When you are creating a website often times the question of whether or not to upgrade your infrastructure arrises. Should you upgrade to your own virtual servers? Is it a good idea overall to do so? When is the right time? In this post I will give you some details and information of when and if you should move to a virtual server.

Disclaimer: This guide is general and does not apply to all hosting providers. Some offer more and some offer less features. Equally some have better practices and technical support and some worse. Please investigate about your provider before making a decision because it depends mainly on the quality of your provider.

Flexibility

One of the main features of owning a virtual private server is that you can do whatever you want with it. You can install all the scripts, create all the applications, install third party software and more. So you get to decide what software you need for your specific needs. This is something more dedicated to you and unique. Imagine it like living in a shared apartment. You can’t shower when someone else is showering, you can’t invite anyone home and you can’t upgrade the furniture or move your stuff around without permission. The same applies to a virtual private server when comparing to shared hosting. Upgrading from shared hosting to a virtual server would be like owning your own apartment.

Here is a table that compares flexibility between a vps and a shared hosting

FeaturesShared HostingVirtual Server
Own Control PanelNoYes
Own DNS nameserversNoYes
Own PHP ScriptsNoYes
Own 3rd party softwareNoYes
ScalabilityLimitedYes
Restart AnytimeNoYes
Advanced TroubleshootingNoYes

In summary, you do whatever you want whenever you want. But this does not come for free. Maintaining a virtual server is many times more difficult than a shared hosting. Issues might arise that you need to fix yourself and you won’t have customer support to do it for you. Also, if you misconfigure your server it might not even boot or you can have prolonged down times. Finally costs. Running a virtual server is a lot more expensive because you would be the one paying for panel licenses like cPanel, Plesk or direct admin. Also, you would need to pay for all the third party software that normally comes included for free on shared hosting. For example, cloud linux os, Inmunify 360, Website Builders, LiteSpeed, Installation, Jetbackup and more… This features are a must in any shared hosting plan. But they add up and can be as expensive as 50-100$ USD more depending on which features you need and which ones you don’t. The same like in the apartment analogy. If you live with more people in an apartment you are not as free but the costs are paid by everyone. Electricity bills, water, rent, etc…

Performance

Performance is very important when deciding to move from a shared hosting. Most shared hosting cap the CPU and RAM you are allowed to get. Most cap it at 1 GB of RAM and 1 CPU. So when looking for a lot of power, a VPS is the best option. You can not only chose what you need but you can increase the power of your services on the go. Most providers allow you to downgrade and upgrade your services. And even when you have a lot of traffic you can add multiple VPS working like a load balancer. So your load would be distributed among 2,3,4 or more vps. Depending on how many you have or your needs.

More importantly, you are not sharing your resources with everyone else on the website. If another website on the same server is receiving an extensive amount of visits, you won’t be affected. Your resources are not shared, they are only yours.

Pro TIP

On most cases, web hosting providers oversell their products to make a profit. You get unlimited space offers, unlimited traffic, 2 GB of ram for you and 2 CPU. But in reality, the resources you get are a lot less. You might get 512MB of RAM and 1/4 of a CPU. And obviously no unlimited space, they might have restrictions on the small print. Most companies state “reasonable use” of resources. In other words, they decide if they want to keep users that have lot’s of needs or not. If you are using a lot of resources, bandwidth and space, most likely they will suspend your account. So be aware.

Main points for performance:

FeaturesShared HostingVirtual server
Shared resourcesYesNo*
Acceleration Software
(Like LiteSpeed and CloudLinux)
Depends on the providerYes
Upgrade/Downgrade (Scalability)LimitedYes
FlexibilityLimitedYes

*Some virtual server providers oversell their resources too. This are not the best practices so be sure to get a provider that has good practices.

Security

One of the main issues with shared hosting is security. Everyone is sharing the same server, if one gets attacked everyone gets attacked. If one uploads malware, everyone might be exposed.

DDoS Attacks

The main issue is DDoS attacks. They are very common and can be prevented by using cloudflare, see more about the benefits of using cloudflare here. Anyways, DDoS attacks that are directed to any of the hundreds of websites hosted on some shared hosting providers affect you. Providers share IPv4’s with several clients and the easiest way to stop them is “disconnecting” the IP. This way they just stop the attack and if your website is caught up in this you might have downtime. Some providers actually offer DDoS protection.

Security Breaches

Like everyone, providers are susceptible to data breaches. This risk exists wether you are or not in a VPS. But being in a VPS has the added advantage that the cPanel login credentials are not stored on the provider’s databases ( Not all providers have this problems, many go to great extents to protect their users). This just adds an extra step that can be hacked. Cheap shared hosting plans not necessarily protect you in this matter.

Blacklists

This is very common. Someone else in the same server or IP has performed illegal practices. They might have spammed websites or e-mails. In this case, the IP will be blacklisted. Going back to the apartment analogy, it’s like if someone in your shared apartment did something illegal. You are connected by association, you might be a suspect. Just for being on the wrong place. Having your own private space or in this case virtual server, will protect you from this.

Shared Directories

All hosting providers share directories. If one directory manages to get compromised, most of them might too. Going back to the apartment analogy, If one of your shared apartment neighbors forgets to close the door, anyone can access and steal from anyone.

If you are interested in security and want to discover more please go to astra. They offer services to audit security issues and mitigation tools.

You might be asking how do we mitigate this. We are a service provider.

  1. We have special software like Inmunify 360 that protects against spam and website vulnerabilities.
  2. CageFS Hack Protection allows us to create a “cage” around each directory and each customer.
  3. We have two factor authentication for all our administration areas as well as special directory keys for our admin areas. As well as encryption of sensitive data (Like passwords) and we don’t store credit card information.
  4. We offer more flexibility by allowing caged SSH access into our servers as well as LiteSpeed and Cloudlinux.
  5. Dedicated Customer support allows us to check the needs for each individual customer, thus giving flexibility case-by-case.

Conclusion

So should you move to a VPS? It mostly depends on your shared hosting provider. Sometimes you should just migrate to another one that offers better services. That gives you greater flexibility, performance and security. But if you have a lot of users it’s better to go custom. Create your own solution and manage it yourself. You can have more control and a better service, for sometimes the same prices. VPS hosting is not as expensive all the time. Our plans start at 2.99 a month with great services. Adding license costs it could be starting at 15$ monthly.

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