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WEB HOSTING FAQS

Virtual Private Servers FAQ
By: Developer Shed
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    2004-09-14

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    Our Virtual Private Servers FAQs goes through many of the common questions associated with VPS hosting. Learn what to look for in a VPS host and know when you would need VPS hosting for your site.

    What is a Virtual Private Server? 
    A Virtual Private Server is a mix between a dedicated server and a shared hosting account. With a Virtual Private Server you still share system resources like the CPU and memory with other users but the file system is setup in such a way that you cannot tell the system has anyone else on it; it acts like a dedicated server. The CPU, Memory, and other resources are usually setup in such a way that each person is only allowed to use a certain percent of them so your resources are always available to you. This means that there is not one person, like can happen on a shared system, using all the resources all the time. Since the resources are setup in such a way that each person can only use so much of them, your site will be more consistent because it will always have the same amount of access to the CPU, memory, and most of the time bandwidth.

    What is a Virtual Dedicated Server?
    Some web hosting companies call a Virtual Private Server a Virtual Dedicated Server or the other way around. In both cases they do refer to the same thing. Companies have called the product Virtual Private Server for years now but since Virtual Dedicated Server is easier to understand for a normal user hosting some hosting companies have started to call it that instead.

    How do I know if a Virtual Private Server is right for me? 
    If you are looking at a dedicated server or feel that a shared host might not be right for you then you should certainly look at a virtual private server. The price is right between a shared setup and a dedicated setup. You will have a more consistent site with a virtual private server than a shared server because a certain % of each resource is allocated to you meaning you do not have to fight the other hosts on the server to get access to those resources. A virtual private server is more secure than a shared system where one can actually figure whose site is hosted on the server. With a virtual private server no one can tell you are on the system and you cannot tell anyone else is on the system.

    Is a Virtual Private Server really more secure than a shared server? 
    Yes a Virtual Private Server is more secure than a shared server due to how the file system is setup. Even though you are sharing CPU, memory, and network connectivity you do not share the same file system. This means if someone else’s virtual server gets broken into there is no way they can go from that virtual file system onto your virtual file system. In a shared system there is only one file system and users can go anywhere they want on it to see who else is on there so if someone were to break into a site on a shared system they would have access to all the sites on the server.

    How comes a Virtual Private Server is so much less than a dedicated server 
    Depending on the Virtual Private Server you are looking at and the dedicated server you are looking at there can be a considerable price difference. The reason for the price difference is that there are usually 10 or more customers sharing the resources and therefore the expense of the hardware where with a dedicated server it is only one person paying for it. A Virtual Private Server is a great way to get the security and privacy of a dedicated server at a fraction of the cost.

    What are some questions I should ask a host about their Virtual Private Server? 
    Does your setup have a maximum amount of memory, CPU %, and/or bandwidth a site can use?
    Is there a control panel for administering the server?
    How many clients are there on the system?
    If someone else’s web server/site crashes will it affect mine?
    How often do you back up the system?

    Why would I want a virtual private server instead of using shared hosting? 
    There are limitations to having shared hosting services and the biggest one is you cannot usually compile or install your own software. More specifically say you want your web server to be able to use a certainly technology like PHP but the host does not have it setup for you. As a regular user you cannot install the software needed to use PHP but in the Virtual Private Server system you can install any software you want because you have full control. This means that you would be able to install PHP and any other software you want.

    Do I need a control panel to administer the server? 
    There are a lot of things you can do with a virtual private server as you do have root access on your own file system. This means if you do not know what you are doing then typing the wrong command into the command line could easily mess up your system very easily; it will not mess up anyone else’s system on the same server though. This means you might be interested in having a control panel so that you can just click some buttons and what you want to be done is done. There is no way you can make a mistake this way so it is safer. If you want to spend more of your time doing marketing or other parts of the business instead of administering the web server then you will probably want a control panel on your system.

    My host says my site will go down if someone else's site does. What should I do? 
    Some hosts set up the Virtual Private System different than other hosts. The whole purpose of having a Virtual Private System is that you are more secure than a shared host and you have more control. If everyone on the server has his or her sites served using the same web server then it is not a real Virtual Private System and it is not secure. It is possible to have your file system be virtual so no one else can get at it but if you are sharing the same web server then that all of a sudden makes it so it is not as secure and you should go with a different hosting company because they are only giving you about one quarter of what you really should be getting.


    Glossary of terms:

    File System
    A system of storing files on the hard drive and in this case the files are stored in such a way that only your account(s) have access to them. This is more secure than shared hosting where everyone is on the same file system and could go look in other areas where they should not be.

    Root
    This is the super user, or the user with control over everything, on a computer system. This user can do anything they want on the computer system from installing software to deleting everything on a system.

    Control Panel
    A web based interface, which allows users to administer their server by clicking on different icons instead of having to memorize commands. The commands would be run on the command line and if typed in incorrect they could seriously harm a system and stop it from running forcing the hosting company to have to restore the system from a backup.

    Command Line
    This resembles DOS in that it is just a blank screen with a prompt where the administrator/user would type in commands for the system to run. Most users would rather use a web base interface or a graphical interface to administer their system because there is less chance of error.


    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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