VPS Hosting is like a Take-and-Bake Pizza
As a person that tries to eat healthy, pizza is something I purposely avoid. Most pizza is greasy, over-filled with salty marinara, and topped with fatty artery-clogging meats. It’s a commodity glop for the masses.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can eat pizza without needing a bottle of Rolaids for dessert.
All it requires is a few extra dollars, and a small investment of time. I refer specifically to two options: (1) the popular take-and-bake pizza chains, which serve healthy made-to-order pizzas, or (2) the grocery store, where I can hand select ingredients and make a custom pizza from scratch.
Tonight, as I sit by the dining table with a freshly-baked Mediterranean deLite pizza from Papa Murphy’s, reading some new web-related forum posts on an iPad, I can’t help but to draw a correlation between the two industries — web hosting vs. pizza. Just as it is with pizza, a person willing to spend time or funds on quality can avoid mass-made slop hosting.
Note: For a list of high quality VPS hosts, skip to the end of the article!
And that’s how I feel about most shared and reseller hosting services, too — it’s crap — especially from mega-hosts like GoDaddy or iPages (one of many Endurance International Group’s hosting brands). Shared hosting in general is very appealing to people who are cheap, as well as those who have no desire to learn about hosting tech. For them, it “just works” and there’s no consideration for quality. At least not a first.
At some point in time, all those late-night Pizza Hut deliveries are going to catch up with you. As your six-pack belly turns into a large keg, and your doctor warns you about rising cholesterol, these bad choices will start to register. The same is true of cheap commodity hosting — your sites will slow down as they grow in popularity, and you’ll find yourself at the mercy of an often-uncaring support desk.
Compare Pizza to Hosting
You really do get what you pay for, when it comes to pizza … or hosting:
|Cheap Commodity:||Shared: Low-cost turn-key setup. No control over firewalls, RAM allocation, software versions. Want something custom? Too bad. Use what you're given, or go away.||Take-Out: Low-cost bulk ingredients. A cup of this, two cups of that, to preset recipes. Want a special meat? Too bad. Eat what you're given or go away.||Pizza: $5-10
|Advanced Choices:||VPS: Semi-custom servers. Comes semi-assembled with basic control panels and allocated RAM, space and bandwith resources. Your choice of OS, software, software versions; or opt for a pre-made plan. Want to dedicate 128MB of RAM to PHP, and add a custom memcache? No problem!||Take-and-Bake: Semi-custom pizza. Order from menu of available gourmet ingredients, or order from a template. Want two cups of feta instead of one? No problem! Deviate from the recipe, or even add exotic ingredients at home before you bake it!||Pizza: $10-15
|Custom Solutions:||Dedicated: Bare-metal build. Order the parts (or buy a kit) and have it made. Install what you want, however you want. You're limited only by your wallet. Multiple 1Gbps NIC with redundant SAS RAID arrays? Go for it! It's your dollar.||Grocery Store: Homemade ("from scratch"). Shop for whatever delicious (or disgusting) ingredient you want. Tortilla crust with butter, salmon, spinach and tomatoes? Hey, why not! Yes you can!||Pizza: $15+
A VPS is like a Take-and-Bake Pizza…
Because you can deviate from the template. You can choose to add or subtract ingredients/features from the menu, and build a custom solution that suits your needs and your tastes. I want a pizza filled with veggies on a light crust, and I want a VPS that allocates generous RAM to a well-cached PHP 5.2.x. Bargain grade “ready in 30 minutes or less” pizza and hosting simply isn’t in my diet.
Because it requires a little bit of work on your part, in order for it to exist as needed. You have to bake the pizza. When you leave Papa Murphy’s, you can’t swipe a slice in the car. You also have to setup the VPS. It’s not a plug-and-play system. You need to understand several important topics:
- Virtualization panels, like SolusVM or Virtuozzo.
- Admin/user panels, like Plesk, cPanel/WHM, Kloxo, ISPConfig or VirtualMin.
- Secure shell (SSH) for Linux, or remote desktop (RDP) for Windows.
- Firewalls, and basic security techniques (like removing SSH root login)
- Webservers like Apache, IIS, nginx, Lighttpd, LiteSpeed, Cherokee, etc
- Server OS like Windows 2003, Win2008, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, or others
Optionally, you’ll want to have an understanding of opcode cache, memcache, and optimizing MySQL and PHP, in order to serve PHP based sites using a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. It also helps to understand SSL for ecommerce, or editing server config files to tweak your specific site needs.
While a VPS can come with some degree of pre-made settings (like having cPanel pre-installed), it still needs work. That take-and-bake pizza was probably based on a template, but most people tweak ingredient to their liking (more tomatoes, less meat), or even the the cooking time (crispy crust vs floury crust).
Because it’s not cheap. You’ll spend at least double for quality, be it pizza or hosting. You do truly get what you pay for.
Note: I’m choosing to ignore the “low end box” crowd, because most of those services are nightmares, and many of them go out of business within a year or two anyway. Most of those are not what I’d consider real VPS companies, but rather amateurs and kiddies having fun pretending to be legitimate businesses.
Proper Use of a VPS — a.k.a. Cooking Your Pizza
If you expect to use a VPS the same way as you would a shared account, then you’ll likely be disappointed.
I’ve seen that same thing happen while standing in line at Papa Murphy’s: “You mean it doesn’t come cooked!?” God forbid it take any work on your part to bake a pizza … or setup a VPS.
If that level of work is too much of an inconvenience, then hire a cook. For hosting, hire a server admin. Neither is cheap, but it will give you that fully hands-off approach.
If a VPS is too complicated and confusing, hire that admin. They’ll know what to do, and will be willing to assist you for the right price. They’ll put up with every ticket/email you want to send. (I’m sorry, but this analogy doesn’t fully extend to pizza. If you’re confused by the oven, you’re an idiot and there’s no helping you!)
While “managed” hosting is available, remember that server management by a host is there to assist you — not always do everything for you. You’re not supposed to monopolize their time so that you can run a business without any effort. If they wanted to run WigglyWidgets.com on a VPS, they’d be doing that instead of offering hosting services. They’re your tutor, an emergency help line — not your personal assistant.
Quality VPS Hosts
Much in the way you’d probably not want to buy a take-and-bake pizza from the commodity pizzeria (because they’re using cheap lousy ingredients), you’ll want to avoid VPS plans offered by the same shared hosts that have caused aggravation. Don’t upgrade to a VPS with your shoddy shared hosting provider. Instead, find a VPS host that’s known for their quality of hosting!
Alright, I hope this has been a worthwhile read for you. I got so sidetracked writing that now my pizza is cold! Yuck! (Tip: Five minutes in the toaster oven fixes this problem.)
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