Virtual private servers offer an enticing mix of performance and flexibility at a fantastic price. But how do you decide which VPS provider is best for you?

The answer to that question will depend on a number of factors, not least of all the requirements of the project and the budget you're working against. In this blog, we're going to take you through all of the most important factors to help you make the right decision.

Why choose a VPS?

Before we delve into how to choose a VPS provider, we’re going to walk you through why this is the server for you. So not only do you have complete control over a VPS with full root access, but you also get an immense amount of security too. Plus, data protection is taken care of when you opt for a VPS. This is especially useful if you handle sensitive data and need low latency – hence why many use a VPS for Forex trading.

Plus, when it comes to shared hosting vs VPS (the former also being a go-to option), you know your VPS is private and you won’t be sharing your virtual server with anyone else. This helps with data security and overall speed of your website(s) too.

If you’re not quite sure how much storage or RAM you need to begin with, fear not - because this server is incredibly scalable. You can upgrade or downgrade your resources whenever you want, and it’s completely hassle free. A virtual private server is also not limited to website hosting, and they can be used for the likes of gaming, creating a VPN, ecommerce stores and more.

If you’re looking for more background information on virtual private servers, our ‘What is a VPS?’ guide covers everything you need to know.

What to look for in a VPS provider

So there's no question that a VPS is a highly versatile server choice. As long as your server has the firepower you need, you'll be able to just about anything you want. But, depending on the type of project you want to run, there are some key factors you'll need to consider:

1. Server uptime and performance

Server uptime refers to the amount of time that the server is online and fully functional. In other words, if the server goes down, so does your website. So you want your VPS provider to have the highest uptime possible. Be sure to check the uptime guarantee of every VPS package will give you an idea of how often your server will be fully-functional – did you know ours is 99.99%? From a quick search, you might notice not every provider states their uptime guarantee, so make sure to check with them before committing to a service.

What’s more, the provider you select has an impact on site speed and page loading times. Slow speeds can drive visitors away, so you’ll want to work with a company that’s optimised its VPS servers for maximum performance.

2. Managed or unmanaged

You’re likely to come across providers offering both managed and unmanaged servers, and which one you choose will depend on your level of expertise. An unmanaged VPS (like ours!) will give you complete freedom and control over your server. However, the day to day maintenance and management is left completely up to you. With a managed VPS, you still get all of the benefits of a flexible and scalable VPS, but your provider manages the tricky stuff such as updates and server maintenance. This of course will come at an added cost.

3. Full root access capabilities

Many virtual private servers will come equipped with full root access, which is great for providing extra control and the ability to optimise your VPS whenever you wish. However, root access is not a priority for everyone, and you may decide on a VPS provider that takes the reins a little more. We recommend checking out a few different server providers and weighing up your options.

4. Support

Usually, a VPS provider will state the level of support they’re willing to offer you. So whether that’s 24/7 support or contact time only within business hours, you need to decide what’s best for you. It’s also important to look for the type of support being offered – is it automated through a chatbot, or can you speak to a real person? Poor levels of support can complicate even the simplest of VPS issues, which is why opting for a provider with a great tech team is something to consider.

5. Speed

The speed of a web server is not the same as the speed of your web page. Web server speed is how long your hosting server takes to respond to a query, and it reflects the quality of service from your provider. Speed has become more important to search engines over the years, as customers don’t really like to wait longer than a second or two for a website to load. And while it is possible to improve your web page loading speed, the same cannot be said for web server speed. This comes down to the host itself.

6. Security measures

Not every package will include the same VPS security features, but the more layers of security your server has, the safer you are online. Keeping your data and projects secure is one of the benefits of using a virtual private server, and there’s no reason a provider cannot offer you great security. VPS providers do usually prioritise security, so this feature will be found in almost every package you come across.

7. Features and customisation

A major advantage of purchasing your own server is that you get to tailor it to your personal preferences. However, not every VPS provider will include the same features – so take note of the add-ons that are important to your project, and who offers them. Operating systems are also something to consider, and again, each VPS provider will offer various options that you can select. If you’re a server expert then you’ll probably know which OS is best for you, and if not, then researching this is your best bet.

