Hosting is viewed by many as a commodity purchase – searching out the cheapest and quickest shared package. Providers can seem very similar to one another and the choice is often overwhelming. It’s difficult for customers to tell the difference between the packages on offer from different providers and the intangible nature of the product compounds the apathy of buyers.
But times are changing, buyers becoming more educated and some becoming savvier with their choice of host – considering all of their options before committing their website to the clutches of the cheapest shared server.
Tantamount in decision making should be security, reliability and speed. The risk of sharing the same physical server and resources as multiple users, while being commonplace, is nevertheless a concern when your organisation relies on its website and emails to function.
The majority of websites don’t need much space, bandwidth or server resources, meaning they can fit in a tiny area of a server and that works fine for them. Perhaps they’ll never need to upgrade. But for others, the ability to increase their CPU, RAM and disk space is vital to the growth of their website and business.
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For those in the know, virtual private servers (VPS) have become the preferred hosting solution, even for small to medium sized businesses.
Liken it to travelling, a cheap shared hosting package is like being on a double decker bus at rush hour – standing back to back with lots of other commuters with no control over the route. By comparison, VPS is a private coach transfer – air conditioned, spacious and although shared by a couple of other people, there’s plenty of space and they aren’t affecting the quality of your journey.
A VPS bridges the gap between the limitations of shared hosting and the flexibility of a dedicated server. Every website is hosted on a virtual private server with more powerful hardware. It’s shared hosting with root access and dedicated resources in an isolated environment. While other websites might share the same physical system, yours will have its own virtual area – with allocated resources which are exclusive to you. The websites sharing your system cannot affect your performance.
VPS solutions are much less expensive than they were a few years ago. The difference in cost between a shared hosting package and VPS is an increase starting at around £10 per month. And, while shared hosting prices continue to spiral downward, with packages from just £1, evidence is growing that companies are investing more in their hosting.
According to research by 451, cloud and hosting services are set to outpace total IT spend by 25.8 per cent this year. Cloud and hosting spend will reach 12 percent for the first time. With 88 per cent expecting their budgets to increase year on year. This commitment to the securing of websites, email and data is expected across organisations of all sizes.
An organisation should keep an eye on its website’s resource usage and upgrade before it outgrows them and risks creating a poor user experience for web visitors, or worse, downtime. You’ll know when it’s time to upgrade from shared to VPS – when your traffic volumes increase, and when you need a stable level of resources and security.
Power, stability and control are the three key persuaders in the argument for VPS. Outlined below are the three main benefits of VPS hosting over standard shared hosting:
Shared resources could see you running the risk of a ‘resource drain’ if there is a sudden flow of incoming traffic on your own or the other websites who share your hosting space. A VPS ring-fences your resources, improving the speed and security of your site. Even when you get a surge in traffic – you need a hosting solution that never lets you down. Performance and speed of your site are critical to UX and SEO. If your site is slow to load, you will lose traffic.
A shared hosting system means you’re sharing a security certificate and an IP address with thousands of other websites. That doesn’t leave you with much control over your own.
High profile cyber-attacks over the last few months have put online security at the forefront of IT decision makers’ minds. Through virtualisation, a VPS ensures that you are isolated in your own private server environment. There’s a minimal risk of unauthorised access from hackers or other users sharing the same system. In the unlikely event of a hardware failure, the high availability VPS options can guarantee 100% uptime.
VPS will put you in control of your hosting. Complete root access to your environment means custom software packages can be installed without having to wait for your host to support it. Shared servers that are optimised for security and performance often don’t allow all software packages due to security. Having control of your own virtual environment means you can bypass all of these restrictions, gain access to the underlying operating system and perform administrative tasks.
Dedicated resources allow you to grow instantly with access to more RAM, faster CPU and more disk space for storage.
Who can use VPS?
You don’t need to be a VPS or even a hosting expert, especially with a managed VPS where you’ll have help with all aspects of the server, configurations, and installations. If you opt for unmanaged, you are going to require a mid-level knowledge of server administration.
Like any purchase, determining whether to host using VPS should be based on research, cost analysis and aligned to the strategic goals of your website.
People generally switch to a VPS hosting environment, because they want more customisation and control options. Sometimes website owners will end up using the same settings that they were using with a shared host, but they enjoy having more control over their hosting environment. A VPS is also less technically heavy than a dedicated server, and can be a great bridge into an eventual dedicated hosting setup.
If you’re already watching the speed of your site, the chances are you’re ready to get off the bus and start using a private coach. With a website such a crucial part of any organisation, hosting practices must evolve to protect digital assets.
Jeremy Rose is director at Certa Hosting.