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Stepping Up to a VPS

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a natural next step up for websites that have out-grown a Shared Hosting solution. As we’ve recently helped a number of clients make the transition we thought we’d share some of the pros and cons to weigh up when considering a similar upgrade.

When a website is starting out Shared Hosting makes a lot of sense. It’s cheap, easy to set up and maintain and really pretty fully-featured. For a lot of small businesses a good Shared Hosting package from a reliable host can serve them well indefinitely. But as a site grows in popularity and/or complexity you might start to bump up against some of the limits of a typical Shared Hosting. Either in terms of bandwidth allowances, storage space or the applications you can install and run. There aren’t any hard rules but if your site attracts more then a couple of thousand visitors a month then the VPS option is probably worth exploring.

How is a VPS different? We’ve explored the most common hosting options in a previous post, but to briefly recap a VPS (Virtual Private Server), although still running on the same physical server hardware as other websites, operates more like a separate machine. As well as offering predictable serving resources you can also gain root access to perform advanced configuration and install additional software, all in isolation from the other virtual servers that might be running on the same host server.

Performance

Undoubtedly the most common benefit we’ve witnessed from clients who have made the move to a VPS is improved website performance. Most have seen seconds knocked off their page load times and generally experienced more consistent performance around the clock. This also translates into improved performance for you as well as your visitors. When making changes to your site you should experience improved file upload and download speeds and content management systems such as WordPress should run noticeably quicker.

All of which can have tangible benefits for your business.

The online retail giant Amazon found that they achieved a 1% increase in online sales for every 100ms improvement in page load time

Or put it another way – a 1 second change could net as much as $1.6 Billion difference in annual revenue.

It’s also generally accepted that page speed has an affect on your site’s search engine rankings too so it’s no wonder that site performance is moving up the agenda for many online businesses. And while there are a lot of avenues you can explore to improve website performance, a fast, reliable hosting solution makes a great foundation to build on.

Flexibility

Another big selling-point of a VPS is flexibility. As your server is virtual it can be operational within minutes to your precise spec requirements. Resources can also be scaled up and down just as quickly to suit your changing needs. So if your website experiences seasonal peaks in traffic you could dial up the processing power and RAM during just those months to cope with the extra traffic without paying for it the rest of the year round.

If you’re a business with multiple websites then a VPS also provides the option to consolidate them into a single hosting solution. Not only should this streamline management and make it easier for your websites to share any common resources, but it could also prove very cost-effective.

With full root access to your virtual box you can also decide what you run on it and how to carve up its resources. So if there’s a particular piece of software you want to install or you just want to allocate more space to your mailboxes and less to the website itself, you can do just that. In short you have the flexibility to shape a hosting solution that suits your specific needs.

Is a VPS right for me?

Probably the deciding factor when considering a move up from Shared Hosting will be cost. Undoubtedly a VPS is more expensive to run – a good entry-level configuration might cost around £40 per month. If your website isn’t business critical or receives relatively little traffic then there is probably less of a case for making the move. Most VPS are also sold by hosting companies as ‘un-managed’ so a lot of the initial configuration and any day-to-day monitoring and maintenance will fall to you. This doesn’t mean you’ll be spending all your time staring at a server control panel but it’s worth making sure you have access to someone with a good technical understanding who can help you the few times a year you’ll need it.

But if you have multiple sites, or just the one that is starting to get popular, then a VPS can deliver improved performance, greater control and flexibility at a price that shouldn’t break the bank. We work with clients with fewer than 1,000 visitors a month up to those with more than 100,000 and the step up from Shared Hosting to a VPS is one infrastructure upgrade that has proved worthwhile time and time again.

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Nick Barron

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Nick Barron

In his role as UX Director Nick ensures that everything we do reflects a clear understanding of our clients’ aims as well the expectations of their audiences.