must not send out traffic that can result in Namecheap IP ranges being blacklisted.
The possibilities on a VPS are almost limitless. A VPS allows you to configure your operating system to suit your needs. You will be in control of the network interface, which will allow you to open any ports you need to run a variety of different server applications in parallel. You won’t need anybody’s authorization to install software packages and server modules. You will be able to create realistic test environments before releasing new features to the public and then easily switch them over to your live domain.
If you already have some experience with shared hosting, you have probably acquired some marketable technical skills. Upgrading to a VPS is an opportunity for learning much more about server administration, which will further expand your professional horizons.