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What is unmanaged VPS and how can you use it?

Author: Hamster, www.hostens.com

A hosting provider can offer you a variety of products that could be broken down into groups according to their type, price, management level etc.

One of the most important things you need to decide when choosing a hosting product is how involved you want to be. A shared hosting could suit you well if you are hosting a small website or a blog and don’t want to take care of all the configuration and management of the server.

However, in some cases, customers want to be their own boss and to do everything on their own, to create their own custom server environment to suit the project’s needs or simply to be able to tweak the standard configuration. This is the situation when an unmanaged VPS becomes the best option. These servers usually provide you access to a server as the main, or “root”, user and allows to edit standard configuration and adapt it to the situation or software.

How Can You Benefit from Unmanaged VPS?

An unmanaged VPS can provide you with a lot more flexibility compared to a shared hosting server or some specific hosting products such as WordPress hosting and others. In general, an unmanaged VPS allows you to choose and install your preferred applications that will be used for your projects on the VPS, thus allowing you to work with the software that you know best. For example, most providers offer shared hosting servers that come with Apache, a specific database software like MySQL.

An unmanaged VPS would allow you to replace these with your own preferred options, like Nginx instead of Apache or MongoDB instead of MySQL etc. Basically, you can create your work place based on your preferences, so that your daily tasks could be completed much faster and easier. The server administrator would be able to configure additional extensions and modules, implement custom security options and much more.

It’s important to know that different hosting providers may provide a different level of customization you can do with an unmanaged VPS – this mostly depends on the server virtualization. As of now, Hostens, as an example, offers two different virtualization types for unmanaged servers that provide a different level of customization available on these VPS. The OpenVZ is stable and reliable, but it is also rather limited in terms of kernel customization and available OS or software – it could be suitable for more common applications and tasks. In contrast, the KVM-based virtualization can be customized much more, providing you with many more options of new software use, for example, Docker.

When to Choose the Unmanaged VPS?

Even though unmanaged VPS servers are generally cheaper (depending on the server resources they provide), you should choose one only if you have enough knowledge how to manage it or a need for specific custom options that come with such a VPS.

Here are the most common situations when an unmanaged VPS comes in handy:

  • You have rather a complex website that requires less common or more specific extensions or modules that are not supported on a regular shared hosting.
  • You want to host other applications than regular websites, which require a specific server configuration and more server resources.
  • You want to create your own separate environment within a server, for example, Docker.
  • You want to use your own applications that are not supported by regular shared hosting servers, it could be a different server control panel like Webmin or some specific applications: LiteSpeed, Redis, ServerPilot etc.
  • You want to use Windows Servers, usually these are not supported on regular shared servers.
  • You want a private server with isolated resources for your project only.
  • You generally like to be your own boss. You prefer to do everything on your own and be able to make changes on a server when you need it.

There are many more reasons and situations when an unmanaged VPS could be useful, but you should always be sure that it is really necessary, just so that you don’t regret the decision later.

What to Consider When Choosing the Unmanaged VPS?

Once you have made up your mind and decided to get yourself an unmanaged VPS, you need to consider a few things. Before choosing an unmanaged VPS, you should think whether you have at least basic knowledge about how such a server works and what basic tasks will need to be performed daily, weekly, etc.

Here are some additional key aspects that should be considered before purchasing:

  • Resources. Since you need to plan your server activity and load, you have to choose a server with enough resources. The ability to scale later is important as well, since your project may grow.
  • Virtualization. It’s important to know the main differences between the virtualizations you are offered by the hosting provider to make the right decision. If you choose your VPS virtualization incorrectly, you may simply not accomplish the goals of your project and it may cause numerous issues.
  • Available OS. Virtualizations are different and some of them are not that flexible, which may reduce the list of the available OS, so you should know your options in advance. It’s wise to contact the customer support department and ask them to clarify what OS options you will have.
  • Add-ons. If you have chosen a VPS, it’s likely you might need additional components for your server in some situations. It can be additional IP addresses, a backup option, faster network speed and etc. Having these options may be important in order to develop your project.
  • Uptime. When you have an unmanaged VPS and you are handling the daily tasks yourself it’s important to have a great uptime and server access at any time. Choosing a reliable hosting provider becomes one of the priorities. In most cases, it should be even more important than price.
  • Customer Support. Even though you’ve chosen an unmanaged VPS, there will be some situations when you will have questions. It’s great to have someone who can answer them for you 24/7.

Choosing an unmanaged VPS comes with much more flexibility, but also with more risk, which you have to take into account when considering this type of hosting service. It’s best for a server administrator who is his own boss and is able manage a server by himself.

Although there still is the commonly accepted idea that this type of server is managed via command line only, this is no longer true nowadays. The market offers a wide range of Graphic User Interface (GUI) based server control panels, like cPanel, DirectAdmin, Webmin, Plesk, and others.

These control panels have a graphic interface and allow doing most of the basic tasks via the web interface, by pressing buttons. This means that unmanaged VPS is becoming available for beginners as well, who could start using or learning to use a VPS in a more convenient way.


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