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I'm considering a move from my shared hosting setup to a Virtual Private Server. I'm aware of the major benefits and downsides of this idea.

I have a few personal sites I would be running. Given the work involved in setting up and running a VPS, is it worthwhile for a few personal sites?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

My VPS has given me the chance to experiment with new server software. I started on the usual apache2+mod_php setup, but now I have nginx+php-fpm with a proxy back to some legacy apache2+mod_php sites. I'm also running (and tuning) APC, memcached, and mysqld.

If you're just going to run a few sites, and performance is good on your shared host, I would stay put. If you're going to excercise your right to root, a VPS is a great economical way to try new things.

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I don't know how widely used it is, but I can say it's a very good option if you don't mind the additional cost. Generally speaking, you get more space, better performance, the ability to install your own software.

If you've only got a few photos on your personal blog, a shared plan is probably your best bet. But if you have GBs of photos and videos you want to share, maybe host sites for several family members/friends, maybe setup OpenVPN for securing your hotspot wifi access (yay starbucks free wifi!), maybe run some other software like an SVN, or want to test our software on a non-critical machine then a VPS is a great way to go.

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A couple years ago I actually moved to a VPS that was cheaper than the shared hosting plan I had before. So the cost factor can potentially go either way. – David Z Jul 17 '10 at 19:23
@david - Very true. Shared is not always "cheap" and a VPS is not always "expensive". I've seen shared plans range from $2 to $20 (most in the $10 range) and VPS plans as low as $10 (mostly in the $20-$30 range) so there is definitely an overlap there. – elconejito Jul 18 '10 at 14:16

I use VPS hosting for my personal sites. It was a bit of effort to set up, but I love the control I have over it';s configuration. I'd suggest that if you're a reasonably competent sysadmin you might want to go that way, but for the majority of people a VPS is a bit more expensive and the extra control isn't hugely beneficial. If I was starting again today, I'd probably still go the VPS route, but if a friend or family member came to me wanting to set up a web site I'd probably push them towards shared hosting.

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I have my own (small) Xen farm, I typically provision a new VPS from pre-made application templates that I've created for each new site that I put into production.

I have several shared hosting VPS servers that I use for development, or parking sites that get very little to no traffic whatsoever.

Using a few ad hoc scripts, I've made it rather painless to migrate a site from a shared / development server over to more suitable production home.

Keep in mind, that virtualization is handy for other things. I typically use Xen on every 'dedicated' box I have, just as a management layer. It helps avoid needing to rely on on-site hands and eyes to fix most common problems.

Anyway, given the fact that servers are quite cheap to lease, I really recommend getting your own and then provisioning a new VPS as you need one. This also gives you the ability to shuffle resources around as the needs of your sites change.

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I have VPS running a lot of my sites and it does give you a lot of control.

A lot of Hosting companies also have a server maintenance plan in addition to the main VPS so if your not to happy about the technical side of maintaining you server make sure you opt for that as well.

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I use TinyVPS (http://tinyvps.ca/), which is about $5/mo (and you can find promo codes on Google).

If you want to set up your own webserver (ie: have absolute control) then this works quite well! :-)

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