So many scenarios, so many solutions! …
Maybe you've outgrown shared web hosting? Or don't really need a dedicated server? Perhaps you're thinking about swapping from a managed server to unmanaged, for example for greater control or just to save costs? Then again, you could be looking for a custom solution, such as for mail or a game server, or just want to set up your own virtual private server at a reasonable outlay?
Hopefully this article will help you decide whether an unmanaged virtual private server is the best way to go.
So there's a help.
Now we'll weigh up the differences between the available server types and plans, considering what to look for in a VPS solution, both managed and unmanaged.
- Regarding Shared Hosting
With shared hosting you occupy a server with hundreds of other sites and, for your site to perform well, you rely on the others not to be too demanding. They may have lots of goodies, as could any server type, but most of which you'd never use and all slowing down the server. Then again, they're the closest to a point-and-click solution, with a comprehensive control panel and webmail, and they're cheap as chips.
So they're great for startups. And often great for mid-sized sites too. But …
While there are those who sing the praises of their shared server web host, there are others that have problems, such as slow-to-dead-slow support. If you have an uncomplicated site, requiring few database queries per second, even with quite a lot of traffic, they can be a good option. That is, until something goes wrong and you open a support ticket: then, all bets are off.
Take a personal example. vpsBible's Olly Connelly – so, hey, that's me – ditched one of the best-known shared hosts, instead opting for the unmanaged VPS route, after the provider lost my database during a server upgrade. That was unlucky, sure, and wasn't the only reason I swapped – performance was an issue too – but is an example of the site owner deciding to take responsibility for himself.
More commonly, there are examples of sites on shared hosts being hacked via a third party site that, somehow vulnerable, allows an attacker to access other sites on the same box. Again, don't have nightmares because this is rare. Nonetheless, it's far from unknown.
… So the bottom-line problems with shared hosting, any of which can lead to downtime or poor pageload, are:-
- a lack of performance
- unpredictable support
- risks from other sites
- VPS vs Dedicated Hosting
A dedicated server is where you occupy the entire, unpartitioned computer. Like a VPS, it can be managed or unmanaged or, put it another way, fully or partly supported. If you have a whopper site that ratchets up heavy processing, with many hundreds of thousands of database requests per day, you need a dedicated plan. Then again, many webmasters took the dedicated route before VPSes were an option, and they can be high on costs, low on resources, and ripe for rightsize.
Also, poorly supported or low-budget dedicated boxes are less powerful than many VPS options. As is the case between poor VPS providers and quality shared servers, there is a lot of cross-over. Think Venn diagram! Here again, there is potential for many sites to move, improving on performance while saving on costs.
For sure, if you don't have a huge CPU requirement but do need lots of RAM, then a VPS is a likely choice and, particularly for the unmanaged variety, is heaps cheaper than a dedicated server.
- What about Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting is darned handy for sharing and for anywhere-access, but is generally a very bad idea for hosting a site – or more to the point, a website's database – that contains user credentials or other sensitive data.
Apple's Steve Wozniak is spot on, “I really worry about everything going into the cloud. I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems.”
So what, really, are the problems with these networked server clusters that the marketers call ‘clouds'?
- there's no guarantee of data encryption (ever) *
- providers (employees) can often unlock data
- backdoor access is perfectly feasible or even likely
* Even when the provider says there is serverside encryption. Think ‘NSA'.
That's not to say clouds are somehow bad. They're not, they're just mis-sold and misused. Use your own logic and don't be sold on the hype from providers who care more about their profit than about your business.
Managed vs Unmanaged VPS?
With a managed VPS, the definition of ‘managed' varies from host to host, as is the case with dedicated hosting. Support will tend to perform core updates of, say, Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, and likely will perform backups, and may even move your site for you. You would have to shop around, and pay extra, to find advanced or alternative options such as the Nginx web server or for use of a cPanel-like control panel.
With an unmanaged VPS, on the other hand, you get a blank partition on a hard drive, a power cord and a network cable, plus a control panel with a varying number of options.
Unmanaged isn't for the faint-hearted, even with clear, copy and paste tutorials. But if you find the time to invest in your solution, it will be less expensive and more powerful than the managed option, and fully customisable.
Follow the vpsBible documentation and you'll learn that, say, to update your Linux server operating system is literally as simple as logging into the command line interface and typing “upgrade”.
Alternatively, have the best of both worlds; your customised unmanaged VPS plus a freelance administrator. Someone like me can set up your box for optimal performance, then manage your sites and content as well as the server.