How To: Change from Shared Hosting to a VPS, Part 1 – The Calm Before the Storm

I’ve had this site hosted with the same hosting company for as long as I’ve had it, which has got to be coming up to around five years now – and ya know, they’re okay. It costs me maybe £60 per year for the domain plus a shared hosting package of maybe 8GB file storage, a couple of MySQL databases, e-mail, FTP, support etc. – which to be fair is a pretty good deal! That £60 goes a long way – which means it’s stretched very, very thin

The kicker is that my hosting package is exactly what it said on the tin when I bought it: Shared hosting – this means that this site, plus a large number of other sites are all hosted on the same server with no separation of any kind between them – so when a bit of JavaScript or PHP or ASP or whatever goes and thrashes the box, or hangs using 100% CPU, it takes everything else down with it. 503 Site unavailable. Game Over.

And this has happened a lot.

The file server goes down, so the MySQL server isn’t asked for files, or the MySQL server goes down, so the requests for data go unanswered – if it’s not all working together, you’ve got a blank page. Over the years I’ve bit my lip, fired off support tickets, waited patiently, put up with very sluggish performance just being thankful that it works – but no more! We’re moving on to greener, and faster pastures… Enter stage right: VPS

A VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is a slice of a full hardware server. The full server might have 32GB of RAM, my slice might have 512MB of that. The full server might have a TB of storage, my slice might have 30GB of that. The full server might have 2 x 4Ghz processors, my slice might have full use of them for 5ms out of ever 1000ms in a second. And the slices are strongly separated, commonly with virtualisation software such as OpenVZ or Xen.

This means that if, for example, Joe Blogg’s server has some nasty script that’s thrashing the CPU, it’s thrashing his slice of the CPU (i.e. his 5 milliseconds) – but not mine! From a users perspective, this means that his site might be down, but all the other VPS’ on the physical server will still be up. In effect, one errant site or script can’t scupper all the sites on the server – Win!

But it’s a little more complicated than that…

VPS’ come in different flavours – fully managed, and unmanaged. With a fully managed VPS you have people to help you set it up; they can set up or help to set up web-servers (apache etc.), email servers, ftp servers, MySQL servers etc., but you pay $30AU more for the VPS. Per month.

With unmanaged VPS’s you just get the VPS plus an install of an operating system of your choice (Debian, Centos, Ubuntu etc.) – but that’s it. It’s up to you to install and set up apache. It’s up to you to run your own ftp server. It’s up to you to run your own mailserver… For example, if I wanted mail at r3dux dot org to be a valid email address – *I* need to install, configure and administrate the email server for that to happen. You get complete control of your VPS, but you get complete control of your VPS, if you see what I mean… For $30AU a month saving, I think I’ll run everything myself, thanks :)

After all this, there’s still the matter of the DNS records – currently my hosting provider runs a DNS server (well, two really – a primary and a secondary; and – once I have my site hosted on the VPS, I need to be able to update the DNS records so when you go to it translates to the IP address of where I’m now hosted, instead of the IP address of where I was hosted, and with my current hosting people I don’t believe I can change that, so I need to transfer my domain to a registrar where I’m able to edit the records to say I now live here!

As you can see, it’s no small task – but I reckon I’m up for a weekend project :)

If you never see anything on this site ever again – I’ve failed! But with with any luck, at least at some point in the very near future, I’ll see you on the other side :)

3 thoughts on “How To: Change from Shared Hosting to a VPS, Part 1 – The Calm Before the Storm”

    1. Hey Arsen – thanks for the tip! I’ve not had time to even look into domain registrars properly yet – but I’ll make sure to check out =D


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