Renting a Linux virtual private server (or VPS for short) can give you plenty of flexibility and opportunities. With it, you can have it perform tasks while your regular computer can take a nap. You can also have it run any assortment of servers including mail servers, web servers, game servers, and much more.
But not all Linux virtual private servers are created equal. There are various factors that you need to consider when you’re choosing a VPS provider. Instead of actually naming providers (as they change relatively frequently), here’s a general guide that will help you choose the right VPS for you.
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A VPS will provide you with a virtual CPU, which is most often a certain number of cores of a physical CPU that is allocated to your VPS. Choosing the right CPU depends on what you plan on doing with your VPS.
Web servers tend to not use the CPU very much, while gaming servers, chat servers, and the like will require more out of your CPU. However, don’t forget that a Linux server is relatively minimal compared to a desktop computer, so try not to go overboard with your CPU predictions.
Disk storage is important to consider because you need to make sure that you have enough space for all of the servers and data that you’ll want to store on it. The amount you need depends a lot on what you’re planning to do. A simple server that hosts a personal website will be fine with very little space (think 20GB).
However, if you’re planning on hosting a large gaming community, complete with a game server, web server (for the community forums, of course), voice chat servers, and much more, then you’ll need plenty of additional space (think 500GB).
The type of storage that is used for the VPS may also make a difference for certain needs. Again, hosting a simple personal website will be okay with a traditional “slow” hard drive. But if you’re doing something that requires a ton of reading and writing to the disk (which would certainly be the case if you have a forum with 1,000 online users), then you might be better off with a VPS hosted on an SSD.
Faster read and write speeds can speed up the applications running on your server and can avoid potential conflicts when there are multiple reads and writes that are waiting in queue.
Next, you’ll need to look at how much RAM is offered with the VPS. If you have a lot of different services running on your VPS, you’re going to need more RAM to keep them all happily going. Once again, if you’re hosting a simple personal website, even just 512MB of RAM should suffice.
However, you could need 4GB or more for your big online gaming community. Without enough RAM, your various services will be fighting over that cramped space and cause either significant performance issues or even complete outages of some services (say if there’s not enough RAM for a new server to start running, it’ll fail).
Also, you’ll need to look at how much bandwidth is provided with your VPS. No matter what you have running on your VPS, the amount of bandwidth you need depends on the amount of traffic your VPS will receive. A simple website can still use more bandwidth than an online gaming community if there are thousands of people requesting your site per minute, but only a few people are active on the gaming server.
That being said, it’s easy to predict bandwidth needs based on what you’re doing. On a per-user basis, an online gaming community will use up more bandwidth as the user will be browsing the forums, communicating with the game server and voice chat server, and more. For a personal website, users will simply be pulling up a webpage that is most likely less than 1MB in size. Note that there are VPS providers out there who offer unlimited bandwidth, either for peace of mind or if you simply need more than what any other provider offers.
The operating system(s) that the VPS provider uses or allows you to choose from is important too. If you have more specialized needs, it’s possible that your server software only comes packaged for certain distributions, or has certain dependencies that requires the latest version of the distribution.
Not all VPS providers run the latest and greatest version of your favorite distribution, nor is it a guarantee that they’ll let you update the OS once you have your VPS going. Research which distributions suit your needs, and then see if the providers you’re considering offer them.
There’s also the issue of price. Getting the fastest CPU, most RAM, largest storage space, and so on all comes at a price. An ideal provider will let you pick a lower-end VPS and then switch to better, more expensive ones when you find out that your current VPS isn’t enough.
However, plenty of providers won’t let you switch at will so easily, so it’s important to find a VPS that has enough resources at the price point you’re willing to pay. If, once you have that VPS, it still doesn’t have enough resources to run everything you want it to, then you have no choice but to pay more if you want to keep it going.
Lastly, you might want to look at additional features such as system snapshots. Of course, you could always set this up yourself, but sometimes it’s nice if there’s a very quick and easy way to have some sort of backup so that you’re not out of luck if something goes wrong. That’s just one example—check out some providers and see what they offer and whether you need those features!
Getting A VPS Is Awesome!
Once you’ve found a VPS that fits your needs, it’s well worth the investment! You won’t have to worry about providing your server with the right Internet connection, increasing power bills, or hardware that might fail. And using a VPS can often be pretty cost effective—good VPS solutions aren’t always more expensive than simple website hosting plans, but you’re able to do much more with it.
What are your favorite uses of a VPS? What providers would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!