What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

This article describes what a virtual private server (VPS) is and how it relates to other major technology concepts: virtual private networks, the virtual machine (VM), shared hosting, and dedicated hosting. We then look at especially compelling reasons to use a VPS and a few of the most prominent ways that one can be used.

 

  • Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server
  • Getting to Know the Virtual Server
  • Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS
  • Typical Uses of a VPS
  • Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server

 

Two major concepts that have closely aligned names are the virtual private network (VPN) and the virtual private server (VPS). While both are virtualized and centered on privacy and security, that’s about as far as the similarity goes.

 

VPN: This technology allows you to securely use the internet and connect to private networks (such as a company’s internal one). All traffic is passed through an encrypted tunnel, and each device uses a remote, proxy server – concealing your IP address, what you do, and where you are.

 

VPS: The virtual private server is an advanced, secure way to divide the resources of a physical server (the main host) within a data center. A hosting provider creates VPSs by slicing up one piece of hardware into multiple, independently operating instances.

 

Getting to Know the Virtual Server

 

Perhaps the best way to approach the virtual private server is the idea of a virtual machine. A VM allows you to run an emulation of a computer within your computer, drawing on the resources of the physical one –  disk space, RAM, CPU, etc. This tactic allows you to run an entirely separate operating system (OS) solely for the purposes of the VM, even if its type and version of OS are identical to what’s on your hardware.

 

Because you only are using a portion of the resources for the VM, you can have several of them running on one computer or server, as is common with hosting services. A hosting provider that offers VPS hosting has a vast number of physical servers that each contain multiple virtual machines. While demarcation and intrusion prevention within the physical machine is not a huge concern on your own PC, VPS hosts must have security safeguards in place to ensure isolation of each customer’s server. That’s why the terminology virtual private server is used – to denote the attention paid to privacy and the server programs that are typically loaded onto this type of VM.

 

Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS

 

Shared hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting are the three main alternatives to a VPS.

 

Shared hosting: With shared hosting, your site is stored and served from the same physical machine as many other customers – possibly hundreds of them. All domains are drawing from the same CPU, RAM, and other resources.  This type of hosting is the lowest-priced option. However, your site’s speed and reliability suffer from other users, and you don’t get root access.

 

Cloud hosting: This type of hosting is slightly more expensive than shared hosting (similarly priced to VPS hosting). Rather than using a single server to store and load your site, a cloud system distributes resources across many different computers for faster response times. However, this model typically doesn’t give you root access, and its distributed structure presents fundamental security challenges.

 

Dedicated hosting: This format means that an entire physical server is used solely for your site and applications. While you do have all the resources reserved for your own purposes, a dedicated server is substantially more expensive than shared hosting.

The primary reasons that someone will choose a VPS are performance, flexibility, error-proof sandbox, and security. Let’s look at each of those factors:

 

  •  – Performance – When you switch to a VPS, you will get guaranteed resources. That means traffic spikes on other domains stored on the physical server won’t slow down your site.
  •  – Flexibility – A VPS can be considered your own remote computer. While the primary purpose of a VPS for most hosting customers is to serve websites, you can perform any functions on your VPS (within the hosting provider’s guidelines) as you can on a PC.
  •  – Error-proof sandbox – Virtual private servers give you “do-over” potential because they exist within a virtual sandbox. Damaging a virtual server won’t impact the operating system running on the hardware itself. “The VPS can be rebooted or reinstalled without much issue except maybe for lost data (so always keep backups),” notes Joel Lee of MakeUseOf. “On a dedicated host, a mistake could cause permanent damage.”
  •  – Security – Other users within the physical server can’t hack your virtual sandbox and access your VPS through the relatively simple means they can on a shared server.

 

Typical Uses of a VPS

 

Above, we got a basic sense of what a VPS is and factors that make it attractive. Now, let’s look at some of the ways that this route is useful to people on a day-to-day basis:

 

  1. Serving a website

 

The main reason that someone signs up for a VPS is that they need a server through which to run their site. When you adopt one, you should notice that your site is performing better than it was on a shared account (because of the guaranteed allotment of resources). Also, the full root access gives you better control. You are able to install and get rid of whatever programs you want.

 

Example: You can use a VPS to run your e-commerce platform (Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, etc.). With the stronger resources of a VPS over shared hosting, you have a competitive advantage over many other sites in terms of stability, speed, and general user experience.

 

  1. Hosting a server or business files

 

Sometimes people will use a VPS to run a Minecraft server or host Mumble for private chatting. Businesses will often use it to host media or other files.

