VPS hosting has become an incredibly popular website hosting solution. Thanks to its flexibility and agility, VPS hosting can skyrocket your website’s performance and keep your customers happy.

But what is a VPS? VPS stands for virtual private server, which means you get your own allocated computing resources on a virtual machine that’s separated from other customers on the same server. Since you’re sharing a piece of a larger physical server, a VPS is often less expensive than a dedicated server, but unlike shared hosting, each VPS is virtually separated to give you more security and dedicated resources.

Another great benefit of VPS hosting is that these servers are extremely flexible and scalable. Because they’re virtual, you can easily add more resources to a VPS whenever you want, allowing you to scale your server along with your online business.

However, what should you do if your VPS isn’t performing like it used to? Even VPSs can sometimes slow down if they’re not properly maintained, updated and optimised. Keep reading to learn more about how and why you should optimise your VPS.

Why should you optimise your VPS?

Although VPS hosting is usually very fast and flexible, you could still run into performance issues with your website. If you notice that your website has become slow, laggy or prone to crashes, you may need to take a deeper look and see if there’s anything you need to fix or optimise.

Optimising your VPS will help you eliminate bugs, lag and inefficiencies, which will boost its performance, and the performance of your website. Plus, VPS optimisation can improve the overall health of your server by reducing its workload and therefore reducing strain. If your server uses less memory and has less data to process, its speeds can increase dramatically.

But why does this really matter? According to Hubspot, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% for every additional second of page load time. This means that even a slight decrease in your VPS’s performance could have a big impact on your business’s profits. If you want to maximise conversions, you need to optimise your VPS to get the fastest website speeds possible.

10 ways to improve your VPS speed

Luckily, there are many ways to improve the speed and performance of your VPS:

1. Update your server software

The first thing you should do if you notice slow VPS speeds is to check if there are any pending updates. For example, you should ensure that your VPS’s operating system (OS) and software are always up to date, including the kernel and all software applications.

Often, your operating system will automatically install updates. However, if you suspect that your VPS isn’t up to date, you can go to your control panel or server settings to manually check for updates. If you use a Linux OS, you can use your package manager to install updates. Log into your Linux VPS as the root user via SSH. Then, use the ‘yum update’ command for a CentOS or RedHat distribution or use the ‘apt-get update && apt-get upgrade’ command for Debian or Ubuntu.

2. Optimise your Apache settings

Once your server is fully updated, you can look at other optimisation methods if your VPS still isn’t performing as it should. One of the major causes of VPS performance issues is incorrect Apache configuration, so this is probably the next place you should look.

Apache is a type of web server software used by 31.5% of all websites whose web server we know. This software allows users to deploy their websites on the internet, but one of the key downsides is that Apache can take up a lot of your server’s resources and slow it down, especially if it isn’t configured properly.

There are many Apache settings you can tweak, but the main ones we would recommend focusing on are KeepAlive, StartServers, MaxClients and MaxRequestsPerChild. Setting appropriate timeouts and enabling Gzip compression can reduce your server’s workload, ultimately boosting VPS performance and improving your page load speeds. If you don’t use Apache, the same tips can be applied to other popular web server software options like Nginx and Cloudflare Server.

To learn more about Apache configuration, read our helpful article on improving Apache web server performance.

3. Update and optimise MySQL

If you’re using a database on your VPS, it’s important to check how you’re managing your data to see if this is causing performance issues. For example, not deleting obsolete data could eat up resources and slow down your VPS, whereas cleaning up your data and creating database indexes can speed up data retrieval.

You should also check your database management system to see if there are any updates. For example, if you use MySQL, you should be aware that older versions of the software (such as 4.0 and 4.1) are end-of-life (EOL), so you’ll need to update your MySQL to get regular security updates and better performance. Use the command ‘mysql -V’ to check your version of MySQL.

4. Use content caching

If your website’s traffic load has greatly increased, you may have noticed much slower page speeds. Caching the content of your web pages to RAM (random access memory) could be a great way for you to reduce latency and ensure that your VPS can retrieve content quickly.

Caching is the process of storing copies of frequently accessed data (such as files, code and images) in a temporary storage location (cache) so they can be quickly retrieved in the future. For example, your website’s files and code could be stored in a customer’s web browser after they visit your website for the first time, which means that the data can be retrieved more quickly the next time they visit. This boosts page loading speeds and also puts less strain on your VPS, since it won’t have to deal with as many data requests.

