When it comes to website hosting, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) is the natural progression from a basic shared plan. As your site grows, at some point shared hosting won’t be enough anymore, and you’ll need more resources. Your goal, therefore, is to know when it’s the right time to upgrade to VPS hosting.
In this article, we’ll talk about the differences between shared hosting and VPS plans. Then we’ll help you determine when to upgrade to VPS hosting, and teach you how to get started in just three steps:
- Pick the right type of VPS for your needs.
- Learn how to connect to your VPS using Secure Shell (SSH) access.
- Use the command line to manage your VPS.
Our aim is to help you upgrade to VPS hosting at the right time for your individual site. Let’s jump right in!
The Differences Between Shared and VPS Hosting
For any website to work, it needs a server the public can access. A server is a computer like any other, only with special software set up (and sometimes custom hardware as well).
When people talk about shared hosting, they’re referring to multiple websites that are stored on the same server. This approach enables providers to offer lower costs, which is why shared plans are usually the cheapest you can find. However, there are certain downsides to this style of hosting.
To understand what those are, you can think about your website as a computer program. For it to work, it requires resources, such as RAM and CPU power. The more people who use that program at the same time, the more resources are needed in total.
However, any given computer (or server) only has a limited number of resources available. This means that with shared hosting, you can run into bottlenecks that slow down your site. In practice, this usually only happens under two circumstances:
- When your hosting provider sets up too many websites on the same server.
- When your website is getting too much traffic.
If you’ve chosen a reputable hosting provider, the first scenario shouldn’t be an issue. However, when your website starts to grow in popularity, performance issues can become unavoidable, since there’s only so much any shared plan is able to provide. That means it’s time to move on to a better hosting plan.
In other words, you’ll need to upgrade to VPS hosting. The term Virtual Private Server (VPS) might sound intimidating, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. With a VPS, you still share the same physical server with other users. However, each site gets a virtually partitioned part of that server all to itself, with a dedicated amount of resources.
Here are the main ways that a VPS is different from regular shared hosting:
- VPSs are highly compartmentalized. Although you’re sharing a physical server, each VPS is essentially its own environment, with no overlap.
- You don’t need to share resources. Each VPS gets a set amount of resources, so you won’t run into bottlenecks due to traffic spikes on other sites.
- VPSs tend to be highly scalable. Depending on your provider, you might be able to upgrade your VPS’s resources when needed (i.e., get more RAM or CPU power if your site continues to grow).
- You get full control over your server. With a VPS, you can customize your server’s settings, either on your own or with the help of your hosting provider.
Let’s elaborate a bit on that last point. Usually, shared hosting plans don’t provide you with much control over how your server is configured. Instead, they set everything up for you, and enable you to interact with your server via a hosting control panel, as in the example below:
These control panels usually pack a lot of options. However, they can fall short if you’re someone with server management experience (or who’s interested in learning how to configure your own server). In that case, upgrading to a VPS will fulfill your needs much better, since you’ll have more say in what its settings are.
Ultimately, making the upgrade to VPS hosting is all about getting more resources and functionality, so you can run your website more effectively. Let’s talk about when it’s smart to make that switch.
When to Make the Jump from Shared Hosting to a VPS
As we’ve mentioned, the primary consideration when upgrading to a VPS is performance. That is to say, if you’re running a website that’s getting too much traffic, at some point shared hosting won’t be able to keep up.
How soon you get to that point will depend on the hardware your hosting provider offers, its server configurations, and the plan you’re using. After all, most providers offer multiple tiers of plans, even for shared hosting:
Since no two providers offer the same experience, it can be hard to know when to upgrade to VPS hosting. However, if your website meets some (or all) of the criteria below, then you’re probably ready to make the jump:
- You’re receiving at least 100-200 visits per day.
- There’s a sustained increase in your bounce rate.
- Your website’s loading times keep rising, and/or you’re starting to see downtime.
Keep in mind that 100-200 visits is just a rule of thumb. If you have a robust enough shared plan, it might be able to handle thousands of visits per month. It’s also worth noting that there are a lot of factors that can impact your site’s performance, beyond which type of hosting plan you’re using.
That’s why we recommend being proactive about optimizing your site, so that it always feels fast. If your website starts getting more traffic and still feels sluggish after you try every trick in the book to optimize it, however, then it’s time to upgrade to VPS hosting.
