Technology

Speed up your website with VPS hosting

Webpage loading time is the critical part of any website’s user experience. Website visitors tend to care more about speed than all the bells and whistles.

DigitalOcean.com currently runs a promotion for new users. There is a referral link with 10$ of credit for you at the bottom of this page. You will be able to try them for free for 2 months with no risk.


My experience with hosting started when I created my first blog about computers during my college days some years ago.

Shared hosting is usually the first step people take when setting up their own website, usually because it’s cheap and easy to set up. That’s what I did when I started my first blog, and it was a big mistake. If you’re serious about blogging, and you follow some simple tips that will make you blog popular, you will outgrow shared hosting very quickly, meaning you will need to migrate to a better host.

The question that a lot of people will ask - like “when will I know if I’ve outgrown my shared hosting?” And the answer is very simple. If your site is running slow (and it probably is on shared hosting) you’ve outgrown it.

And why is speed that important?

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Webpage loading time is the critical part of any website’s user experience. Repeated research shows that website visitors tend to care more about speed than all the bells and whistles - like aesthetic design, new nifty functionality or to more content. Additionally, page loading time is becoming a more important factor when it comes to search engine rankings.

Every seconds counts - Loading time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment. The average user has no patience for a page that loads for too long.

As a matter of fact, if page loads for more than 3 seconds, you are losing visitors even before they have seen your content! Nobody likes to wait ages for web pages to load, particularly when it's so easy to navigate to a competitor's site.

You can check the loading time of your website with free tools: Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom

Shared Hosting

Well what can be said say about shared hosting? Let’s start off with what it actually is. Shared hosting is when you rent a small portion of a server, that’s being shared by many other people and their websites. This can sometimes be shared out amongst hundreds of other people, and because all those websites are on the same physical server, it only takes a handful of larger websites to swallow up too many resources, and your website will be affected. Badly.

Because of this model, sites are often down or unreliable. You might get database connection errors, long load times, or service unavailable, or connection resets that break site functionality.

One of the hundreds of shared customers might get popular and bring in too much traffic, crushing all of the other sites on the same server. You might also get popular and not have the bandwidth or cpu cycles left to show your site to new customers.

Bad programming can cause a script to loop on another customers site, eating up CPU and making all other sites take 30s or more to load.

A spammer might get a shared account or hack an account on your shared server. In that 10 minutes of them sending out 50,000 emails you’ve been added to blacklists and can no longer get customers that use those blacklist subscriptions (schools, corporate offices, certain blocking software). Even if they fix the spammer problem, the consequences last for months.

This log shows how reliable my shared hosting used to be. Thanks for the excellent monitoring service Uptime Robot (their free plan is enough for normal use) I was able to discover the fact that it was about time to say the hosting company good-bye.

You certainly do not want your blog to behave like this. Welcome to the shared hosting world.

Even worse, when admins try to fix problems for one customer they might need to install new versions of the sofware or libraries and all users depend on that software. If the version they install works for MOST customers, then they’ll probably accept it – even if it shutsdown, causes errors to display or makes your site stop working!

The bottom line is that shared hosting is simply not as reliable as other hosting methods like virtual dedicated or dedicated hosting. The few dollars you saved might cost you hundreds or thousands in lost business.

How do you tell if the hosting is shared?

Well, the biggest clue is the price. If it is low and the offer is for unlimited bandwidth and storage, it is definitely a shared plan.

Too good to be true? Definitely.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

The next logical step once you’ve outgrown shared hosting, is a VPS. But they’re a lot more expensive, and really difficult to setup, right? Wrong. Suppliers like DigitalOcean and Linode offer really great VPS hosting for as little as $5 a month. I’ve used both of these companies, and I can personally vouch that they are both great companies to work with. This site itself has been running on DigitalOcean for months already and there was never any problem.

A VPS is a private, virtual server that exists on a much more powerful physical machine. But unlike shared hosting, you have a guaranteed allotment of system resources that only you have access to. So, even if there is a much bigger website than yours on another VPS, hosted on the same physical machine, that won’t matter: you’re always guaranteed the system resources that you’re paying for. Think of it like one big computer, running lots of little computers inside of it.

This means that provided you don’t overload your VPS, your website will perform much better. Plus, once your website grows, you can easily upgrade your VPS to a more powerful one in a matter of minutes – no migration required.

The trade off to running a VPS is that you’re responsible for the server yourself, so if something goes wrong with anything that’s installed on your VPS, your host probably won’t help. That’s why it’s so important to back up your WordPress site.

The performance of my website. No downtime for months and counting thanks to DigitalOcean.com

You don’t have to be some kind of computing genius to set up a WordPress site on a self-managed VPS. You can easily install a control panel like Zpanel (which is free and open source) to take care of all the legwork for you in just a few commands. Then you have a nice, web based control panel to manage your websites, databases, email addresses, and DNS, just like in shared hosting (except more powerful, of course).

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Conclusion

So which type of hosting should you go for? Well, if I was starting out again, knowing what I know now, then I would absolutely go with a VPS from the very beginning. With companies like DigitalOcean and Linode offering such cheap, reliable VPS packages, there is really no need to settle for over utilised sharedhosting.

Sure, VPS hosting is a little more difficult to setup and get going initially, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility for any intrepid blogger on a mission to make their site the best if can possibly be.

As I mentioned before, I currently use DigitalOcean. As an user, I can refer you to use and buy their services. If you use my link to create your account, you get a 10$ in credits. At their current prices, that means two months of 512MB/1 CPU server, which can handle couple of websites and thousands of users a day. Give it a try, you can’t lose anything after all!

Create your account at DigitalOcean with 10$ credit

How it works

The heart of DigitalOcean is a so-called “Droplet”. Droplet is a unit of hosting with a specific size/price (e.g. 512MB, 1 CPU for 5$ a month) which can be created, saved and destroyed on demand. Apart from choosing its size, you can select a region for its location (New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco to name a few) and base Linux distribution to be installed on it (Ubuntu, FreeBSD, CentOS, …).

The smallest droplet that costs $5 per month is capable of running several blogs at the same time. How does that make shared hosting look in comparison?

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