 

  1. Testing

Virtual servers are a cost-effective way to test anything before you bring it live. That includes new environments, operating systems, applications, frameworks, or anything else.

 

  1. Torrents

 

You can use a VPS for torrenting, in which case the machine is called a seedbox. By moving your torrent activity to a VPS, you clear out that bandwidth on your local system and designate a 24/7 machine for that purpose.

 

  1. Backups

 

You can also use a VPS for the storage of key files. That’s something that customers will often do if there is extra space available beyond what they need for their primary purposes. Assuming that it’s leftover space, you are able to effectively get free file storage in this way – and it’s within a private environment, so your security is strong.

 

Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

One final key consideration when you look into a virtual private server is whether you want to get an unmanaged or managed VPS plan.

 

If you are unsure which way to go and perhaps don’t feel technically confident with a VPS, “it is recommended that you go with a managed VPS solution,” advises Creativeoverflow. “[I]t is better to go ahead with a specialist hosting company that can manage the technical aspects of your VPS solution.”

 

*****

 

Are you considering a virtual private server to run your website or for any other purpose? At KnownHost, our hosting packages – all of which are managed based on our 15+ years of experience – offer great speed, incredible support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Compare managed VPS plans.

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Understanding VPS Hosting

12 Facts You Need to Know to Understand VPS Hosting

To understand VPS hosting, you basically need to know what hosting is and what a virtual private server (VPS) is. This piece briefly explores both of those topics as a series of facts.

 

#1. Web hosting gives companies the servers they need to get online.

 

Web hosting is the service of providing Internet-related infrastructural plans to businesses and others. Organizations that do not have their own datacenters, want to move quickly to get started on a project, or do not want to manage servers themselves will use a web host for server space, file maintenance, and online services.

 

#2. Web hosting is split into three major categories.

 

Web hosting is, generally, also sometimes called website hosting or simply hosting. However, people will talk about hosting in terms of the individual category – the major ones of which are:

 

shared hosting: many accounts on one physical machine with a single operating system and unguaranteed resources. (lowest cost)

 

VPS hosting: a smaller number of accounts per machine, each of which has their own operating system and guaranteed resources. (slightly higher cost than shared)

 

dedicated hosting: one account per machine. (significantly higher cost than shared)

 

Related specifically to our topic of VPS, as you can see above, VPS hosting is fundamentally an effort to find “the best of both worlds” – the middle-ground between the flexibility and power of dedicated hosting and the affordability of shared hosting.

 

#3. Many people come to web hosting companies for speed.

Often, companies use web hosting providers for access to their fast web connections. If an organization were to host its own servers, it would be costly to get access to similarly strong data networks. Basically, the business that buys hosting services is leveraging the shared cost of a speedy Internet connection to store and serve its files both internally and externally.

 

#4. Web hosting is an industry that was originally created by the Internet.

 

When the Internet first became publicly available as a mass-market service (the early 1990s), those who were interested in creating websites had to have their own servers. Since servers are costly, and the maintenance of them can be highly technical, there was a potential business need for web hosting. However, the first step was to build servers and create web hosting packages that would meet the needs of many users at the lowest possible cost.

 

#5. Web hosting became prominent for meeting a common business need.

 

Web hosting grew as a business when it became clear that (unsurprising to us now) not everyone wants to host a server themselves. The basic business idea, in the early days, was that it would be a good business to buy servers and rent out the resources of them at a reduced cost to customers that want to run a website – regardless of (and, in a manner, completely irrelevant and separate from) the technical aspects related to hardware.

 

#6. Web hosting demand was minuscule in the beginning, and key statistics show us why it has grown exponentially.

 

Demand was initially not high for web hosting for three basic reasons:

  •  * the amount of people online was low;
  •  * web hosting was an emergent field that was below the surface of public awareness (“farther below,” really, since many people are still unfamiliar with the field); and
  •  * web hosting was costlier because there was less competition.

These figures from The Next Web give us an immediate sense of how mammoth the Internet really is now in size. In turn, these numbers, from January 2017, tell us why web hosting companies have become of ever-increasing use to business. [source]

  •  * There are 7.476 billion people on the planet (with 54% of us in urban settings).
  •  * The total population of Internet users worldwide is 3.773 billion, a 50% penetration of the possible market (so, in a way, it’s only half as ubiquitous as it seems globally).
  •  * Active social media users are a smaller population – at 2.789 billion people, that’s “merely” 37% of everyone in the world.
  •  * Interestingly, the number of mobile users, at 4.917 billion, is higher than the number of Web users.

