I have just made the jump from shared hosting to a Knownhost VPS.
Since I'm a complete newbie to server management, does anyone have any advice on things I should do right from the beginning to optimize my hosting experience. Security insights would be a grat help.
I'm in the same boat, so I'm interested in the replies.
I know that I'm currently working on setting up the firewall as well as mod security. I also installed Zend and SpamAssasin. I'm almost ready to move the rest of my customers over. We will see how that goes.
You need to tweak and optimize your system/Apache/MySQL. Google for tweaks and optimizations.
I've been on a steep learning curve as well, trying to get everything running smoothly. If you are on the lowest VPS plan, you'll probably need to disable SpamAssasin as it is a resource hog. Apache modules can be reduced as you don't need each and everyone of them to be running. The MySQL config can be optimized depending on how MySQL oriented your site is.
Enable mod_gzip to speed up serving your pages as well as save bandwidth.
If you run a lot of PHP scripts, get a PHP cache/accelerator. I recommend, after doing research, APC (Alternate PHP Cache).
Make sure to keep a backup copy of your important config files, such as my.cnf (MySQL), php.ini (PHP), and httpd.conf (Apache). Nothing's worse than making changes and not being able to boot up again.