There’s certainly no shortage of companies that provide virtual private servers (VPS). In fact, the market abounds with all kinds of offers. While it’s nice to have so many choices, it also makes it harder to pick the best of the bunch.
If you are looking to get a virtual private server, here are the things you should look out for.
As usual, price is a good indicator of quality. Fierce competition has driven all prices down to the lowest point where the businesses can still be profitable.
What Are the Average VPS Prices?
At the time of writing, you pay around $5 for 1GB of RAM and one virtual CPU. 2GB of RAM will cost around $10. Of course, this varies slightly from company to company. One may offer slightly more storage or bandwidth, and another might give you an extra vCPU for the same money but less of another resource.
In the following picture you can get an idea of how average prices for different resources might look.
Should You Buy a Very Cheap VPS?
While it’s tricky to find the best server for your use-case, it’s easier to spot the ones that are garbage. How do you know which VPS are horrible? It’s most often the ones that are much cheaper than the general competition.
For example, Vultr, DigitalOcean, Linode all offer approximately one CPU and one GB of RAM for $5. If you see a service selling triple this amount of resources for the same money, avoid it. The same applies if a provider gives you the same resources for a half or third of the price, e.g., one CPU and one GB of RAM for $1.50.
They almost always make compromises to stay cheap. One technique to do this is overselling.
Here’s an example: The hardware has forty-eight physical CPUs, but the company hosts eighty customers on that server, claiming to give each his own software-isolated CPU. This is done on the premise that the customers won’t notice because they won’t all use 100% of their CPUs all the time.
However, if you are hosted on oversold equipment, you may notice performance degradation occasionally, often, or never. It all depends on your luck and where you land. If all clients on the server decide to run Minecraft servers all of a sudden, your instance will be much slower, laggy or choppy.
The bottom line is, never buy a VPS that is way cheaper than the competition. Only do this if you don’t care about quality of service. Many companies oversell (slightly at least), but the cheaper ones exaggerate it.
2. Why Do You Need a VPS?
The good thing about a VPS is that is it highly customizable. If you need more RAM, CPU or storage, simply get the package that provides the resources you need. Most VPS providers have different plans for different needs. However, the following aren’t as obvious.
CPU Intensive Tasks Require CPU Optimized Plan
It may seem like you can use your resources any way you want, but their “Terms of Usage” might disagree. Many people have had their VPS shutdown after using 100% of their CPUs for a prolonged time. If you know that your application mainly depends on CPU, you have to buy a special type of VPS. Some call it “High Frequency;” others call it “Dedicated CPU” or “CPU Optimized.”
Network Transfer Rate
If people will download large amounts of data from your VPS, find out how fast the network is. Many providers don’t advertise this on the pricing page, but you can ask their support team. If you don’t get an exact response, it means the transfer rate is variable. This is the case with a lot of services, unfortunately. It’s not necessarily bad if you at least get an estimated minimum. For example, they might say “Up to 100MB/s, but we guarantee at least 40MB/s.”
You can also follow the steps in this tutorial to benchmark a VPS and find out these values yourself.
3. Operating System Library
Ubuntu and CentOS are probably supported everywhere, but if you want to use an “exotic” OS such as Arch Linux, OpenBSD or CoreOS, make sure you check whether it’s available.
4. Managed vs. Self-Managed
Usually, you get a VPS that you have to administer yourself 100 percent. Their support team don’t have to help you with anything regarding setup (unlike shared hosting). This is called an unmanaged or self-managed server. If you have the time, like to get your hands dirty, need to lower the cost, and can afford to make mistakes on occasion, there’s no reason why you can’t use this.
On the other hand, if you have a business where your servers are vital for its operation, choose a managed VPS. Their specialists will recommend a personalized solution and set it up for you. Of course, this costs more (usually a monthly fee), but saves you time, and they’ll probably configure it better than you could.
5. If You Intend to Pay with PayPal
Most VPS providers require you to sign up with a credit card and don’t offer Paypal subscription payments. Some companies will temporarily suspend your account if you pay with PayPal first. Next, they may ask for scans of identification documents. It’s up to you to decide if you don’t mind going through this process and will wait until it’s done. If this would annoy you, pay with a debit or credit card instead to avoid such nuisances.
Stick with reputable, medium to large companies that have been around for a while. Some of the reputable ones are Linode and DigitalOcean. Amazon EC2 (or Lightsail) can also be considered if you require Amazon infrastructure or services. They have experienced more problems since they have learned how to solve them. And remember, there’s always a way to migrate all your data to a different provider if the necessity arises.