 

#7. The business world was revolutionized by web hosting.

 

Everyone talks about the disruption of the Internet. That digital disruption that has changed our lives in so many ways for the better would not have been possible without web hosting – which supplied the convenience to allow businesses to get online in a structured and trusted manner. The changes were really business-wide and impacted almost every industry.

 

Specifically, a major aspect of that disruption was in marketing. Marketers had to completely change their approach as websites became increasingly critical platforms for the branding of businesses. What used to be print became digital – following the same basic pattern of magazines and newspapers.

 

#8. A virtual private server (VPS) gives hosting customers greater control.

 

A VPS is a virtual server that is experienced as its own server and has its own unique operating system (OS). For better costs than dedicated hosting, while still offering a significant technological upgrade from shared hosting, a hosting company divides one physical server into guaranteed sets of resources for a number of different VPS hosting customers.

 

Typically this scenario is described as a virtual private server (VPS). However, the term virtual dedicated server (VDS) is also sometimes used.

 

#9. A VPS is a similar concept to having your own private computer.

 

A virtual private server is fundamentally about separation. It takes the form of a virtual machine to meet the needs of each individual hosting customer just as an independent PC can be dedicated for use by a single person. This type of server gives a business the same capabilities (including full root access from some providers) as a dedicated server, with several VPS machines, all with separate operating systems, running on the same machine or set of machines.

 

#10. A VPS gives a user much greater freedom than they’d have with shared hosting.

 

A VPS will usually include basic components such as web server and mail server programs; file transfer protocol (FTP) software; and possibly additional applications for e-commerce, blogging, and other core features. Since a virtual private server has its own operating system, the customer takes on the role of a super-user of the OS. In turn, they are able to install whatever software they choose that can run on that particular OS (typically a Linux distribution).

 

#11. VPS plan management creates a major distinction.

 

As virtualization technology has progressed, companies are now able to provide VPS hosting affordably. One of the most important features of VPS plans is the determination of the responsible party to manage the server. In an unmanaged setting, the user bears the responsibility to manage and monitor the server. In a managed VPS hosting setting, the hosting company is responsible.

 

#12. Virtual private servers are of use to small and large companies.

 

A typical example scenario in which a VPS is useful is when a startup or other small business wants to create and run a site but does not want to have to make an investment in a dedicated server. However, an enterprise might use VPS hosting as well. The VPS setup is helpful in those cases because it allows one user to control various servers; one might be designated for the production-level website and another for a sandbox server (so that a false version of the site can be used for testing updates, changes, and new software or plugins).

 

*****

 

Hopefully, the above facts are helpful in understanding web hosting, the virtual private server, and VPS hosting. Do you think a VPS might be right for your business? At KnownHost, you are scalable on demand, without any downtime: no migration of files or databases are required, and there are no changes in your settings. Compare plans.

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Why is Shared Hosting Like Taking the Bus on the Information Superhighway?

Public transportation allows people who can’t afford cars to get where they need to be, and it means you can sit down and read rather than having to focus on the road. In other words, it’s cheap and easy. Those are positive aspects of a vehicle that is structured to fit many people. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a wise idea to put your business website on the bus.

 

What’s the “bus ride” for web hosting? The similarly cheap and easy solution is shared hosting. While shared hosting is the most affordable and accessible type of hosting, it suffers in the same way a trip on public transportation can: security and speed. Let’s look at those two issues in detail.

 

Sharing a Ride Makes You Vulnerable

 

Security is kind of a boring topic to many people, so it’s critical to know why this issue generally deserves greater attention. Even back in 2013, the National Cyber Security Alliance found that:

 

  • – 20% of small businesses get hacked or digitally assaulted every year; and
  • – Of firms that do get targeted, 3 in 5 are bankrupt half a year later.

 

Those statistics are disturbing certainly, but how relevant are they to your situation? Some small businesses are more likely to be attacked than others. Bear this in mind, though: attackers will sometimes go after certain industries, but the key factor in why companies get hacked is not related to industry or value; rather, it’s simply the presence of vulnerability.

 

“Most small business owners still don’t get security, don’t think it’s an issue, and are pretty defenseless,” explained Think Security First consultant Neal O’Farrell. Owners and managers of SMBs often think that a hacker would have to select their company out of tens of millions of others, he said, “not realizing that the attacks are automated and focused on discovering vulnerabilities.”

