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Do you need a VPS?


VPS as a magic wand

Do you really need a VPS for your hosting needs?

The more posts I see on hosting forums — posts that can all be titled «I have a VPS — now what?!» — the more I think people consider a VPS (cloud server, dedicated server — all of them) kind of a magic wand. Just move your sites over a VPS, and all sorts of wonders happen. Sites will become quicker, more popular and so on and so forth.

However, I know several rules I follow sternly, rules that have never failed. One of them: «The better is a foe of the good». If you are satisfied with your current shared hosting (the one most of us start with), if site's stable, data are not lost, uptime is acceptable — do not move. If it works, don't fix it.

OK, something isn't satisfying you on the shared hosting. Try investigating what it is. Perhaps your site requires some clean-up? Perhaps you need a system administrator, a Web designer — an expert that can handle your problems without changing the hosting provider?

If you are still sure the VPS can be the optimal choice, read below things that you might not know about VPS (and its mentioned kins) first.

Build your fortress

Sharing hosting creates an illusion that everything goes by itself. You only click on required icons in the control panel, when necessary.

However, there are many things behind the curtains. Things you will have to handle when you switch to a VPS.

Security. This is what is often neglected. Note that if you choose an unmanaged VPS, where everything is your responsibility, security is the first thing you should take care of. Just a shortlist of what I do first, when I have freshly created VPS: change password to root/administrator; restrict access to VPS (including firewall setup), remove possible backdoors (such as certain default accounts), apply important updates; shut down unnecessary services; install intrusion detection and antivirus/monitoring software and so on and so forth.

If you neglect the security part, you could lose control over it fairly quickly. In certain situations it could be a matter of minutes.

Note as well, that security is a discipline of mind, as well as a set of regular routine tasks. It isn't one-time ado.

Optimization. While on sharing hosting, all the optimization is done by the hoster's system administrators. When on a VPS, you are on your own. Default settings of the VPS are far from optimal, and unless you know how to tune everything to your needs, you may end up with slow and clumsy environment, where everything is barely working.

Backups. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who haven't yet lost important data, and those who do regular backups.

Making backups, at least to your home computer, isn't that difficult. But to set it up correctly and efficiently, so that in case of any disaster you could have at least yesterday's state of your site isn't that simple. Once again, unless you are an expert in that area, you could lose everything all of a sudden. Without even a vague thought how to have everything back.

The three areas of responsibility mentioned above isn't everything you should take care about when you embark on a daring quest of utilizing VPS power.

Even if you order a managed VPS, where most of the above is handled (for additional fee), VPS still requires more attention and care, in general. Let alone dedicated server, where you are in full control, and thus in full responsibility.

It's not that hard to make a secure fortress out of your VPS, but it won't build by itself.

Knowledge is power

If I haven't yet frighten you about the very thought of using VPS, good. In fact, it's a good means to learn more about IT things, to know, so to say, the daemons you could encounter. Everything can be learnt, if you have time and desire to study.

VPSes are very cheap nowadays. You can start from my list of budget VPS plans (see the link above) and play with it until you understand, whether it's your path, or you should hire/partner with someone, to have it set up and prepared for you.

Just don't think a VPS is a magic wand to make everything happen to your taste, that's all. Good luck and stay tuned!