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A Guide to Virtual Private Servers

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Learn ‘what is a VPS’ in this informative guide.

What Is A VPS?

To answer the question, it is virtual machine usually offered by Internet service providers. It has its own operating system and enables other operating systems to run on the system. In simple terms, a web hosting company can run multiple virtual servers on a single host server.

The Virtual Servers

All the virtual servers are private and kept apart from each other, and the host determines access to hardware. A server could have 8 GB of RAM, 300 GB of hard disk space and quad core processors and eight VPS systems running. The host server and VPS software could configure access so each VPS gets 1 GB of RAM, space usage of up to 50 GB and a specific amount of CPU. This is just an example as other configuration options are available. Virtual Private Servers can be hosted on Windows, Linux or FreeBSD.

Is A VPS For You?

If you’re asking the question do I need one?, the answer is yes if you need something more than the basic web hosting packages and plans offered by commercial services. A shared hosting plan is all right if you’re just starting out, but as your needs grow, the shared server and limited disk space and connection becomes restrictive and a VPS could be more ideal. Dedicated hosting is another option but it’s more expensive, so in the meantime a virtual private server could be the ideal solution.

VPS offers other advantages such as the following:

  • It allows you to use the server to store files, backup and anything else you have in mind
  • You have the option to host other services like FTP or a mail server.
  • By using Apache’s virtual hosts the number of websites you can host is limitless.
  • You have root access and can install any program with no restrictions.

While it offers lots of advantages, there are some potential drawbacks you need to keep in mind.

  • While you have complete control of the virtual private server information, installation, updates, security and maintenance, it entails a lot of responsibilities. Those with knowledge of Linux server administration skills have an advantage,, so you must be willing to learn how the OS works.
  • A VPS host plan lets you work with an operating system the way you want, but the CPU, RAM, disk space and other hardware resources will still be shared by each VPS. If you’re going to run several virtual private servers and use RAM hungry applications, you’ll need powerful hardware.

How a VPS Works

VPS works via virtualization technologies like XEN, User Mode Linux, QEMU, Virtual PC and many others. Many of these like XEN and User Mode Linux are free and others are low cost. Once you’ve got a VPS account the first thing you need to do is obtain root access on the server. Again, root access means complete control over all the configurations and programs.

Contrary to what some believe, the majority of VPS plans have disk images with varying distributions and preset configurations. All you need to do is decide what disk image to use and your VPS will be configured for it. After your account has been set up you will have root access and can log in. Once there you can tweak the server settings, remove or install software, update programs and more.

How to Choose a VPS

As was pointed out earlier there are several VPS hosting companies, all claiming to be the best. To make choosing easier, here are some tips:

  • What are the hardware specs of the host server? How many VPS will be run on the server? These are important questions because the more VPS instances that will be run, the more resources will be needed for resource sharing.
  • Find out what virtualization technology is used. If the server uses Linux, find out what distros are available. And if you really want to make sure, ask why they’re using that particular technology and what benefits it offers.
  • Hardware upgrades: if your VPS plan begins with 2 GB of RAM and 200 GB of hard disk space, there’s a good chance that after several months you’re going to need more. How is the upgrade process? How much will it cost and how long does it take? Before you sign up with any company make sure you go over these details first.
  • What type of customer support is offered? In case something goes wrong there needs to be someone you can call.
  • Does the service have any downtime? How long? What do clients have to say about their performance and customer service?

Now that you know what is a VPS?, it should be easier to find a service that matches your requirements. Apart from those already mentioned, check the company’s background and how long they have been in service. The longer they’ve been around the more comfortable you should feel about trying them out.

 

 

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