Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

There are two types of VPS servers

  1. Managed
  2. Unmanaged

Depending on your application or need for a virtual private server, this will determine your need for the primary difference between the two; ‘root‘ access or not. So in deciding if you need root access to your server, lets get a solid idea of what we’re talking about.

A virtual private server (VPS) or virtual dedicated server (VDS) has become a very popular web hosting option for customers. Simply explained, it takes one big server and partitions it off into several small servers. More specifically, it creates a virtual server which runs inside an actual hardware server by means of a specially designed partition. Each virtual server can run its own operating system, and each server can be independently rebooted. It cannot be accessed or interrupted by its neighbors.

A virtual private server is usually a stepping stone between shared hosting accounts and dedicated hosting accounts. You now will have all the benefits of a dedicated machine, but there will still be limitations as to what you can do with it. Compare shared hosting to a small one bedroom bungalow, and think of dedicated hosting as a McMansion. In between the two, a virtual private server is a comfortable three bedroom home in a nice suburb. In other words, you get more flexibility than a shared hosting account, but you are still more limited than if you had a dedicated server account.

Using a virtual private server guarantees you a share of the server’s resources, (guaranteed fraction of server’s disk space, CPU, bandwidth, and memory) while full root access allows you to completely customize the virtual server by adding or changing modules, and installing your own software. Since it doesn’t share web applications and services, it eliminates the risk of downtime or hacks due to others’ mistakes.

Summary of benefits of VPS

  • Cost saving on hardware and sharing system resources.
  • Guaranteed performance with burstable RAM, round-robin CPU.
  • Highly reliable and flexible.
  • Easy administration with full root access, intuitive Plesk 9x or control panels, high level Virtuozzo Power Panel which makes administration easy.
  • Reboot, repair, and restore online anywhere from backups.
  • Independent, virtually running your own server.
  • Cost considerably less than a dedicated hosting plan.

Managed VPS hosting

Managed hosting varies from one provider to another, but if you’re not technically savvy, this “hands off” approach is your most viable option. It’s the ideal situation when you have little or no experience running or maintaining a server because the host typically takes care of software and system updates you request, and in some cases, does them pro-actively. Managed varies from one provider to another and is often referred to as a semi-managed service provider who helps you upgrade the core of the operating system (i.e. Linux kernel), but may not troubleshoot things that shared hosts would do (i. e. email issues). Here are the most popular features of managed VPS hosting:

  • You are guaranteed little to no downtime since you are dealing with a fault tolerant infrastructure with high availability.
  • Security in an infrastructure of data is regulated by vulnerability scans, monitored firewalls and investigation of suspicious traffic patterns.
  • The speed of VPS is exemplary.
  • Monitoring systems can inform you of disk space, CPU usage, and security risks. Precautions and solutions can either alert you or attend to the problem.
  • Patches can be monitored, and required updates can be performed before any changes are done, and if you are not satisfied with changes, they can be altered during the next scheduled maintenance.
  • IT support is available 24/7/365.
  • Scalability, and you can have unlimited resources allocated such as RAM or CPU to run faster. You can change the size of your hard drive or create a new one without having to shut down or reboot.
  • There are no shared resources, and you do not have to pool your resources between other customers.
  • Backup is superior with VPS and you can be up in minutes and able to restore custom databases, web servers, and integrated applications by moving the server to a different virtual host and replacing it without any down time. With some plans you have the option to back up your “backed-up” files.
  • Easy migration enables your server to be moved if a server fails or you need more power with no downtime.
  • Use your own software, use open source software, or choose new software. You can be fully customized with specific hardware and software from the get-go.
  • There are no worries about breakage or downtime for routers and switches since it is provided with the hosting level equipment.
  • There should be no hidden fees, costs, price increases in case of expansion or traffic spikes.

Disadvantages of managed VPS hosting

I see four major disadvantages of managed VPS hosting. Primarily the price is high, but if you are a small business, it would still cost significantly more to hire extra staff; still managed VPS costs are more expensive than unmanaged. The lack of control of actual hosting is a major unappealing fact of managed VPS hosting. Depending on which hosting company you choose, the host has complete control over all decisions about equipment and software once you are up and running. Avoid “standard plans” and find a flexible VPS provider who allows hardware customization.

You cannot just change on demand. The initial setup can also be time consuming as to getting the equipment and software. Remember time is money. And lastly, the managed VPS hosting provider may lack the physical environment to store equipment properly and safely. Always take lots of time, and do your research to find a trustworthy and reliable VPS host.

Unmanaged VPS hosting

In unmanaged VPS hosting, the host is only responsible for the physical server and the availability of the server. Remember you need a vast amount of technical knowledge, and you should be familiar with the operating system and server software you choose to use. With the exception of the initial OS installation, the user is responsible for the maintenance, upgrades, and installation of software. Technical support is generally limited to hardware failure and outages, and you are responsible for backup services. Unmanaged VPS hosting is still a better alternative than trying to host an Internet business out of your office and is actually very similar to maintaining a dedicated server as you have the following options:

  • You have self-management which includes full range control, and you have remote access to your server.
  • You have full administrative power, and no one else can access your information.
  • You can turn administrative functions over to an outside expert since the work is quite labor intensive and often specialized.
  • VPS unmanaged hosting offers flexibility since most companies allow you to make upgrades to compensate and accompany the growth of your business. You do have the advantage of server maintenance and security since the provider does store the equipment in a secure data facility.
  • Speed is exemplary.
  • Scalability allocates unlimited resources based on your needs and you can change the size of your hard drive or create a new one.
  • You have no shared resources and no pooling of resources.
  • Financially economical

Overview of managed vs. unmanaged

Most medium sized businesses can save money on an unmanaged VPS host if they have the technical knowledge and resources to sustain the operation. Large businesses seem to be more suited for managed VPS hosting because it saves time which is required to maintain the server. If your business involves demanding applications and real time systems, either service can serve your needs. Simply stated, keep the following in mind when making your choice:

  • Can your business afford to pay for managed hosting so you can spend more time marketing and running your business? (managed)
  • What kind of applications do you plan to install? (managed or unmanaged)
  • Do you lack manpower, but have the technical knowledge of server administration? (unmanaged)