The ABCs Of VPS: Virtual Private Servers And Choosing A Provider

You may have seen TV or online ads offering “COMPLETE BUSINESS WEB HOSTING FOR JUST $4.99 A MONTH!” or something similar, and you probably said to yourself, “That can’t be for real.” Well, it is – sort of. But a $4.99 introductory hosting package isn’t going to be suitable for most modern businesses. What you probably need is an SSD VPS: a virtual private server (known as a VPS) which will cost a little more than the ad promises, particularly if it has modern solid-state (SSD) storage capacity.

Whenever you’re getting ready to make a major purchase for your business there’s usually a period of preliminary research and education required, especially when technology is involved. Website hosting is no exception. Here’s a crash course on the ABCs of VPS hosting.

Web Servers and Types of Web Hosting

The best way to understand the advantages of an SSD VPS is to briefly look at what a web server does, and examine the range of hosting options available to a business.

A web server is really just a computer which is able to interface with the Internet through very fast and reliable connections. The websites hosted on the server are stored as data in the machine’s memory (just as your own personal data is stored in your home computer’s memory). The number of sites a server can host is purely dependent on the amount (and type) of memory and computing power in the machine.

A company with many websites, or with a single website that delivers a lot of data to a large number of visitors simultaneously, may require all of a server’s power and memory. In that case, they would have complete use of the machine – and that server is called a “dedicated server” since it’s completely dedicated to the needs of one client. At the other extreme, many firms don’t need much space on a machine for their website, so a web host can accommodate lots of clients on the same server by giving each one what’s known as a “shared” account.

Dedicated hosting accounts are quite expensive, since there are no other customers to split the expenses. Shared accounts are what you see offered in those “super-cheap” web host teaser ads; they can be quite inexpensive, but don’t actually provide the unlimited resources they often promise. Many businesses that start with a cheap shared hosting account quickly discover that they need to upgrade.

Thankfully, there’s a middle ground between shared and dedicated: a virtual private server. When you have a VPS hosting account you’re still sharing a server, but only with a few other clients. In effect, the host creates several dedicated areas on one computer, with each one entitled to much more memory and computing resources than they would receive on a cheap shared account, and at a price substantially below what they’d pay for their own fully dedicated server. The best virtual private servers today are known as SSD VPS accounts, because they utilize modern solid-state drives instead of traditional hard drives.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an SSD VPS Hosting Account

We’ll take this in two stages, first looking at the pros and cons of a VPS and then doing the same for SSD.

We’ve already mentioned the pricing advantages to using a virtual private server instead of a dedicated “box,” and you’ve probably assumed correctly that a VPS is more expensive than a shared account. The good news is that the cost of a VPS isn’t much higher than that of a shared hosting account, and it’s a lot cheaper than renting and maintaining a dedicated server. For most clients, VPS hosting is the best deal.

All three types of accounts are available in different “sizes” so you can choose the amount of processing power and storage that’s appropriate for you. However, even the most generous virtual account won’t provide resources for the needs of most businesses, while a dedicated server is usually overkill for small or medium-sized companies. A VPS with the features that are right for your firm will allow you to host an unlimited number of websites, as well as e-commerce or video-based sites which are resource-intensive.

The primary functional disadvantage to a shared account is that you’re sharing resources with many other clients; if one of those clients has a site that’s a bandwidth hog, for example, your site could slow to a crawl. A dedicated server eliminates those issues completely, but at great expense. A VPS doesn’t quite do that, since you’re still sharing a computer with a few other clients. However, VPS hosting mitigates the potential problems considerably because you have more resources permanently allocated to your account, and there are many fewer “neighbors” on your server.

The final consideration is server administration and maintenance. With a shared account you have no access to set up or change server operations and the host takes care of everything, other than the data or applications on your website (like WordPress). Conversely, you’re responsible for it all on a dedicated server (although you can pay extra to the host to manage the server for you). With VPS hosting, you have access to your portion of the box and can set it up and tweak it any way you’d like, giving you much more flexibility in server configuration and performance. Is that a pro or a con for VPS? If the whole idea scares you, it may be a con; as long as you have an IT person or someone knowledgeable in the area, it’s a definite plus.

Now, we get to SSD VPS vs. non-SSD VPS. Traditional hard drives can hold more data and are less expensive than solid-state ones, so a VPS account with SSD drives may cost a bit more than an old-style VPS. However, solid-state is more reliable because there are no moving parts inside the drive, they’re as much as 15 times faster, they don’t slow down over time due to disc fragmentation because data isn’t written to SSD in segments, and they don’t fail as often as traditional disc drives. With the price difference so small when calculated over the life of a hosting account, VPS SSD is the way to go.

How to Choose an SSD VPS Provider

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to choose any sort of provider that doesn’t have a solid track record in their industry and excellent customer service, so we won’t bother expanding on those requirements. Instead, we’ll look at a few issues specific to SSD VPS hosting providers. An ideal host will have:

  • Both Linux VPS hosting and Windows VPS hosting available: Some clients specifically need a Linux platform or a Windows platform, because they run applications which require one or the other. There are also clients who prefer one of the two options because they have previous experience with either Linux VPS hosting or Windows VPS hosting; remember, with a virtual private server the client is responsible for administering the server space. A high-quality SSD VPS host will offer both options.
  • A large variety of packages: Not all businesses are the same, and not all businesses have the same computing needs. The ideal host will offer a number of packages with different levels of processing power, storage capacity and bandwidth.
  • An easy-to-use control panel: Some hosts have “mongrel” control panels which are nearly impossible to figure out and just as difficult to use. You’ll want to spend your time administering your server, not trying to understand how to do it.
  • 99.9% uptime guarantee: Most hosts promise virtually uninterrupted service. Few guarantee it, though, and you’d be surprised how often lesser webhosts have downtime issues. Look for an iron-clad guarantee, because you can’t afford your sites to be offline.
  • Multiple data centers: Your server should be located where you want it to be (most likely, close to your customer base) and not wherever the guy who runs the company happens to live. The data centers should also be in major population centers, so they’re close to the Internet backbone for optimal speed and performance.
  • 24/7/365 support: Your website runs all day, all night and all year. Your host should be staffed just as comprehensively to provide support whenever you need it, rather than answering support requests whenever they happen to get into the office.

Providers like ChangeIP meet all of these criteria, and should be the only ones you consider for your SSD VPS hosting.

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