When it comes to website hosting, renting a virtual private server (VPS) is the logical step after a shared hosting plan. As your website grows, at some point shared hosting will no longer be enough and you will need more resources.
In this article, we will talk about the differences between shared hosting and VPS servers. Then we’ll help you determine the right time to upgrade to a VPS plan and show you how to get started in just three simple steps:
- Choose the right VPS server type for your needs.
- Learn how to connect to a VPS using Secure Shell (SSH) login.
- Using the command line to manage a VPS.
Our goal is to help you choose a VPS server at the right time for your website. So let’s get to work!
The differences between shared hosting and VPS
For a website to work, it needs a publicly accessible server. A server is a computer like any other, but it has been configured with special software (and sometimes custom hardware).
When people talk about shared hosting, they mean multiple websites hosted on the same server. This method allows providers to offer lower costs, which is why shared plans are often the cheapest on the market. However, there are some downsides to this type of hosting.
To understand them, think of your website as a computer program. To work, it needs resources like RAM and CPU. The more people using this program at the same time, the more resources are needed in total.
However, each computer (or server) has a limited amount of resources available. This means that shared hosting can run into bottlenecks that slow down your website. In practice, this usually only happens in two circumstances:
- When your hosting provider installs too many websites on the same server.
- When your website gets too much traffic.
If you’ve chosen a reliable hosting provider, the first scenario shouldn’t be a problem. However, as your website grows in popularity, performance issues can become inevitable as the shared plan offering is limited. That means it’s time to upgrade to a better hosting plan.
In other words, you need to upgrade to a VPS server. The term Virtual Private Server (VPS) might sound intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. With a VPS, you still share the same physical server with other users. However, each site gets a virtual partition from this server along with a certain amount of resources.
Here are the main differences between a VPS server and shared hosting:
- VPSs are heavily compartmentalized. Even if you share a physical server, each VPS is essentially its own environment that doesn’t interfere with other partitions.
- You don’t have to share resources. Each VPS gets a certain amount of resources, so you won’t find bottlenecks due to traffic spikes on other sites.
- VPSs are generally highly scalable. Depending on the provider, you can increase your VPS resources if needed (i.e. get more RAM or CPU power as your website keeps growing).
- Get full control of your server. With a VPS, you can customize your server settings yourself or with the help of your hosting provider.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the last point. Shared hosting plans generally don’t give you much control over server settings. Instead, they configure everything for you and allow you to interact with the server through a hosting control panel, like the example below:
These panels usually have many options. However, they may not be enough if you’re someone experienced in server administration (or if you want to learn how to set up your own server). In this case, choosing a VPS server is in your best interest as you have more control over the settings.
Ultimately, choosing a VPS server means getting more resources and features so that you can manage your website more effectively. Now let’s talk about the best time to make this change.
When to switch from shared hosting to VPS
As mentioned, the primary consideration when choosing a VPS server is performance. That said, if you have a website that gets too much traffic or you want to build a Minecraft server, at some point shared hosting just can’t keep up.
How quickly you get to this point depends on the hardware offered by your hosting provider, your server configuration, and the plan you’re using. Finally, most providers offer multiple tiers of plans, even for shared hosting:
Since no two providers offer the same experience, it can be difficult to know when to choose a VPS. However, if your site meets some (or all) of the following criteria, you’re probably ready to take the plunge:
- Get at least 100-200 hits per day.
- There is a sustained increase of bounce rate.
- Your website’s loading times increase and/or you experience downtime.
Remember that 100-200 views is just a general rule. If you have a solid enough shared plan, you can potentially handle thousands of visits per month. It’s also worth noting that there are many factors that can affect the performance of your website, aside from the type of hosting plan you use.
For this reason, we recommend proactively optimizing your site so that it is always fast. But if your website starts generating more traffic and is still slow even after trying all the optimization tricks you know, then it’s time to choose a VPS server.
Fortunately, nowadays it is quite easy to find very reasonably priced VPS plans. Just to give you an idea, shared hosting plans usually start at around $5 a month. When it comes to VPS, you can often find plans for $10-15 a month or less depending on how much resources you need:
VPS plans are usually more expensive than shared hosting. However, paying a few dollars more for all the performance and features you get can be a steal.
