Choosing VPS Hosting Providers – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

VPS Hosting is one of the fastest growing hosting niches. More and more hosting providers are offering this as to compliment their offerings and it is gaining increased traction as the concept of “Cloud” becomes more main-stream. But this increase in VPS Providers makes the task of choosing your host difficult! More choices generally confuse buyers – simple psychology. But you don’t have to be! This article will highlight a few of the key points that you should look out for when taking the plunge into your first “virtualized” hosting experience.

The first and most important thing to watch out for is how many years the VPS provider has been in business for. We’ve all heard of the horror stories of the teenager run hosting company that disappeared overnight because the kid finally found a girlfriend. You don’t want to get burned like this. So pay attention. Experience is King. Especially in the web hosting industry. If your hosting provider has not had to recover data from a double drive failure, suffered from a 300 Mbit DDOS attack, or had to deal with a public relations flame on WHT.com, then he’s got a lot to learn. And personally, I’d rather be hosted with a VPS Provider that’s been battle tested and proven.

The next thing that really catches a lot of people off guard are the reviews. Google “VPS Hosting Reviews” and you’ll find hundreds of these so called “independent review” sites full of interesting reviews. Some good, some bad, but overall – you have to take it with a grain of salt (or two). It’s a sad fact, but many unscrupulous VPS Providers operate in the gutter, posting fake positive reviews in hopes of fooling naïve customers. Review sites like this are quite useful though for examining negative reviews. If you see a slew of bad reviews one after the other, with a general flavor of corroboration between them all, then it’s probably a good idea to not buy from that provider. Or at least start with a trial VPS first!

So if you can’t trust the review sites where do you look? One good resource is the forum webhostingtalk.com. This is the most popular webhosting forum on the internet and is professionally moderated. Our company, EuroVPS, has extensive experience on this forum and can personally attest to the extreme prejudice the mods have towards scammers and shameful self promoters. Just use the search function and search for relevant threads regarding the VPS hosting provider that you are considering. And remember the first point. Experience. The forum history from this site will probably reveal the company’s entire history since it’s been the top dog forum from the very beginning years of this decade. Seriously – you should check it out!

The next factor that you should look at when choosing your VPS Hosting Provider is their level of transparency. It’s always refreshing when you can see pictures of the company’s hardware and infrastructure. Many VPS Providers lease their hardware. And although this is a perfectly good business model for the short term, it usually leads to long-term expandability problems for the host. This can effect the quality of service for clients.

Picture this scenario: A VPS provider has a great year and sells thousands of VPS. Expanding his fleet of leased servers by dozens. If sales stop the next year, he will still have to pay his server bills to let’s say Softlayer or whichever Dedicated Server provider he is using since he probably locked into an annual contract. This can lead to liquidity problems. If Softlayer for example does not get paid, they do not care if you have 2,000 VPS relying on them. They will shut you down. No pay no play. This leaves the providers’ clients stranded, sometimes without their data. I’ve seen this movie many times and is one of the reasons why it’s usually safest to host with a provider that owns his infrastructure free and clear.

Transparency is one of the things that savvy consumers are demanding more and more of. That is why the industry is shifting towards using more social media and blogging tactics to gain consumer trust. Which brings me to the next point. Check out the company’s twitter history and see what real people are saying about them. Twitter is much harder to scam than those silly review sites because it’s represented mostly by real people. Sure, there are fake accounts that can be hired out for self-promo, but those are usually very easy to call out.

There are plenty of excellent VPS Providers to choose from. But finding them requires that you do your homework. Your VPS provider is the lifeline of your website. And for many people, this can be the difference between paying your rent on time or not. So it’s ludicrous to take a chance with an unproven or dubiously reviewed VPS provider just because he was recommended by your friend who is probably an affiliate anyway.

To recap:

Remember, experience is king. Do not get turned off by forum threads about data loss or an unsatisfied client on the face of it. Be fair and read the whole thread. Examine how the provider dealt with the problem and see if it is something that you respect or not, because remember, you can only learn from your mistakes.

Don’t trust the “independent” review sites! They have been commandeered by Judas Goats herding you to the slaughter house. Better take a look at webhostingtalk.com and read some real reviews on the forums. Learn about the VPS providers history, ask questions, people generally are quite nice and love to help friendly people in need.

One of the last points was owned hardware is better than leased hardware. I’m sure there’s many very competent VPS company’s that are under 1 year old. But let someone else take the chance with them! The world is instable enough as it is, why complicate things even more with your hosting? And finally, see what real people are tweeting. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. Research it all! Every host has had it’s bad days. But the excellent hosting providers are the ones that come out of these experiences improved with lessons learned for the future.