There are two main types of caching: server-side caching and client-side caching. For server-side caching, you can use caching software to store copies of commonly accessed web pages in a cache in your server, so they’re ready for retrieval as soon as a customer clicks on your website. Popular examples of server-side caching software include Memcached, Varnish, and Squid.

With client-side caching, also known as browser caching, copies of your web pages are temporarily stored in a customer’s browser memory after they visit your website. To cache files in your web pages, you need to set appropriate file headers to instruct the browser to cache them. To learn more about server-side and client-side caching on your VPS, read our helpful guide on VPS caching.

5. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

To boost your caching efforts, why not use a content delivery network (CDN)? A CDN will boost website loading speeds even further whilst also providing extra server security by protecting you against DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks.

A CDN is a geographically distributed group of proxy servers that store cached versions of your page content closer to your customers. This makes it even easier for your customers’ web browsers to request and retrieve your site’s data, thus improving the performance of your VPS web hosting.

6. Optimise your web content

In addition to caching your website content to aid data retrieval, it’s a good idea to optimise your content to reduce the amount of data that has to be delivered. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights will analyse each page’s speed and performance metrics to offer suggestions on how they can be improved. These suggestions will include both on-page and technical factors you can optimise.

7. Minify your website code

Another great way to optimise your web content is to minify the code on each page, including HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Minifying code is the process of removing unnecessary data from the code (such as comments and formatting) without affecting how the code works. By removing this extra data, you can reduce file sizes and improve loading speeds.

You can use several tools to help you minify your code. In most cases, you can simply copy and paste your code into tools and websites like minifycode.com, HMTLMinifier, CSSNano and UglifyJS.

8. Use a reverse proxy

If you want to take some of the strain off your VPS to improve its performance, you should definitely consider using a reverse proxy, which is a server that sits in front of your VPS and forwards client requests to your VPS.

By sitting at the network edge and intercepting these requests from people’s web browsers, the reverse proxy takes some of the work off your VPS and can therefore improves its speed and performance. For example, the reverse proxy can cache content and handle SSL termination, which is the process of decrypting encrypted traffic. Plus, your reverse proxy can increase your security by hiding the IP address of your origin server, which makes it harder for cybercriminals to launch DDoS attacks.

9. Use a load balancer

Your reverse proxy can also provide load balancing services. If your single VPS is struggling to handle all of your incoming site traffic, it may be time to invest in a network of multiple servers to support your website. Your reverse proxy will then be able to act as a load balancer by evenly distributing incoming site traffic to each server in the network, ensuring that none of the servers are overloaded.

10. Download a VPS monitoring tool

Finally, to keep an eye on your VPS’s performance, you should download a VPS monitoring tool. This will help you identify any issues with your performance, allowing you to address these performance issues as soon as they arise. Monitoring software options include Zabbix, Checkmk and Netdata. Or, you could regularly check on your VPS’s control panel to monitor usage, uptime and performance.

Frequently asked questions about VPS hosting and virtual private server optimisation

Is it hard to manage a VPS?

Although you’ll need some technical knowledge to get to grips with server management, anyone can learn how to manage a VPS. Thanks to the intuitive control panel on your virtual server, you can easily track performance, add resources to your VPS hosting plan and configure your settings. If you’re using a Linux VPS and want to make it easier to manage, you can install Webmin on your VPS to replace your command-line interface with a web-based interface.

How do I check my VPS performance?

To monitor the performance of your VPS, check your usage stats in your control panel. This will show you whether your VPS is close to capacity. To get a more in-depth look at your VPS, you should download a VPS monitoring tool that can send you alerts and notifications when performance issues arise.

How much traffic can a VPS handle?

If you’re using a VPS to host your website, it should be able to handle over 10,000 daily visitors. This number will increase for well-optimised websites, but if you have a lot of content, your VPS may struggle more due to the larger amount of data to process. As your site traffic grows, you may find it necessary to invest in a network of VPSs or to upgrade to a dedicated server.

We offer a wide range of dedicated and VPS hosting plans to suit any website. With our web hosting, you can take advantage of dedicated resources, 99.999% uptime, SSD storage, full root access and 24/7 support, giving you the fastest performance possible for your website. Contact us today to learn more about our web hosting plans and find the perfect web server for your online business.