Things get really expensive when you go beyond a VPS and have to upgrade to a dedicated server. But that kind of performance is something most websites don’t need unless you’re getting thousands of hits a day.
How to get started with a VPS server (in just 3 steps)
If you’ve already decided to make the switch, there are a few things you need to know before you start VPS hosting. Essentially, you need to learn how to connect to your VPS and issue commands, which we’ll cover after showing you how to choose a plan.
Step 1: Choose the right type of VPS for your needs
If you look into VPS hosting, you’ll find that most providers categorize their plans based on the resources each server offers. Here’s a quick example comparing four VPS plans on Hostinger:
The differences are in the numbers. Just like when buying a new computer, the hardware you buy depends on your needs.
First, let’s compare the first two plans, which you can see in the image above, to demonstrate just how much difference 1GB of RAM and twice the CPU performance can make:
- option 1: With the 1GB server, you could be running a basic WordPress site with moderate traffic and it should have excellent performance reach. However, if you want to set up more applications or a control panel, 1GB of RAM won’t be enough.
- option 2: With 2GB of RAM, you have enough resources to do it Configure cPanel, For example. You could also easily run several menial websites from the same server.
As a general rule, we recommend choosing a VPS with at least 2GB of RAM and a 4.8GHz CPU, especially if you have a high traffic website. The more modest VPS plans are generally only a good option if you want to avoid shared hosting for a new website because you want to run your own server.
Speaking of server administration, the idea may be intimidating, but it’s actually something anyone can do. All you need is to know the basics and be willing to do a little research.
Step 2: Learn how to connect to your VPS via SSH
Running a VPS is a completely different thing than using shared hosting. The latter usually gives you access to a control panel where you do most of your “administrative work”.
On the other hand, VPSs usually come without control panels (although it is possible to use Cyberpanel Hosting) so that you can interact directly with the server. To do this, you need to use the command line, which we’ll cover in a moment. First you need to connect to your server, which requires a Secure Shell (SSH) client.
An SSH client is an application that allows you to connect directly to the server. If you’re on a Unix-based system, you can do this directly from the command line, without the need for a dedicated client. This means you can proceed to the next step.
However, for those using Windows, you’ll need software like putty, which is our favorite SSH client. It’s also free, so you can download and install it on your computer without any problems. Once Putty is done, run the client and you will see a window like this:
To connect to the server, you need to know its IP address. The only two other settings you need to worry about are the port you’ll be using and the type of connection you want to make. By default, putty uses port number 22, which is the preferred option for SSH connections.
As for the server’s IP address, you should have access to this information in your hosting’s control panel. Enter this address and press the button open to establish a connection.
If the address is correct, a command-line window will appear asking for your credentials:
For a new server, you’ll probably need to use the account root and the password, which you should also find in your hosting control panel.
Having successfully logged into the server, you can start issuing commands to it. This is where the real fun begins.
Step 3: Use the command line to manage your VPS
The main reason some people find the command line inconvenient is that it doesn’t provide a graphical interface. Everything you do works with text commands, so you need to remember at least some of the basics if you want to get anywhere.
However, with the command line, there’s nothing stopping you from googling everything you need to know. In other words, you don’t have to be a “hacker” to perform basic server administration tasks using commands.
To help you get started, we’ve created one List of some important commands and what they do. These include:
- ls: This command will show you all files and folders within the displayed directory.
- mv: This command allows you to move files from one folder to another.
- CD: Use this command to navigate directories.
- mkdir: This command is useful when you need to create a new folder.
- older brother: This command allows you to edit files with the nano editor (all without leaving the command line).
Now you can start managing your server. Just remember that your account has full permissions and access, which means you could accidentally change things that shouldn’t be changed. When in doubt, it never hurts to ask for help while you’re still learning.
If you’re launching a new website, shared hosting should be sufficient in most cases. However, after a while, your site will likely grow to the point where it requires more resources. At this point, you need to upgrade to a VPS server if you want to maintain the best possible performance of your website.
Have questions about when to choose a VPS server? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below!