Many try shared hosting (where many users share a single server in a strictly controlled environment) before turning to a Virtual Private Server (VPS, also referred to as Virtual Dedicated Server or VDS). A VPS is an excellent choice when you need full control over the server environment, but don't need all the resources of a real server. However, choosing a VPS plan can be tricky and you typically have to do more work to get it up and running compared to a shared hosting plan.
In making comparevps.com we did a survey to find out what factors people consider important when selecting a VPS plan. The most important factors (ordered by importance) were:
- Amount of RAM
- Cost (primarily how much RAM you get/$)
- Data center location (ability to host close to target users)
- Disk space
- Being able to pay with PayPal.
- Monthly transfer
Your preferences may of course vary depending on what type of site you are building, but these were generally considered as being the most important.Some people want a specific operating system, but the people we talked to did not consider this important as long as you got the general platform right (e.g. Windows- or Linux-based).
Choosing the right amount of RAM
If you are using a web framework such as Django, Ruby on Rails or ASP.NET, there are often recommendations on the minimumal amount of RAM and other resources required to run an application.
Please remember that your VPS also needs memory for everything else on it such as database, firewall, web and email server and the operating system itself. Some people consider 128 Mb the bare minimum for a web application server with a small load. For larger loads you will need more processes for serving pages and each process consumes memory. Some consider 256 Mb a good starting point for web based frameworks. Click here to list VPS plans with at least 256 Mb RAM.
Be wary of suppliers that don't list how much guaranteed RAM you get with a VPS plan. You won't find the listed here, but make sure to check if you are shopping for a VPS.
Why is there a huge price difference between plans?
Although VPS hosting plans look similar to each other, there can be many differences in what you get. Many plans include specific control panel software which you may have to pay extra for in other plans. Some include a higher level of support than others.
Typically it is hard to find information about how many VPS customers share a single server. Some companies have a modern hardware environment with a lof of raw power while other companies may have a simpler setup.
Some plans include a web based control panel to help you do simple administrative tasks such as rebooting your machine, monitoring logs and installing basic software packages. If you are new to server administration this can be helpful. Please note that some panels will cost extra.
Staying away from dodgy suppliers
The VPS business has a lot of small companies that resell VPS plans from some other supplier. These can be OK too, but some things to consider are:
- Suppliers that don't list the amount of guaranteed RAM you get with a VPS plan,
- Suppliers that don't list their contact information or office address (a lot of the small reseller outfits just list their plans and how they want your money).
- Suppliers that don't mention if they own their own hardware or resell capacity from someone else.
So far we have turned down several requests for inclusion on this site because a supplier didn't meet the basic requirements above. It shouldn't be that hard to provide the information above if a supplier is serious about their business.
If you are unsure about a supplier, there are forums where you can ask existing customers what they think. Please note that the suppliers themselves may try to answer your questions. Places to ask include:
- ...and the various forums in the communities of the web framework you are using.
After you have selected a plan and received the login details it is tome to configure your VPS server.