Finding a Virtual Dedicated Server

I was surprised how long I was able to hold off on getting my own server. I was able to use shared hosting for quite some time with only some mild headaches. Programming and modifying extensions for MediaWiki has been a lot of fun, but now the time has come to take it to the next level.

What is a Virtual Dedicated Server? A server hosting company partitions many of its servers into a lot of “virtual” servers, which each act as though they its a single dedicated machine. You have your own resources, just like a regular server, but the physical box is shared with other people. It’s a lot less expensive than having your own dedicated machine, but it still gives most of the benefits of having a fully dedicated machine. It’s also a greener option – instead of having a server and not using most of it, you share the hardware with others. Most importantly, you can install anything you like and have root access to your machine.

On a Shared Hosting plan, you get share space on a server too, but you also share resources, like memory, bandwidth and disk space. You also share the operating system. When using shared hosting, most hosting companies won’t allow you to do very much except let them install their programs that they have approved. They do this to protect everyone that shares. The last thing that they might want is for a mistake (or worse) that one person makes to effect everyone that shares the hosting.

When looking for Virtual Dedicated Server there are a few things to think about. You will be bombarded with questions about memory, CPUs, disk space and bandwidth. If you’re moving from a shared hosting environment, you might not have any way to know what you have been using until now. To get a basic idea of what you might need, think about what kind of disk space you are currently using and how much traffic you have. One really nice thing about going virtual is that fact that upgrading to more memory or disk space doesn’t require you to do all that much. All that’s needed is to ask your hosting service to just allocate more and its there.

There are a lot of different hosting choices to choose from. Most of the big companies that offer shared hosting also offer the virtual dedicated variety. There are also some companies that specialize in virtual and dedicated hosting, and nothing else. When I was looking around, I narrowed my search to two companies: HostGator and Linode.

Linode specialized in Virtual Dedicated Servers. That’s all they do. They have a great community behind them to help you set things up and answer your questions along the way. You are 100% in control of everything, including updates and patches.

HostGator has Managed Virtual Dedicated Servers. You still have 100% control to do with your server all that you’d like, but they help out with things like updates and back-ups. They also help you transfer you site from whatever hosting environment that you are using. They charge more for these servers, but for me, I felt that they were worth it.

I went for HostGator. They moved everything over for me, and have been extremely helpful in resolving issues that have occurred because of the move. The support has been fantastic. One other nice thing is that the hosting plan that I chose came with something called cPanel. It’s also extra, but, at least for me, it has been totally worth it. It allows me to do things like set cron jobs, and it has tools like a file browser that lets me get around without needing to know any linux commands. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t know them – hosting your own server is a lot of responsibility – it’s just that it makes things a lot easier.

So far, my growing pains have been totally cool. Everything was moved over without a hitch and now I get to do some fun stuff that I wasn’t able to do before. No more limitations on the programs that I can run. The sky is the limit!

Image by: torkildr