Is VPS Hosting Right For You?

VPS, or Virtual Private Server, means hosting of different entities for various customers, but all in one server. It enables the service provider to make a partition of a single server into many virtual servers. The customers would then share the server as a whole, which includes both the connection and the hardware. They would actually enjoy the same benefits as they would get in case of dedicated hosting like a file system and a private operating system, which gives them the freedom of safe access. So this kind of a configuration means a combination of a dedicated and a shared hosting. In all, an enhanced performance with privacy will accrue to the company at a much lower cost than it would have to pay for dedicated hosting.

Customers would get certain controlling features as well, like the administrative tasks of changing the configuration of the server, installation of software, rebooting the server, etc. This kind of an account is good for those customers who invariably need safety and accessibility more than anything else. So you may very well opt for VPS hosting if you want to switch over from a shared hosting to a dedicated one, without having the need to increase the costs for the purpose. Some service providers offer this service for a cheap cost of $10 a month, so investing in a VPS hosting environment is a very good idea for many online business owners. Given that the operating system and the file system are unique for every customer, the users can get a good portion of the server when you talk about CPU, network and the disk input and output.

If you are planning to resell the hosting, you will have a greater degree of control on those services which you can offer, so it would give you a competitive edge over the competitors. For those web developers who are planning to develop a social networking site or a blog full of functions, VPS hosting would be the idle choice to go for. Even for those webmasters who find it comfortable managing a shared hosting and wish to upgrade their technical know-how on server management, but do not wish to expose themselves to a dedicated server in totality, VPS hosting is a good option. The webmasters would be enabled to install some custom applications or even change modules for their servers. Besides, they would enjoy full security over all the websites under their management, because every single VPS environment is run by a unique software for its hosting, since they have their unique resources as well, intrusion possibilities are widely reduced.

VPS hosting bridges the gaps between the initial and the entry level web hosting plans and the co-location. While the former offers specified services like PHP/MySQL, etc., with limited disk space on a shared server, the latter lets you fully own and control the hardware, and just rent an internet connection and a rack space from the data center. A VPS would be the best option for you if you want to have a shared hosting plan, but your finances don’t permit you to opt for a co-location web hosting plan.

A dedicated web hosting plan is another alternative which you can consider, and it is pretty less costly than co-locating. It is also becoming very competitively priced as compared to other web hosting plans. Though it certainly costs more than a VPS web hosting plan, a dedicated plan can be reasonably affordable to you as well. As the name implies, a dedicated host gives a dedicated server to you. It actually means renting the server from the host company, and not renting the rack space for the server, as is the case in co-location.

Some of the advantages of a VPS web hosting plan are listed below:

o It provides you with a root access which enables you to install and even configure any program that you wish to
o Many websites can be hosted through the virtual hosts provided by Apache
o You get many other services as well, like an FTP server, a mail server, and any server that you may need
o These servers can be used for storing files, as backup, or as anything as it might suit you

Certain disadvantages accrue to the VPS web hosting plans as well, which are mentioned below:

o As a VPS web host allows you to fully control the server, you become primarily responsible for anything that you do. Installation, security, maintenance… you become responsible for all your actions. So if you don’t have enough expertise on looking after a Linux Server, this may pose a big problem.

o A VPS web host server gives you the whole operating system to work with, but you need to share the hardware resources like RAM, CPU, etc. with other users of the VPS on the same host. So if your business demands high performance or the usage of programs which involve the RAM to a huge extent, it would be better to go for co-location or a dedicated server.

The manner in which it works:

A combination of many technologies makes running a VPS possible. Some of them are the Virtual PC by Microsoft, the User Mode Linux by Open Source, and XEN, the latest one. XEN is actually getting rave reviews from the media. There is also a possibility of it being combined with the forthcoming Linux distribution. Web developers will only benefit from it, since it will give them more freedom at a very cheap cost.

You may ask what you will get if you use a VPS account. Firstly, you will get the access to core areas of your server. As said earlier, if you are good at working on a Linux server, you can have full access and control over everything that you wish to do. But since it gives you the liberty of unlimited control, you will be liable for anything that you do. So if you are not comfortable with Linux, VPS is not meant for you.

However, this does not mean that you will have to build the whole operating system from the beginning. Almost all the VPS plans have many disk images to make a selection from, and they have various distributions in the default configurations. You just need to specify the disk image that you need, and the configuration will be done on the VPS in a couple of minutes. On setting up an account, you will be assigned the root access via SSH, where you can perform any activity that you want to.

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