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In a world filled with different web hosting options, VPS hosting has become a popular choice for websites in various categories.
Upgrading to a virtual private server (VPS for short) will drastically improve your site performance if you’re currently on a shared hosting plan.
For those of you who are starting a new site from scratch and expecting tons of traffic from the beginning, getting a VPS hosting plan out of the gate is a viable option as well.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of web hosting providers on the market today. That’s why finding the right web hosting plan for your site can be such a tough decision. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place—this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about VPS hosting.
As previously stated, the list of web hosting providers is seemingly a mile long. But in terms of actual contenders, there are a couple dozen at most. When it comes to VPS hosting, specifically, the list is even shorter.
But as you’re shopping around and evaluating different VPS hosting providers, these are the factors that you’ve got to take into consideration:
Site performance needs to be the top priority for everyone seeking a VPS plan. The term “performance” can be pretty subjective, but there are two metrics that matter the most:
Most people searching for a VPS are upgrading from a shared hosting plan that they’ve outgrown. Uptime and speed are the first two things to be affected when you’re sharing server resources with other sites.
You want to make sure that your VPS plan can accommodate your traffic needs. If performance is affected at scale, then you need to look elsewhere. Lots of web hosting providers will give you a guaranteed uptime rate. However, those offers typically come with some contingencies (like planned outages).
Some sites can’t afford any downtime or slow loading times. If you fall into that category, make sure you get a premium VPS plan. For those of you who would rather save some money, just know that your site performance might be affected.
Technically speaking, you’re still sharing server resources with other websites on a VPS hosting plan. However, the number of sites on the same main server is much lower compared to shared hosting. Plus, each virtual server will have its own dedicated resources.
As you’re evaluating plans, consider the following:
These resources will have a direct impact on your site speed and uptime (mentioned previously). If you’re maxing out your resources, you can’t expect your site to run at peak performance.
Not everyone needs root access. This feature only really matters if you’re a developer or need the ability to make custom changes to your virtual server at an advanced level.
If that’s the case, then you should be looking for a self-managed VPS plan. Most people will be better off with a fully managed plan (no need for root access here). It’s also worth noting that you can find fully managed VPS plans with optional root access, but that feature won’t really be utilized by the average user.
On the technical side, there are two main options for VPS hosting—Windows VPS and Linux VPS.
A Windows-based platform will provide you with access levels and performance that’s similar to a dedicated server. If you’re on a self-managed plan, you would be able to install common windows databases and applications like Microsoft SQL, ASP, SharePoint, and ASP.NET.
With a Linux VPS, your virtual servers will support web features like PHP, MySQL, and POP3. Since Linux is an open-source OS, these hosting plans are usually more cost-effective. You could eventually convert your Linux server into a Windows server, but doing the opposite would be much more complex.
Customer support piggybacks on our last point, especially true if you’re on a fully managed plan.
You want to make sure that your web hosting provider has your back. What happens if something goes wrong? Who do you contact if you have a problem or question? How do you resolve a time-sensitive issue?
If your site crashes at 10:00 PM on Friday night, waiting to contact a customer support representative at 9:00 AM Monday morning isn’t going to cut it. Look for a VPS provider with 24/7/365 support via phone and live chat.
Features like free migrations from another provider or hosting type to your new VPS plan would also fall into the support category. Some hosting providers are undoubtedly better than others when it comes to customer service.
The price for VPS web hosting varies significantly from provider to provider and plan to plan. We’ve seen VPS hosting plans starting as low as $6 per month. Other plans start at $250+ per month. Most of you will likely fall somewhere between these two extremes.
In many cases, you can expect to get what you pay for.
If you’re signing up for the cheapest VPS hosting plan that you can find, don’t expect to have extremely high uptime rates and fast page loading speeds. For those of you who want as many dedicated resources as possible, just know that they come at higher price points.
So you’ll have to weigh your performance and resource needs against your budget.
There are essentially two different types of VPS hosting—managed and unmanaged plans. I’ll explain the differences between these choices below, and I’ll also provide you with more information on alternative options for web hosting (to make sure a VPS plan is right for you).