 

What are the biggest security concerns related to taking the “information superhighway bus” that is shared hosting? As the numerous visitors and internal users of sites share the resources of one server, it makes sense that would be an environment in which there would be greater security risks, both from outside the server and within it.  Think about it this way: the server itself is under greater threat based on the number of sites running on it.

 

“No matter how you try to institute security measures with a shared hosting environment,” noted Web Hosting Provider List, “the fact is that, it is plainly not possible to ensure a 100 percent airtight protection.”

 

The sites on a shared server are positioned on different domains and obviously have disparate login credentials, but they are using the same operating system as other users and typically even share an IP address. Sharing resources cuts the costs of these hosting plans, so they look attractive to startups, nonprofits, and others on shoestring budgets. However, the sharing of resources in this manner means a greater likelihood that your data or services will be compromised.  Major security issues with shared hosting include:

 

  • – An attacker can use reverse IP lookup to get a list of all the sites on a shared hosting server. This method is fast and simple, actually: you can find the information through free services (example tool), the Dig command on Linux (Dig –x <ip address> +short), a search engine (Search Query: ip: <IP Address>), or using a script to automate it.
  • – The behavior of other users that share your IP will impact your online reputation and the continuing strength of your domain. If another site sharing the IP gets blacklisted for spam, your site will get blocked as well.
  • – A hacker can enumerate the CMS installations on the shared server. This tactic is often used because CMS software like WordPress includes the name and version information in the HTML. A vulnerability scanner such as WPScan can be used to gather data on the site, including a list of its plugins, themes, TimThumbs, and usernames. “An example attack would be to bruteforce the admin account of WordPress using a list of commonly used passwords,” explained a report by c0d3inj3cT for the InfoSec Institute. If you don’t have a captcha set up on your admin login page, it could actually be compromised by WPScan using brute force.
  • – Using a shared server puts you at greater risk of malware attacks. Malicious script can be uploaded to other sites, which in turn means that your site can be quickly compromised. The malware may occur because one of the other sites is vulnerable. It provides a channel through which the intruder can steal data.
  • – Customers may have PHP, Perl or shell accounts that make it possible to hit the other sites on the server with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
  • – Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks may target another site that shares your IP address. In this case, you are hit with a DDoS attack essentially as collateral damage of an effort to hit someone else.
  • -DDoS malware could be loaded onto the server, which could put the hacker in control of the entire server for launching attacks.

 

You Can’t Step on the Gas

 

Taking the bus of shared hosting isn’t just a security concern. It can also significantly slow down your site and dampen the growth of your business. When other riders on the bus have needs, the driver meets them. Just consider the stop-request cord: in this manner, every rider on the bus has a democratic ability to grind it to a halt. You see the same ability of individuals to slow down the ride on shared hosting – with resources handed out “first come, first serve” to all sites, which can lead to slow loading on your site when another site peaks.

 

Security is an issue on shared servers because, basically, there are too many accounts without enough isolated designation of resources; and the same is true of the slow speed that can occur in these environments.

 

Speed is one of the primary arguments many experts mention when they advocate for VPS over shared hosting. Speed and other benefits of the virtual private server are all related in some way to the isolation and pre-allocation of resources that VPS plans allow – versus the “first come, first serve” nature of shared hosting.

 

On a VPS, it doesn’t matter what another customer might be doing on the server; your speed is guaranteed. If you have two CPUs dedicated for your use, then those CPUs will always be there for you to use. The allotment of RAM for which you pay within a VPS are always set aside for you, no matter what other tasks might be running on the physical hardware.

 

Ajeet Khurana of The Balance noted that on shared hosting plans, the performance of a website will fluctuate throughout the day based on how much activity is shared by all the businesses using it. “This never happens on VPS services,” he said. “Your resources are dedicated to your… website.”

 

Getting into the Fast Lane with Managed VPS

 

Do you want to improve the security and speed of your website without having to worry about managing the server yourself? At KnownHost, we offer ultra-high VPS performance with unparalleled support by professionals. See our fully managed VPS plans.

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Why You Should Host Your Business Email on a VPS

In an age where everything can feel like it’s moving at the speed of light, it’s almost funny how we’ve never quite gotten past the need for email. What other technology has remained relatively unchanged but critical to business and communication over the course of twenty-plus years? While industry leaders and opinion columnists have been publishing pieces pondering “the death of email” for years now, it doesn’t look like it’s going any where any time soon. That means your email solution is still something you need to take seriously when establishing your online business.

 

You might be wondering what, exactly, you need to decide on when setting up your email account(s). After all, you’ve had a personal email forever and signing up for a free one is one of the simpler things a person has to do. The only real question is do you use Yahoo, Gmail, or another of the popular heavy hitters? Well, maybe not so fast. Have you considered hosting your own email on a VPS?

