One of the things I have always been interested in is web hosting. Over the years I have tested a wide variety of different setups and configurations from simple shared hosting to more complex cloud environments. So many that I lost count a long time ago.
It’s been a while since I have done extensive research about VPS, Dedicated, and Cloud system providers. So I thought I would sit down and spend some quality time with them again, which does seem to vary from one to the next. If you are in the market for one of these I strongly urge you to take your time and do your homework before jumping into one, and to choose a provider wisely.
Besides searching and reading a particular company’s review always read their terms of service and acceptable user policy, and be sure you understand them. If there is something that you are confused about, ask them. I know they can be lengthy, and most people either don’t read them at all, or they barely skim over them. All too many times I have seen people complaining about something that was clearly written in the terms or policy that they were not aware of that they agreed to when they signed up.
Another thing I found is a lot of people that were complaining about specific providers involved ones that offered extremely cheap prices. Now I know everything should work as advertised and you should receive at least some support, but with a self-managed/unmanaged dedicated server for $40-$60 per month I mean what do you really expect? Shoot that barely pays for the electricity to run the thing.
I wouldn’t want to pay $200-$400 per month for one with little or no support either, but honestly the ones that are unbelievably low priced I wouldn’t have a lot of faith in to begin with. I am not saying that all cheap dedicated servers are worthless. I would just be more skeptical and spend time researching one in question if you were considering it. Not always, but more often than not if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
VPS and cloud hosting tends to be a bit more confusing. Each provider seems to have a different perspective of how they define it. For instance I found some single server VPS systems that called their service a cloud or cloud VPS hosting. Others did have more than one server configured to work together, but it was still fairly basic and at best a mini-cloud I guess I might call it.
The more complex environments I looked at had multiple servers and computing power along with a SAN (Storage Area Network). Supposedly when setup properly if a server that happens to be handling your website goes down your site would automatically be started on another. Your data is supposed to reside on the SAN along with redundancy and various levels of raid and backup protection. Assuming that it actually works like it is supposed to. I did find a few forum threads about an advanced cloud setup like this where a host messed something up and lost a huge chunk of customer data.
One advantage of this kind of cloud is you generally only pay for what you use. Another plus is that you can add additional CPU power, memory, storage space, and more with a few clicks of your mouse. Some even let you specify a certain maximum amount that you are willing to allow. If you happen to get a surge in traffic it would automatically scale up to the maximum amounts you set if needed, and return to normal when traffic subsides.
The drawbacks are these types of clouds can be costly, and the CPU is a virtual CPU (vCPU). You really don’t know how much CPU power you are actually getting, and it really depends on how they have it configured. One providers 4 vCPU could actually be more powerful than another’s 8 vCPU’s.
If you don’t need root access to the server and you are just looking for something more powerful than shared hosting for a reasonable price you might look into hosting called cloud sites. Each provider might call it something slightly different, but what it usually amounts to is shared hosting with more CPU power and memory usage. You don’t get root access, and they are managed by the host just like traditional shared hosting so if you don’t want to mess with all the server management stuff, but need more power these might be something to look into. I have seen some in the $10-$20 per month range with cPanel, 1-2 vCpus, and 1-2 GBs of dedicated memory. Just remember to check the terms of service and acceptable use policy, and to ask questions before signing up with one.
I would stick to cheap shared hosting if it’s working fine for you. Why spend more money and mess with server administration and maintenance if you don’t have to. Otherwise, I would look into cloud sites if you need a little more power and don’t want to mess with server administration.
If neither of those suit your needs, then you may need to do some serious research. The complex real cloud environments are tempting with their scalability features, but a nice entry-level dedicated server would probably give you more bang for your buck. However, if you need someone to manage it for you, then it’s obviously going to be more expensive, and you might consider a managed VPS.