Virtual Servers become increasingly popular among web hosting services users. Many website owners, whose projects are constantly developing, look into virtual servers as into the most optimal upgrade solution. There are, however, nuances that should be kept in mind while making the purchase.
The thing is that unlike a shared or a dedicated server, a VPS has several ways of resource provision that depend on the virtualization type in use. This factor prompts dependencies for other aspects of hosting in turn. Thus, if you are intended to get a virtual server as a hosting platform for your web project, have a look at the tips below.
What Are You Going to Host?
No matter whether you are upgrading to a VPS or want to start a new project on such a server, you have a concept of your website in mind. Therefore it would be more logical to start analyzing those dependencies in the reverse order.
The first thing to stick to is the framework type. If your website is built with the help of html and standards scripts (php, perl etc.), a Linux-based server is going to suit your needs. If you use ASP .NET, MSSQL databases and some other specific Windows software, you will need Windows to operate your VPS.
Apart from the framework, it is vital to consider hosted software before making your choice. Depending on the script in use and visitors’ activity, hosting of blogs and forums may require more resources, than hosting of a simple ecommerce site. On the other hand, some ecommerce scripts may require more resources due to numerous modules applied.
Another point to consider is the purpose of service usage. Using a VPS for email/ftp transfer and hosting of a simple website is going to use hard drive resources mostly. In case of intensive scripts usage you will also need to take care of databases to be processed properly. This may require additional physical memory (RAM).
Which Platform Are You Going to Host Your Project at?
As far as you can see, even such a brief analysis of hosted content has already provided several options for hosting platform selection. By platform we do not mean the operating system only, but the hosting control panel, too. If you choose Windows, this will require installation of some of the following panels: Helm, Parallels (Ensim) or Hosting Controller. There are some other panels also, but those are the most popular ones.
A point to make here is that both Windows and all related hosting software has rather strict system requirements and uses significantly more resources than Linux. Additionally, those products are rather costly.
Choosing Linux sets you free from many nuances. First of all you do not pay for the operating system and you may choose between licensed and open-source software. Since Linux is more widely used in hosting, there are more types of software applied for server administration.
Therefore you can choose of a wider range of control panels: cPanel, DirectAdmin, Parallels (Ensim) – those that are paid – and WebMin, VHCS, WebCP and Xpanel – free web hosting control panels. Another aspect is server resource usage. Linux OS and its software usually consume less RAM and CPU time. You should, however distinguish types of software and especially control panels. The more feature-rich and automated the panel is, the more resources it consumes. cPanel for instance needs 256MB at least, while DirectAdmin or Webmin – only 64 MB of RAM.
Which Virtualization Type Should You Choose?
We are finally ready to discuss this most important aspect. Before we start helping you choose the type of virtualization, let us find out what it actually is. In a nutshell, it is a technology that allows creating multiple virtualized environments within one physical server (carrier) or vice versa – grouping several machines into one environment. If the latter technology is applied for clustered systems creation and cloud hosting provision, the former one is exactly what they use to create virtual servers.
Virtualization can be performed on two levels – on hardware level (paravirtualization) and on the level of operating system (OS-level virtualization). This is what is actually meant by type. The current trend in hosting, however, is to distinguish virtualization types by systems used – XEN for paravirtualization and OpenVZ for OS-level virtualization – since those platforms are the most popular and widely used in VPS hosting.
The main difference between those is that XEN supports full virtualization, letting its users operate an absolutely isolated OS with fixed dedicated amount of resources. Environments, created with OpenVZ are less independent – those are containers of a host system, installed on a carrier. Unlike XEN, that is able to support different operating systems, OpenVZ limits the user in choice of operating systems, narrowing it to OS Linux distros only (both XEN and OpenVZ systems are based on *nix). This difference explains the pricing – a more complicated technical solution delivered by paravirtualization makes XEN servers more expensive.
Last but not least – resource provision and sharing. This mostly concerns RAM. The thing is that, owing to full virtualization, XEN servers have a set amount of RAM, backed by a swap file – just like on a standalone server. An OpenVZ-based VPS does not have a fixed RAM limit – it only has a guaranteed amount of RAM that is supposed to be available all the time and burstable RAM (free carrier memory) amount for short time memory overuse peaks.
On the one hand, this way of resource sharing is rather useful since it lets the server operate faster. On the other hand, however, you cannot rely on constant availability of burstable RAM and sometimes (depending on resource sharing policy and limitations) you cannot even get all your guaranteed RAM, if it’s locked by another VPS, that uses it as burstable.
I believe, this explanation makes your choice more obvious. If you need to have your project hosted on Windows – you should get a XEN-based VPS. This server should have 768 MB RAM at least, however, since such “mid” specifications are not popular and taking into account the further growth of your project it is advisable to look into a VPS with 1 GB RAM at once.
Choosing Linux hosting gives you more solutions. You can get an OpenVZ server with minimal amount of RAM (usually 256 MB) to host small websites and carry out email/ftp transfers. This server will need the simplest control panel though, which means some manual administrative work. Thus, for maximum automation it is advisable to look into a VPS with 512 MB guaranteed memory limit.
If you are going to host some resource intensive software or expect your website to have many visitors, you should get a server with 768 MB – 1 GB RAM, since it’s risky to rely on burstable memory. You may also need a XEN-based VPS – those are mostly needed for projects that need all its memory constantly available.
For instance if you are sure, that whatever the load spikes may be the entire memory use is not going to exceed the 512 MB limit. Then it is better to get a XEN VPS with 512 MB or RAM, to support the system, services, your control panel and software, while all the other random short-time processes will get swapped and then released when they get executed and die.
If you are searching for a powerful, reliable and at the same time affordable hosting solution, you are most likely to be searching for a VPS. This type of hosting perfectly fits any needs and now you should be able to define which VPS you need exactly. I sincerely hope this article comes in handy when you decide to switch to a virtual server.
Image Credit: x10hosting