If you’re not very technically inclined and don’t have a dedicated IT team, a managed VPS plan is definitely the best option for you. In short, you won’t have to really handle anything on your own. You’ll be able to just focus on running your website while the hosting provider takes care of the server behind the scenes.
Here are a handful of examples of what most VPS hosting providers will do for you on a fully managed plan:
Some providers will offer a little more or maybe even a little less, but this is generally what you should expect if you choose this type of VPS plan.
An unmanaged, or self-managed VPS, is just the opposite of a managed plan. You’ll be completely on your own when it comes to installing your software, control panel, security, maintenance, updates, and everything else listed above.
If you experience a hardware failure or an outage, don’t expect a ton of support from your hosting provider either. This type of VPS plan is really intended for those of you who need complete customization at the server level.
Self-managed plans are usually cheaper as well since the hosting provider doesn’t have to do nearly as much.
VPS hosting isn’t for everyone. So if you’re new to the world of web hosting, I want to quickly take a moment to explain your other options.
With all of this in mind, let’s dive into the top VPS hosting plans on the market today:
HostGator has been around for roughly two decades. The hosting provider powers 2+ million websites worldwide.
As one of the most trusted names in the web hosting industry, you really can’t go wrong with a HostGator VPS plan. Here’s a look at the different plans and price points:
The VPS hosting plans from HostGator come with full root access and dedicated resources. You’ll also benefit from features like:
In addition to traditional web hosting, HostGator’s virtual private servers are commonly used for ecommerce sites, testing environments, gaming, and heavy application use.
All plans are backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee.
InMotion has a wide range of VPS hosting plans for you to choose from. They offer managed VPS hosting and self-managed cloud VPS hosting, both powered by Linux SSD servers.
Managed plans start at $29.99 per month, and the entry-level self-managed VPS starts at $5 per month.
Most of you will benefit from the managed plans, as these virtual servers are optimized for ecommerce out of the box. These plans are configured for speed and reliability with ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Magento, Prestashop, and more.
Other advantages of using InMotion for VPS hosting include:
Overall, InMotion’s virtual private servers are fast and reliable. Even the managed plans come with full root access. InMotion’s 90-day money-back guarantee is arguably the best in the hosting industry.
GoDaddy is a name that’s usually synonymous with domain registration and controversial marketing strategies.
But if you’re in the market for a self-managed VPS plan, this will be a top option for you to consider.
Standard RAM VPS plans from GoDaddy start as low as $4.99 per month. The high RAM plans start at $9.99.
The self-managed plans are perfect for developers and system admins. Features and benefits of using GoDaddy’s virtual private servers include:
These plans are great for testing environments, database servers, resource-heavy apps, email servers, and admins running multiple websites.
GoDaddy does have fully-managed VPS plans starting at $99.99, but the self-managed option is definitely the standout from this provider.
For businesses, ecommerce websites, agencies, and resellers, Media Temple is my top recommendation for managed VPS hosting.
The pros at Media Temple will handle all of the technical aspects of managing your server. So you can spend more time focusing on your website and business.
In addition to the best customer support team in the world of web hosting, your managed VPS plan comes with benefits like:
Media Temple’s servers are fast and reliable. These managed VPS hosting plans start as low as $55 per month.
InterServer definitely isn’t the most well-recognized name in web hosting. But for those of you who want a cost-effective VPS plan, InterServer is worth taking a closer look at.
This hosting provider offers managed and unmanaged VPS hosting, starting at just $6 per month.
Let’s takes a closer look at some of the features, benefits, and highlights of using InterServer for VPS hosting:
Unlike other hosting providers on the market today, InterServer doesn’t offer a free trial or any money-back guarantees. However, they do offer month-to-month pricing, so you can cancel at any time.
The performance of these servers won’t be as high as some of the other plans on our list. But when you’re paying rock bottom rates, top of the line performance probably isn’t your first priority.
VPS (virtual private server) hosting is an excellent option for sites that have outgrown a shared hosting plan.
Which VPS is the best? Naming just one as the top pick is a tough call. But you’ll be happy with any of the options on this list. Just make sure you follow the methodology described earlier in this guide for choosing the best VPS plan.
For self-managed and managed plans alike, there’s something for everyone on my list.