Virtual private server web hosting offers numerous benefits over shared hosting. With VPS, you can use whatever software suits your business needs and personal preferences. Hardware assets (CPU, RAM, etc.) are shared equally by all clients on the VPS hard drive, or these assets are managed on the server side to ensure fair distribution. VPS is less expensive than a dedicated or private server and offers more features and greater flexibility than a shared hosting program.
So, if you have a growing business that needs more disk space, faster, more assured client access to data or an expanding product list, VPS hosting plans, which start at less than $35 a month, might be the perfect solution for your web needs.
There are a lot of web hosting companies in a very competitive market so selecting the right host company is more than a hit-or-miss proposition – or at least it should be. Even if you don’t know much about virtual private servers or web hosting in general, there are still some questions you should ask any web host representative before you ink a 12-month service contract.
Question #1: How much?
While important, the monthly costs of VPS packages continue to come down due to improved technology and good old competition. VPS packages start as low as $20 a month for the basics and go as high as several hundred dollars monthly for the upper-tiers with all the bells and whistles.
Important note: Cost should be a consideration but not the most important consideration when selecting a VPS host and plan. Relatively speaking, the prices for VPS hosting services are controlled by a highly competitive hosting marketplace. Every body wants a web site these days so consider monthly costs and set-up fees, but don’t make this primary consideration #1. In fact, it’s probably the least critical factor in selecting a host company.
Also, different hosts provide more or less freebies and goodies in their various VPS price tiers so if monthly cost is the only consideration, you inevitably end up comparing apples and oranges.
Question #2: What are the specifications of the VPS package?
A more important consideration than monthly costs and set-up fees. The three factors you want to consider and understand are RAM, CPU speed and network throughput or bandwidth.
RAM – random access memory – determines how much information can be stored and manipulated for short periods of time before being transferred to long-term storage on the hard drive. The more RAM the better. More RAM enables you (and your customers) to do more in less time.
CPU – the central processing unit – determines the speed at which computations and other computing activities take place. The faster the CPU the faster interactions take place on-line. This is important due to the impatience factor of today’s computer users. 90% of users will sit through a 10-second download; 10% will sit through a 30-second download. In other words, you lose 80% of your potential buyers if they have to wait an extra 20 seconds for your server’s CPU to download information requested by the customer.
Finally, network throughput is how much information can be delivered to and from server in a specified time. If the other businesses who share the VPS with you are regularly engaged in CPU/RAM-intensive activities, you may encounter slower response times due to the lack of bandwidth – the amount of transmission space to move data between server and customer.
Question #3: How many other businesses are on the same server hardware?
The fewer the better. Again, with VPS you still share hardware assets with the other web host clients who share the same disk space that you do. Some host companies load their VPS servers while others leave “headroom” to accommodate equitable hardware asset allocation. Go with the company who gives clients a bit of breathing room.
Question #4: How is hardware asset contention handled?
Related to question #3, there will be times when you and the other companies on the same server are competing for more RAM or quicker throughput. So, ask how the web host handles this competition for hardware resources.
There are two options, here. First, hardware assets may be evenly allocated to each client sharing the VPS server. So, a server with 2GB RAM, 100GB of disk space (hard drive) and two 2GHz processors hosting 10 VPS clients, each client would each receive 200MB of RAM, 10GB of disk space and a CPU speed of 400 MHz. In other words, hardware assets are divvied up equally between the 10 clients sharing that particular server.
The other way assets are managed is through controlled distribution on the server side, that is, asset manage software loaded onto the VPS server is used to manage demand for RAM or CPU as needed. If you need more RAM at a given moment, you’ll receive it. When a neighbor on the VPS server needs more RAM, that client gets it.
Most serious webmaster want assurances that they’re going to have these resources on an ‘as needed’ basis. However, you may not have a clue as to how much RAM you’ll need or how much disk space your site will require. So, if you know the maximum limits of your asset needs, go with a company that divvies up hardware assets equally. If you don’t know what you’ll need, go with the more flexible management plan of managed asset access at the server level.
Question #5: What “virtualization” technology does the host company employ?
Remember, this is virtual private hosting. You still share disk space, though your disk sector is isolated from others on the same server. How does the company create a VPS account?
This entails the operating system (OS) employed by the host server. There are some well-known names in server operating systems. Names to look for are Linux, Windows, FreeBSD and several other virtualization software packages including User Mode Linux, QEMU and XEN which has been extremely well received by the hosting industry.