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I have some sites hosted on a shared-hosting/cpanel environment and need to make a move up. I have some experience running my own server, but it is very basic (a local box to do live testing/file serv). My question is how difficult is it to run a VPS, should I buy a managed VPS (with stuff already installed), or unmanaged (blank box), and lastly if I go for unmanaged what steps should I take to keep my VPS secure? Edit: Also how difficult is it to backup files and databases? Can it be automated?

Thanks

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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

For the last two and a half years, I worked as the product manager at an unmanaged VPS hosting company - of all the issues which our support department dealt with, 80-90% of the issues could be chalked up to users' familiarity with the systems.

If you are not already familiar with Linux system administration, you will need to devote a great deal of time to familiarizing yourself with all of the applications you're using and the CentOS operating system - you could pay someone else to set up your VPS for you, but that wouldn't help down the road when you need to update software and resolve administrative issues... (if you're not sure, go with a managed service)

If you do have time to spare for picking up administrative tasks and you're thoroughly comfortable with troubleshooting things yourself (and reading documentation!) I'd recommend an unmanaged VPS to get started - give yourself a couple days to get it set up and to make sure everything is properly configured before you start hosting sites.

cPanel will do almost everything for you (until things go wrong) but you still need to know how to use bash and yum, how to secure your VPS, and how to troubleshoot your own connectivity issues at a minimum if you decide to roll with an unmanaged service... also, whenever WHM/cPanel sends you an e-mail alert you should read it and follow any links to WHM/cPanel documentation - our support team had far too many cPanel tickets in which the subscriber forwarded along the alert after ignoring the link which described how to solve the problem.

Here are a few recommended Google searches to get you started:

centos system administration guide

linux security best practices

... how difficult is it to backup files and databases? Can it be automated?

Not difficult and yes, it can be automated (particularly easy if you have a local Linux server but you can also automate WinSCP or rsync tasks - check the documentation for the application you decide to use).

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+1, good points. My answer to the similar-but-not-identical question found at webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/2467/… covers ground that will be useful to the question too. –  David Spillett Aug 23 '10 at 14:35

I was in a similar situation about a year ago, had a managed VPS for some years before i needed a better server and had to switch to an un-managed VPS. Although i had another un-managed VPS without a control panel previously, this time round i chose an un-managed box with cPanel already installed. This was quite handy as i didn't have to deal with installing and licencing the control panel. As have always used cPanel, setting up sites, databases, DNS and all the other configurations was straight forward and fast.

The fun part starts when you try to secure your server. I configured CSF (ConfigServer Security & Firewall) and cPHulk Brute Force Protection to make sure the server is secure. As i am responsible for the security of my own server, i am always having to spend valuable time to stop any attack or hacks. I usually get notifications of hackers trying to get in but the server hardening work has made it impossible to hack. The only thing is, now, i wouldn't mind paying the extra to get a managed server so i can use the time elsewhere.

In terms of backups, databases and files, it all depends on the type of setup you choose. If you choose a server with a control panel it will make it effortless but if you want to do it manually, i suggest you take some time to learn how to do it properly, because, one error and you might loose everything you have worked for. My suggestion for a best server setup is a cloud managed cPanel VPS with SSD and good backup tool.

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