The best VPS host for you will depend on your unique hosting needs and budget. For example, if you need to host a large amount of data, then you will want to look at hosting plans that offer generous amounts of storage at the lowest cost.
But if site performance is a top priority, you might want to invest in premium plans that offer dedicated CPU cores and RAM.
Essential VPS host features
Consider the features you need to effectively run your site or sites. The best VPS hosting providers offer a lot of choice:
- Root access: Gives you direct control over your slice of the server
- Dedicated support: Get answers to questions quickly (and usually 24/7)
- Choice of control panel: Use cPanel, Plesk or a proprietary control panel
- Site migration: Your host will move your existing site over to your new virtual server (free or at added cost)
- Enhanced security: Get protection against malware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Uptime and downtime rates
Most hosting companies offer 99% or higher uptime guarantees. You should expect your server to be down occasionally because web hosts need to update hardware and software. Generally, they have redundancies and backups so you won’t lose data and also don’t suffer too much downtime.
There’s a big difference between 99% uptime and 99.9% uptime. Here’s what the difference between uptime guarantees can look like in terms of minutes down:
99% uptime = ~14 minutes downtime per day (3 days, 14 hours per year)
99.5% uptime = ~7 minutes downtime per day (1 day, 19 hours per year)
99.9% uptime = ~1.5 minutes downtime per day (9.5 hours per year)
As you can see, even half a percent can make a huge difference in the time servers are down. Keep in mind that an uptime guarantee simply guarantees that you won’t have more downtime than expected. If you do, a web host usually gives you a pro-rated credit for the time your site or VPS was down.
Having 24/7 support from your web host is always important because you never know when you may need tech help. That help may not always be related to downtime either. If you’re new to managing your own server, you may have questions. Look for hosting providers that offer round-the-clock support via live chat and over the phone (or at least one or the other) and email.
Managed versus unmanaged VPS hosting
If you’re not particularly ‘tech-savvy’ a managed VPS hosting plan could be the right option. If you’re moving from shared hosting to VPS for the first time, it’s a good idea to start with a managed VPS plan because you won’t have to do much. The hosting company’s tech team will take care of all the maintenance of your server, including security and updates, for example.
Unmanaged hosting is ideal for developers who know their way around a server. You have root access and therefore complete control over your operating system, setup, control panel, security patches and updates to apps. But this means you need to pay close attention to your server’s maintenance. Due to their hands-on nature most unmanaged VPS plans will be cheaper.
Do I need a dedicated server?
A dedicated server is more expensive, but you get the entire server to yourself. It’s a bump up from a VPS because you don’t share resources with others. A dedicated server for your site should mean faster loading speeds, more resources to handle more files or content and a flood of traffic.
Most small businesses won’t need a dedicated server right away, but there are a few caveats. One of the best ways to judge whether you need to upgrade to a dedicated server is to look at your traffic from your busiest days, such as on sales days, or bank holidays when traffic may be higher.
If your site was sluggish on those days and you had spikes in traffic, it might be time to consider upgrading to a dedicated server.
In addition to having all the server’s resources to yourself, you’re likely to get dedicated support, complete control over your server’s configuration and there’s no threat of malware or spam bringing your server down from another user’s actions.