Fortunately, these days it’s easy enough to find VPS plans at very reasonable prices. Just to give you an idea, shared hosting plans tend to start at around $5 per month. When it comes to VPSs, you can often find starter plans at around $10-15 per month or less, depending on how many resources you need:
VPS plans will usually mean an increase in price over shared hosting. However, paying a few extra dollars for all the performance and features you’ll get can be a steal.
Things start to get very expensive once you need to move beyond a VPS and onto a dedicated server. However, that kind of firepower is something most websites don’t need, unless you’re getting thousands of visits per day.
How to Get Started With a VPS (In Just 3 Steps)
If you’ve already decided you want to upgrade, there are a few things you’ll need to know before getting started with VPS hosting. Essentially, you’ll need to learn how to connect to your VPS and issue commands to it, which we’ll cover after showing you how to pick a plan.
Step 1: Choose the Right Type of VPS for Your Needs
When you start looking into VPS hosting, you’ll notice that most providers divide their plans according to the resources each server offers. Here’s a quick example comparing four Hostinger VPS plans:
The differences here are all in the numbers. Just like when you’re buying a new computer, the hardware you should get will depend on your needs.
To start off, let’s compare the first two plans you can see in the screenshot above, to demonstrate how much of a difference 1 GB of RAM and twice the CPU power can make:
- Option #1: With the 1 GB server, you’d be able to run a simple WordPress website with moderate traffic, and it should offer excellent performance. However, if you want to set up multiple applications or a control panel, 1 GB of RAM won’t be enough.
- Option #2: With 2 GB of RAM, you have enough resources to set up cPanel, for example. You could also run multiple modest websites from the same server without any issues.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you opt for a VPS with at least 2 GB of RAM and a 4.8 GHz CPU, especially if you’re running a website with a lot of traffic. The more modest VPS plans are usually only a good option if you want to skip shared hosting altogether for a new site because you’d like to manage your own server.
Speaking of server management – the idea can be intimidating, but it’s actually something anyone can do. All it takes is knowing the basics and being willing to do some research.
Step 2: Learn How to Connect to Your VPS Using SSH
Managing a VPS is a whole different ballgame than using shared hosting. With the latter, you’ll usually get access to a control panel, which is where you’ll do most of your ‘management’ work.
VPSs, on the other hand, usually come without control panels, so you get to interact with the server directly. To do that, you’ll need to use the command line, which we’ll go over in a moment. First, you’ll have to connect to your server, for which you’ll need a Secure Shell (SSH) client.
An SSH client is an application that enables you to connect directly to your server. If you’re using a Unix-based system, you can do this right from your command line, without the need for a dedicated client. That means you can skip down to the next step.
For those using Windows, however, you’ll need software such as PuTTY, which is our favorite SSH client. It’s also free, so you can download and install it on your computer without any fuss. Once PuTTY is ready to go, run the client and you’ll see a window like this one:
To connect to your server, you’ll need to know what its IP address is. The only two other settings you need to worry about are the port you’ll use, and the type of connection you want to establish. By default, PuTTY uses port number 22, which is the go-to option for SSH connections.
As for your server’s IP address, you should have access to that information in your web hosting control panel. Enter that address, and hit the Open button to establish a connection.
If the address is correct, a command line window will pop up asking for your login information:
With a new server, you’ll probably need to use the root account and password, which you should also be able to locate within your hosting control panel.
Once you successfully log into your server, you’ll be able to start issuing commands to it. That’s where the real fun begins.
Step 3: Use the Command Line to Manage Your VPS
The main reason some people find the command line off-putting is that it doesn’t provide a graphical interface. Everything you do works using text commands, so at the very least, you’ll need to memorize some of the basics if you want to get around.
However, with the command line, there’s nothing stopping you from just Googling everything you need to know. In other words, you don’t have to be a ‘hacker’ to carry out basic server management tasks using commands.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of some essential commands and what they do. These include:
- ls: This command shows you all the files and folders within the directory you’re viewing.
- mv: With this command, you can move files from one folder to another.
- cd: You use this command to navigate between directories.
- mkdir: This command comes in handy when you need to create a new folder.
- nano: Using this command enables you to modify files with the Nano editor (all without leaving the command line).
At this point, you’re ready to start managing your server. Just keep in mind that your account has full privileges and access, which means you can accidentally change things that shouldn’t be altered. When in doubt, it never hurts to reach out and get some help while you’re still learning the ropes.
When you’re starting up a new website, shared hosting should be enough in most cases. However, after a while, your website will likely grow to the point where it requires more resources. At that point, you’ll need to upgrade to VPS hosting if you want to keep your site performing at its best.
Do you have any questions about how to know when to upgrade to VPS hosting? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!