Virtual Private Servers – Are They Worth it?
I recently got an email stating that the traffic for one of my websites (not this one) was too large for a shared server plan to handle, and that I would need to upgrade to a VPS.
First off, I was happy that my website was having this kind of success. But I was also skeptical of the claim: are they just trying to get more money out of me?
I started looking into VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting. Is it really worth the extra cost?
First off: What is VPS Hosting?
For the longest time there were only two types of hosting: shared hosting (where you shared a server with thousands of other websites) and Dedicated Hosting (you have your own server).
The cost difference is monumental: shared hosting can go as low as $1.99/month, whereas Dedicated hosting plans start at $224.99/month!
The Benefits of Dedicated Servers are Abundant:
- you have the entire server’s processing power, memory, and bandwidth all for yourself.
- It’s also more secure. If someone hacks into another website on the same server as you, your website is vulnerable.
- You don’t have worry about “bad neighbors”, other websites that use way too much of your server’s resources.
However, dedicated hosting isn’t perfect. You have one server and one server only to handle traffic. What if your website becomes so popular that it needs more resources than your server can handle?
Once your dedicated server crashes, it’s up to you to reboot the server after it does (dedicated hosting plans usually come with ‘remote access’ feature where you can manually reboot your server.
So neither type of hosting is ideal, and the costs from one plan to another are extreme.
VPS is where a Web Hosting Company will ‘partition’ a server, so that you have your own part of the server dedicated entirely to your website (or set of websites). This makes your website(s) safer: you can choose your own security programs to protect your server space.
But doesn’t this mean you only get a portion of a server’s resources?
Well, yes and no. You have a virtual space, but you get to choose exactly how much resources you want to have for your server.
This is where the “virtual” part comes in. With most VPS hosting companies you can set up how much CPU, Bandwidth, RAM and more to help you pay for what you use and what you don’t use.
The other benefit of VPS is that your host is able to adjust if your website suddenly becomes popular.
Let’s say one post on your website goes viral, and you get hundreds of thousands of visits in a couple of hours. A dedicated server would crash, and a shared server would simply be taken off-line. But with VPS, most hosting companies will temporarily pull resources from other servers to help keep your website running.
Of course if it happens consistently, then your host will want you to upgrade your VPS plan to accommodate the traffic.
Which is another good thing about VPS: you can upgrade (or downgrade) your plan without any of the hassle of server migration.
When You Need VPS:
- When you have a large website (ex. over 500 pages of content)
- Your website contains mostly media-rich content that requires lots of bandwidth (streaming videos, lots of GIFs, high-resolution images, etc.
- Your website is getting lots of traffic (i.e. over 2,000 unique visitors per day)
When You Don’t Need It:
- Your just starting out a website. If your website isn’t going to take off for a few months, then there’s no need to pay for resources you aren’t going to use.
- Your website won’t have a lot of content, and that content is text-based. Even if you’re getting 1000+ visits per day, text-based posts (like this very page you’re reading) don’t use a lot of bandwidth.
- You plan on having videos on your website, but you plan on mainly embedding youtube and/or Vimeo videos. Embedded videos don’t use much bandwidth at all (on your end). Youtube and Vimeo still handle the bandwidth.
Earlier in my blogging career I actually started out on a VPS server (with Godaddy). I fell for their ‘up-sell’ techniques and I was convinced that I needed VPS to handle all the traffic my new website was going to get.
What happened? After three months my website maxed out at 130 visitors per day. I was paying $29.99/month for way more than what I needed. I downgraded to shared hosting after that.
Recent Improvements in VPS:
Whereas before VPS was merely a partitioned-fraction of a server, hosting companies have increased the sophistication of their data-centers to the point where they can detect and accommodate traffic surges and drops instantaneously.
VPS started out as a happy in-between for those that wanted more than a shared hosting plan, but didn’t want to pay the full price for dedicated hosting. But nowadays all hosting seems to be moving towards the ‘virtual space’ instead of paying for physical servers. Some hosts only charge by how many resources you use.