 

Why Would I Want to Self Host?

 

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Why give up the convenience of having some big company manage your emails with all the bells and whistles to host your own email on a VPS you’re paying for every month? It turns out there are quite a few reasons why you would want to do this. The first one is you could use the same VPS that you’re using to host your site. This is a matter of preference. Some find it convenient, others thing you should keep your mail and domain separate. If you have the know how and a penchant for privacy, you may want to keep your email on a VPS (either its own or with your domain). Here are some of the reasons why.

 

Privacy

 

This is probably the biggest reason why you’d either want to install your own mail environment or use the one provided to you by your host on your VPS. Whether or not you consider yourself something of a “control freak,” there are real benefits to hosting your own email when it comes to privacy. For one thing, you don’t know the extent to which your “free” email host is using your information to generate ad revenue or however else it is that they make money. Take for example Google and their tendency to have a changing privacy policy over time. Circumventing software privacy settings to gather user data can certainly feel crummy as a user. Now imagine what kind of data collection happens via Gmail.

 

An email account set up through your hosting company isn’t subject to these kinds of privacy intrusions. By all means, check with your host to see if they ever use your email for analytics purposes, but chances are they don’t.

 

There is another reason you may want to keep your email with a hosting company that’s closely related to privacy and has been in the news quite a bit over the past several years.

 

Security

 

If you’ve used Yahoo as your email provider for any length of time over the past decade or so, you’re probably all too aware of their massive security breach in 2012 that we’re still discovering more about four years removed. Not to mention it appears they haven’t really gotten things together. Do you want your business emails exposed to these kinds of massive attacks?

 

The question is what is at the root of these security issues? Is a VPS objectively safer? That’s hard to say. Anyone with enough skill can break into a server and it’s not like a big company like Yahoo is lacking in security personnel or budget. The answer comes down to who makes a more attractive target. A company like Yahoo is much more of a worthwhile target because of the size of the company, its worth, and the amount of users that can be compromised. Millions of customers having their information exposed to the highest bidder is a major crime with a lot of value for someone willing to commit it. Someone getting into your email account on your hosting company’s VPS? Not so much.

 

Your hosting company also has their own security protocols that while maybe not on the same scale as a major company like Yahoo, does the job through constant observation. After all, they have many websites being hosted on their hardware that they are responsible for.

 

Functionality

 

The “bells and whistles” offered by many of the big email providers were mentioned earlier when the question was posed as to why you’d want to give these things up for an email account provided by your hosting company. Features are nice. The more the better, right? It depends, really. When you use a big name for your email management, you’re at the mercy of their update cycle. Web-based services tend to be on more frequent and dramatic update cycles compared to their smaller counterparts. This means features you’ve come to rely on can be removed without much notice. Also, features can be added in that you’re not a fan of. Factor in the possibility of needing to retrain your staff on email functionality (if that’s the scenario you work in) for best practices and you can see how frustrating this can be. Your email set-up on your VPS likely won’t change much, if at all, depending on the configuration. If you’ve installed your own mail environment, nothing much changes without your say so. If you’re using the email services provided by your host, functionality probably won’t change with any regularity. 

 

Downtime

 

Here’s where we get into a few “what if?” scenarios. Downtime can be a huge burden when it actually hits. KnownHost provides industry leading uptime of 99.996%. Do the big companies go offline? No, not often. But when they do it’s a huge disruption. Whether it’s a malicious attack or some sort of malfunction, being at the mercy of a major provider going through prolonged downtime can be crippling for your business. With a hosting company, you know a local team is working quickly to resolve any issues. You can also actually get in touch with a human being fairly quickly thanks to the 24/7 support you won’t find with a giant like Google.

 

There are also always outside chances of the big companies dropping certain services. One never knows when a company may deem its email functionality is no longer profitable or there is litigation that causes the email service to be shut down. Companies like Google and Yahoo, again, are prime targets for  things like DDOS attacks to make political statements or cause financial disarray.

 

Conclusion

 

At KnownHost, we know our customers want reliable performance, speed, and access to our support team whenever they need it. Whether you’re looking to host a personal site and accompanying email or a whole ecommerce organization with a fleet of email addresses, we can help. Our VPS packages are designed for every kind of use case. And if you need even more? There’s always a dedicated server option. If you’re looking to get sites or email accounts established, contact our team today and we’ll answer any questions that you may have.

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