Picture this: You’ve done it. Your site has grown to the point where your traffic levels aren’t suitable for a “shared hosting” plan. You go on r/WordPress for hosting recommendations and get introduced to a VPS or virtual private server.
“It’s much faster!” “You get dedicated resources!” “No downtime!” they say. Intrigued, you sign up for a $5 Digital Ocean droplet, and install WordPress using their 1-click image. It runs great! You can resize the VPS when you get more traffic and, there are no more noisy neighbors!
The reality isn’t as cheery.
Let’s begin with this: shared hosting has a bad rap. A few big, bad players dominate the market, overcrowd their servers (resulting in poor performance), and giving the impression that “shared hosting” is slow, insecure, and unreliable.
None of those need to be the case. Lots of fun optimizations can help server-side, and proper resource allocation alleviates most performance concerns. User sandboxing provided by Cloudlinux, widely hailed as the industry standard, prevent cross-account malware spread.
At a certain point though, it makes sense to move beyond shared hosting. You want consistent, highly available hosting that can handle your traffic and spikes. Or maybe, you seek site-specific optimizations that can improve your performance.
Here’s a problem with a VPS. When you purchase a VPS, you get an operating system, usually Ubuntu or CentOS (maybe another RHEL fork in the future). Sometimes, providers like Digital Ocean or Linode will provide you WordPress preinstalled. But that’s all you get, because you’re responsible for everything else.
Maybe your VPS will run fine for many years to come, which is great. But maybe a yum update breaks your database (MySQL/MariaDB) binary. Or a host drive fails. Or your datacenter burns up in flames.
Given, none of the above scenerios are particularily likely, but they’re a tiny subset of everything that can go wrong, and eventually, Murphy’s law catches up.
Unlike your alternatives, you’re stuck holding the ball when that happens.
With a VPS, maintenance, security, and optimization all fall onto the responsibility of the user, or you. Given that a vast majority of VPS providers offer insufficient security or poorly tuned configurations this is a daunting task if you have no experience managing servers, and if something goes wrong, you don’t have anyone to turn to.
While certain services or panels may alleviate or automate some of these tasks, they’re almost always non-comprehensive and unable to completely assist in every aspect (Disaster Recovery / Filesystem Corruption / WordPress-specific optimization / Site Sandboxing / Self-Healing / etc).
Configure properly, a VPS can offer stellar performance, security, and reliability at a bargain cost. If you’re confident in your abilities to do so and willing to invest the time, a VPS may be the most cost-efficient option.
If you plan on Googling as you go and running your product/business-critical website on a VPS, take our advice: Don’t do it. It’s not worth the $$ you save:
Disclosure: I’m part of the team that’s responsible for our shared and high performance hosting offerings. We don’t offer VPSes, managed or unmanaged, but that technically makes us a competitor.
I promise you I’m not being biased here though, and if you don’t believe me, you can always give it a try 😉