8. Scalability opportunities

How easy is it to scale up or down your resources with each VPS provider? This is a question that’s probably one of the more important ones to ask yourself. Luckily, scalability is this server’s middle name, and for that reason, it’s pretty even across the board when it comes to providers. Upgrading or downgrading resources is usually a piece of cake, but it’s still important to check with each provider how simple these changes are.

9. Costs

Your desired budget definitely plays a part in selecting a VPS provider. VPS cost packages can fluctuate in price, depending on the level of resources they include, and any extra features they offer. When it comes to comparing VPS vs dedicated servers, virtual private servers are generally more affordable than dedicated servers, and no matter which provider you pick, you will benefit from more bang for your buck.

If you find you’re at a point where your business has grown exponentially and you require something a bit more robust to handle far greater site traffic – find out more about when to switch from VPS to dedicated hosting in our comprehensive guide.

10. Backup

It’s important that your website is as reliable as possible, so having a solid backup plan in place is a must. This is one feature that you absolutely need to check that your host has in place. Different companies offer different backups, so it’s important you get into the nitty gritty to choose the right one for you.

You’ll want to question how frequently backups happen, the length of the data retention period, how easy it is to restore data from a backup, whether the backup is automated or can be scheduled, amongst other things. To put it simply, the broader the options, the better the backup plan will be.

11. Overall quality

Be sure to check out the overall reviews of the hosting provider you’re considering. Are they reliable, effective, and trustworthy? Look for tell-tale signs such as a provider promise, a statement of server uptime and performance, and a money-back guarantee. If others out there are happy with the service of this provider, then chances are you may be too.

Common questions about virtual private servers

How do I choose the best VPS?

It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons across various categories: storage space, speed, bandwidth, uptime, security, customer support, additional features and so much more. Some providers offer more than others across these features, some of which are at a premium. We advise weighing up what it is you need, or what’s missing with your current workflow, then finding the right provider based on your requirements.

Should I choose managed or unmanaged VPS hosting?

While a managed VPS is great for those who aren’t as techy – an unmanaged VPS grants you full root access and control over how you provision your VPS. A managed VPS provider will help with everything from setup to maintenance. But with an unmanaged VPS, this is all handled yourself – including OS configuration, security patches and user management (the list is endless).

Which VPS hosting is best?

We hate to brag – but we’ve gained quite the reputation for our VPS packages. Our VPS plans are incredibly competitive and start from just £1 a month. You can use our unmanaged VPS for all sorts of applications from app testing to running your own game server VPS.

Is it hard to manage a VPS?

It does take a little time and additional knowledge to manage your own VPS, but the benefits certainly outweigh the learning curve. If you simply don’t have the time then fear not – a managed VPS may be more suitable.

Do I need VPS hosting?

If you need to host your website and you get a pretty decent level of traffic, then you’ll likely need VPS hosting. With VPS hosting, your website will get dedicated resources such as CPU, RAM, and SSD.This keeps performance at a high and unaffected by the activities of other websites (like they do in a shared server).

How powerful does my VPS need to be?

This totally depends on how big your site and traffic is, as well as additional needs for things like running game servers or dev environments. We always recommend starting with a little more than you need as a buffer – and you can easily scale your VPS up or down as required.

Can I host anything on a VPS?

Just what do you do with a VPS? Tons! You can host many websites on a VPS, gaming servers, dev environments, apps and much more. They’re also great for smaller projects that need consistent performance, such as a small ecommerce store.

So which is the best VPS provider for you?

Once all of your information has been gathered, you can compare VPS providers. It may help to prioritise what you need from a server in order to make a solid decision. It’s also a good idea to check the reviews of a VPS provider, as it never hurts to read real-life testimonials. Overall, you’ll find that most VPS providers offer very similar packages. However, some may stand out from the crowd and directly meet your needs, and in this case – you have your decision.

Hopefully you’ve come to some sort of conclusion about which VPS provider meets the needs of your project. If you’re still weighing up your options, why not take a look at our VPS hosting packages? Or if you want to talk to a professional, get in touch with the Fasthosts sales team today.

For more VPS related info, check out our guide on VPS uses cases.