It can be challenging to contemplate the move from shared to VPS hosting for many reasons. For many of us, shared hosting is where we started off on our web journeys. The thought of moving away from that safe space on which we’ve spent so much time learning can freak some people out.
Even if you think about it logically, the move to VPS can present a whole host of challenges. Before addressing those challenges, how do you know when it’s time to make a move? To answer this question, you need to understand the fundamentals of these different types of web hosting.
What is VPS Hosting and How Does It Work?
The first indication of what VPS hosting lies in the name itself – Virtual Private Server. What you get with VPS Hosting is the emulation of an entire server environment. This means that for all looks and purposes, you have a server of your own to administer.
What you are getting is a virtualized environment that behaves as if it is on its own. That environment still sits on the same hardware as other accounts. It has merely been simulated by software that is sitting on the server.
Each virtual environment behaves like a blank piece of hardware. You can choose what Operating System to install, what applications you want to use and even the types of environments you wish to support within your VPS account.
All VPS accounts come allocated with their own dedicated resources such as disk space, memory and processors. How much of each you get depends on your VPS plan.
Differences Between Shared and VPS Hosting
If you’re considering a move towards VPS hosting, then it’s probably a good assumption that you’ve already had some time in with shared hosting. If not, that would be a better place to get started. There are two main differentiating factors when it comes to shared hosting and VPS hosting. The first is in the allocation of resources, while the second is in the way the accounts are managed.
Although both shared and VPS hosting accounts sit on the same physical hardware, shared hosting accounts tap into a pool of resources that all accounts on the server have access to. Although technically a sound idea, this means that if other sites are hogging resources, yours will be more limited when you need them.
For this reason, web hosting companies offering shared hosting often state limits on the amount of maximum resources a site can use and for what duration. This is to prevent resource overuse, which would be unfair to the other sites you’re sharing resources with.
VPS hosting accounts each come with dedicated resources, primarily processor cores, memory and disk space. These resources are for your account only and when not in use, lie idle. They will never be allocated to another account and will always be available to you whenever your site needs them.
Shared web hosting accounts always come with an easy to use control panel that lets users manage their accounts. The control panel can allow you to do a variety of things such as easily install web applications, setup and configure things like FTP accounts or email accounts, and more.
These control panels are also available on VPS accounts, but there is also a different control panel that allows you to control the web host. This is the portion of your VPS account that lets you manage your virtual server, such as setting up the control panel, manage disk space, start or suspend services, or do anything else that you can do with an actual server of your own.
The control panels you get access to will vary depending on the hosting service. Some examples of VPS control panels include Plesk Onyx, cPanel and Web Host Manager (WHM). It is important to note that not all VPS hosting comes with these control panels by default. Some may require an additional fee for use.
VPS accounts also have something known as root access. Using this administrative login gives you incredible flexibility in what you can do with your virtual server. However, not knowing what you are doing can result in your potentially destroying the environment and losing files or programs that are in use.
Benefits of VPS Hosting
Having given you the main differences between shared and VPS hosting, we can deduce from those that there are clear benefits that come with using the latter. Let’s look at some of the benefits of VPS hosting here;
1. Greater Control
Because you’re essentially getting all the features that come with a dedicated server, you have great control over the entire environment you’re working in. This means that you can configure the virtual server to run exactly the way you want it to.
Think of it as comparing that slow PC in the library to your own dedicated computer at home. The library computer likely has an overlay which makes it simple to use for everyone but much more restricted than the one you use at home.
Because of the level of control, you can choose what process need to run and their exact parameters so that your resource wastage is cut down as much as possible. This will allow you to create a lean and efficient environment, leaving more resources to run your website.
No longer will you need to submit requests to technical support and wait for them to do things for you, only to find out a day later that they haven’t configured the process the way you needed and have to wait even longer for an adjustment to be made.
2. Better Reliability
Although it may sound like the changes are very basic, VPS hosting is a big step up from shared hosting. The virtualized environment means you get all the resources you are paying for to yourself. You’re also customizing the environment to make sure it runs exactly the way you want.
If done right, this makes for an extremely stable platform that will be much more reliable than shared hosting. Even if other customers are on the same physical server, nothing they do will affect your private little bubble.
Most web hosting providers who offer shared hosting have a few standard plans which they sell. VPS hosting may at first look like that structure but there are a few caveats. The first difference is that for most VPS plans you can scale your plan yourself. Getting more resources can be as simple as adjusting a slider bar in some cases.
The second is that despite offering only a few plans on the surface, many hosts can offer customized VPS plans for those with more specific needs. This ties back to the scalability of the system and can be adjusted quickly. The only real limits are the actual physical resources on the server.
While some of you may scoff at the thought of VPS hosting being called affordable, there are many instances where this might be true. Think of it this way – web hosting has changed somewhat over the years. There are not many more options available and I have seen some web hosts offer VPS plans for as little as what others offer shared plans at.
Remember that it’s all about the resources. Finding a cheap VPS hosting plan to experiment on can help you familiarize yourself with the environment before moving there. Once you’re ready to go you can make the move and easily scale your plan to meet your needs.
It is also much more affordable than what a dedicated server would set you back for as well.
When is the Right Time to Move to VPS?
Technically you can move to VPS hosting at any time. The right time isn’t the same for everybody. Many people decide to look at VPS hosting only after their website has already outgrown shared hosting. Some of them might find that it’s too late as they needed time to familiarize themselves with the extra skills needed.
Personally, I feel there are two main categories of decisions to move to VPS hosting; proactive and reactive.
Proactive; Most website owners keep an eye on the growth of their sites. They can always tell how many visitors they have and general growth trends in their site traffic. Those who are keenly aware of this are often the ones who are concerned about outgrowing their resources.
By taking a proactive stance and exploring VPS options to learn what they need can help this group of website owners avoid a lot of grief later in the game. They will be prepared for the move and can transition their sites seamlessly, perhaps with a little help from the host.
Reactive; Some website owners simply run their sites and are only aware there are problems when the site starts crashing or become increasingly unstable. By this stage of the game, their traffic volume has likely grown past what shared hosting plans can accommodate for.
They start getting resource overuse messages and their site becomes unavailable often. Moving to a VPS plan at this stage is often hasty and puts immense stress on both host and website owners. Transfers made in hast often result in problems – hazarding what could be a very successful website.