This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most out of your website.
It happens to most of us eventually. We’re doing OK living with our folks, and then something makes us want to get our own place. Maybe their quiet-hours rules conflict with your gaming schedule. Maybe their place gets a little crowded. Maybe you need space to do your own thing.
The same thing can happen with web hosting. You start with a shared hosting plan that’s all good but at some point, you want more control over your site than shared hosting allows. Or your host tells you to look for a new place because you’ve got too much traffic and your server neighbors are complaining.
Where should you go? Dedicated servers are awesome but spendy. Somewhere between shared hosting and dedicated is the VPS – a virtual private server.
What’s a VPS?
A VPS gives you the root access and freedom to customize you’d get with a dedicated server, but in a shared environment that keeps your costs a lot lower than dedicated hosting rates.
The VPS combination of customizability and affordability gets a lot of site owners interested when they’re ready to move from shared hosting. But like moving out of your parents’ house into your own apartment, there are trade-offs, new responsibilities and things you need to know before you make the move—especially if you’ve never lived on your own before.
For instance, when you’re living with your folks, you’re probably not the one dealing with bills, weird projects like vapor barrier installation (what?), and all the daily tasks that keep the household operating. On your own, you have more freedom, but you also have to handle all that stuff yourself.
To make the move to VPS worth it, first make sure it’s what you need.
Why do you want to make a change?
You need your own space so you can do what you want, but is a VPS the right space for what you want to do? It depends.
Below we outline the common reasons people change their hosting plans, and whether VPS is the right choice.
If you need more server resources
A VPS probably isn’t your best move if you’re using too many CPU resources on your current hosting plan, because most VPS plans don’t have big resources, either. For example, if you’ve been getting suspended for terms-of-service (TOS) violations because your site has a ton of traffic or isn’t optimized, a VPS may actually leave you with less resources to draw on than your shared plan.
Think of it this way: Moving from your parents’ big house to your own studio apartment frees you from your folks’ limits on your ever-expanding indoor collection of carnivorous plants, but a studio won’t have the space your thousands of hungry plants need to grow.
Same with a VPS. You get your own space, but it may not have enough RAM to do what you need. If you want your own server for something resource-intensive and you have the budget, a dedicated server is probably a better choice. It’s like skipping the studio apartment and going straight for your own spacious house.
If you want a place to try out new things
If you’re a developer, a VPS may be the sandbox you need. You’ll have the space and resources you need to test out ideas for your website, without making changes to your live site until you’re sure they work exactly the way you want them to.
If you need a custom setup
If your website is already optimized and doesn’t have resource issues, but you need root access or something special that’s not available on your shared plan, a VPS can give you the freedom to customize your site. In other words, you can finally paint your space that shade of black that your folks vetoed.
Getting ready to move from shared hosting to a VPS
Does VPS sound like what you need? Cool, cool. Don’t call the movers or order your site migration just yet.
There are a few things you need to plan for first, to ensure that your switchover goes smoothly. Think of this like ordering utilities and learning how the appliances work so you’re not sitting in the dark with no coffee when you get to your new place.
1. Get to know Web Host Manager
With shared hosting, your provider sets up your cPanel for you. With a VPS, you have to set up cPanels for all the websites on your server, and that starts with setting up Web Host Manager (WHM).
Read all about it in our WHM Getting Started Guide and check out our WHM login video so you’ll be ready to set up WHM when you get your VPS.
2. Get to know cPanel
After WHM is set up, then you can create cPanel accounts. Check out our cPanel setup video and guide.
3. Learn how to register your new private name servers
On VPS hosting, you’ll need to set up private name servers, instead of using shared name servers. You’ll have to work with your domain name registrar to get that done. Our support team can help you if you run into roadblocks and have questions along the way.
4. Learn how to point your domain to those name servers
The next step is pointing your domain to your new private name servers. Like setting up name servers, this can be complicated, but our support team can help you out.
5. Know your security responsibilities
A VPS is like an apartment in a gated complex. Management protects the whole place with the gate and a guard on-site, but it’s still up to you to lock your windows and doors.
For example, our VPS security features include cPHulk Brute Force Protection, a firewall and other tools that protect your server. You, however, need to protect the websites you have on the server. That includes malware scans, site backups, plugin updates and other website security basics.
Take care of your new place
Once you’re migrated to your VPS, your WHM and cPanel, name servers and domain pointing are all set up, and you’ve got security, the place is yours to do what you want.
However, just like you wouldn’t start upgrading your apartment by knocking out a load-bearing wall, you don’t want to remove files from your server that could cause the whole thing to collapse.
Take a good look around your VPS and make sure you can identify your core files before you start making any changes. Leave those files alone because your server won’t work right without them.
Ask for help right away if you need it
What if you accidentally knock out those all-important files? Contact support right away and we can help you keep the ceiling from falling in. If you contact us before the next weekly off-site backup, we can do a full container restore of your VPS server. Otherwise, we can restore the core files and you can rebuild from there.
Got more questions? We have more answers
Getting your own place takes some effort. Our VPS Getting Started guide can walk you through planning, setup, troubleshooting and more. And reach out to us with questions. If you’re ready to make the move to a VPS, we’re here to help.
Ready to get your own place? Learn more about HostGator’s VPS hosting plans.
Natasha is a Tier III Web Advisor at HostGator. She has been working in web hosting and the tech industry for over 7 years. In her free time she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and spoiling her 4 cats.