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What is VPS hosting, and is it for me?

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Every now and again, I have to remind myself that while most people use some sort of computer to get their job done, my job IS computers. While I do (although my wife will disagree) have a life beyond ones and zeros, I spend an inordinate amount of time studying and tinkering to remain current.

And like any specialist, I’ve been guilty of delivering technobabble when I imagined I was being crystal (no pun intended) clear. This has led to confusion. Lots of confusion. I’m not the only one, mind you. I think the I.T. industry is one of the worst for offering up gobbledygook without reference – and online forums are replete with the kind of militant techno-snobbery, and intolerance to noobs that dissuades beginners from asking the most basic of questions.

For example, what is a VPS exactly? What does it mean to me and my business? It’s one of those questions that people often think they know the answer to, but later come unstuck when they realise how much they have bitten off.

Since we launched our VPS Cloud platform we have encountered a number of customers who got completely out of their depth for no good reason. We also continue to receive enquiries from customers wanting to upgrade from a shared hosting account to a VPS, thinking it requires little or no thought from themselves.

How does a VPS differ from a cPanel hosting account or a WHM reseller account?

Running your email and website from a cPanel hosting account on one of our business, unlimited, or premium servers might be thought of like hiring a car.

  • It has a clearly defined set of performance parameters.
  • It has a built in security system.
  • It is serviced and maintained by the hire company.
  • If a wheel falls off and you crash, the hire company will send the recovery truck.
  • The hire company stops it smelling of spam! (OK, I ran out of analogies)

All you need to do is put fuel in and drive! That is to say, all you need to do is upload your website files and database, setup your mailboxes and away you go (more or less).

Considering a VPS using the same car analogy, is a bit like buying a kit car. You get the bare essentials, but you have to build it to your specification. You have to consider things like:

  • What operating system to run
  • What control panel software to install if any
  • What performance enhancements to install
  • What services to run (i.e. apache, exim, nginx, mysql, DNS)
  • What local firewall rules to implement
  • What spam filtering software to use if any
  • What web application firewall to use
  • What backup strategy to employ, and which backup repository
  • What malware scanning software to use
  • How to install, configure and maintain all of the above

This covers most (but certainly not all) of the things we look after for you when you purchase a cPanel account – from our lowest entry level to our most powerful Diamond professional package.

Upgrading your web hosting account to a VPS, therefore, is like hiring a Ford Focus for a while, deciding you want something faster, and deciding to design and build a Ferrari from scratch. It’s a whole lotta brainwork that you or a paid professional is going to have to do.

Just like a kit car, the real advantage of a VPS isn’t necessarily its power, but the flexibility to customise it to your requirements. Pound for pound, in the hands of an expert, a VPS will almost always outperform a shared hosting account. But… that is in the hands of an expert with time to spare.

If your requirements are to host one or two essentially mainstream (e.g. WordPress or typical ecommerce) sites then it makes a great deal more sense to simply spend more money on a more powerful shared hosting account.

For example, our Sapphire and Diamond premium cPanel plans have only marginally less resources allocated to them than a VPS of the same value. Once our behind-the-scenes work is factored into the premium cPanel accounts, they present better value for money for most business users.

Are we trying to put you off buying a VPS Hosting? No. Does this mean VPS’s are really only for dyed-in-the-wool nerds? No – but they do require a paradigm shift in the way you think about hosting. While we will advise and help diagnose problems via our ticket system, we can’t run your VPS for you on a day to day basis. If you are essentially just looking for more power and capacity, without having to expose yourself to the nitty gritty of server management then you should probably consider upgrading to our Sapphire and Diamond Business Hosting plans.

If you are keen to learn, or have a technical expert on hand, then running a VPS can be a very rewarding experience, and we will do all we can to help you get to grips with the challenges it can pose.