Best CHEAP VPS Hosting Services of 2020 (Compared)

April 5, 2021

What Is VPS Hosting?

When you purchase hosting, you expect to get some server resources.

The traditional way to allocate resources is to give each user their own server. Everyone gets a machine of their own with all its power, and that’s that. This is how dedicated hosting works.

However, your typical server is pretty damn powerful. Most users only need a fraction of the resources of an entire server.

The solution if obvious—you create some sort of multi-tenant environment and let multiple users access the server. Less resources go to waste, and website owners can share the costs of using the machine.

As you can probably guess, this is what virtual private servers are for. The hosting provider would use a tool called a hypervisor to partition a server into multiple virtual servers. Each client is able to use one virtual machine without any interference from other users.

But wait, isn’t that what shared hosting does?

Kind of, but not really. Virtual servers act like a fully dedicated server in most ways. Each virtual machine runs its own operating system and accompanying technologies, and the machine is mostly isolated from others on the server

A shared hosting server, on the other hand, runs only one operating system for all users. The users share all installed technologies as well as server resources. This lets shared hosting providers host hundreds of users on the same server. The tradeoff is that users get almost no say what kind of technologies they use, and its possible for one client to spend so much resources it slows down other accounts.

So, while both shared and private server hosting has multiple tenants sharing the same server, VPS is more similar to running a dedicated server. If you’re interested in more benefits of running a VPS, keep reading.

Pros and Cons of Cheap VPS Hosting

You now know a bit about how VPS works and whether it can benefit you. Let’s now cover in a bit more detail why you may or may not go for VPS over other solutions.

The Price

More likely than not, you’re here because you are interested in a budget-friendly solution for yourself or your business.

The good news is that your average VPS hosting is fairly forgiving, especially compared to dedicated servers. VPS hosts offer something for pretty much anyone’s budget.

If you’re looking for affordable VPS plans, you can get a decent managed server for around $10/month. This is pretty reasonable, considering the provider is there to offer professional assistance and handle server management.

Probably the most affordable VPS offer is by 1&1 IONOS, as it only costs $2/month. With a price this low, though, the server you get is very limited and would even have trouble running some control panels. Plus, the plans are unmanaged, meaning you’d need server administration knowledge.

Speaking of, you should check if the VPS includes a control panel since most users need one. While shared hosting typically comes with cPanel, a $10/month VPS plan probably doesn’t. cPanel licensing alone costs $15 for a VPS, so this wouldn’t make sense.

VPS hosting providers like Scalahosting and DreamHost get around this by offering their own control panel for free. This makes their plans way more affordable than the standard managed cPanel VPS, so keep an eye out for them if you want a control panel without overspending.

Also, keep in mind the price depends on the resources you need. You can’t reasonably expect to go for a cheap solution and get 4 CPU cores and 16GB RAM. Beware offers that look too good to be true, since they often sacrifice quality.

Resources

Most people just assume VPS plans have more resources than shared hosting.

Generally, this is correct, though it isn’t always the case. VPS usually entails some sort of a resource upgrade, so users who outgrow shared hosting tend to scale right into VPS.

That said, when talking about cheap virtual machines, there usually isn’t that much of a difference. The typical starter plan tends to have something like 1 CPU core and 2GB RAM, which is about what you get with high-end shared plans.

If you want a more extreme example, A2’s largest shared plan has four times the physical memory and twice the processing power of 1&1’s smallest VPS. And this is fair since A2’s plan is four times as expensive.

Long story short, VPS doesn’t necessarily come with more resources than shared hosting.

An advantage VPS does have, however, is resource integrity. VPS hosting providers can guarantee certain resource allocation since the hypervisor sets aside a portion of the resources just for you. Even if you don’t use the resources, the hardware remains reserved for you, and other users can’t access it.

This is a bit problematic with shared hosting. Many providers do have extensive measures in place to guarantee you resources. Yet, it’s tough to make this work, since you can often have a dozen users accessing the same server core.

The inevitable result are performance issues and users not always getting the resources they pay for. VPS, on the other hand, solves this problem and is simply more reliable.

Flexibility

Another definite advantage for private server hosting is that it’s massively more flexible than shared hosting.

To explain, shared hosting has the server run one operating system and set of software that all users share. On the one hand, this saves a lot of resources, and it lets providers host way more users on one server.

On the other, users are pretty much stuck with using whatever technologies the provider installs. If you want to run, let’s say, Django or want to change your web server, this likely wouldn’t be an option.

Moreover, the technologies only get updated when the hosting provider gets to it. If you’re a WordPress user and a new, faster version PHP comes out, you might need to wait months before it gets implemented.

On the other hand, even the cheapest VPS hosting provider can offer you way more flexibility. This is because each virtual server runs its own server stack, and whatever you install only affects your portion of the actual server.

Obviously, this gives you way more freedom in choosing the technologies you want to run. You can install whatever technologies you want, update them when you’re ready, and freely configure every other aspect of your server.

The thing to keep an eye for is root access. Having root access means you have privileged control over your entire virtual machine. You can install or change any software installed on your machine, even without help from the support.

Security

This one’s a bit of a pro and a con at the same time, even for the best VPS services.

It’s easy to find use cases of one shared hosting account getting compromised and infecting the entire server. Even though providers can implement various measures, the accounts are not that well-isolated from each other.

VPS, on the other hand, usually has much better account isolation. A well-secured VPS is much less vulnerable than your typical shared hosting. Plus, virtual machines let you (or your support) configure custom security measures for your environment, meaning you can protect yourself more effectively.

That said, virtualization software can’t separate the accounts perfectly. After all, you’re sharing the same machine with other users. Even though VPS web hosting can be highly secure, its security is typically less reliable than when you have an entire server for yourself.

Technical Skills Required

One of the biggest inconveniences about upgrading from shared to VPS is that you have to take care of maintenance.

On shared hosting, you only have to take care of your website and none of the technologies. After all, shared hosting doesn’t even give you access to most of the server files.

With VPS, though, somebody needs to take care of choosing and maintaining the server stack, handling backups, etc.

Your best bet is to get managed VPS hosting. A managed VPS host is a bit more expensive, but the provider takes care of a lot of technical tasks like server patches and firewall management. This takes a lot of work off your hands, and it saves you from hiring a pricy developer.

An alternative is to get an unmanaged VPS and save a few extra bucks. However, you would have to take care of a lot of the technical details yourself, starting with setting up the entire server stack. This is really only suitable for people with some server administration experience.

If you don’t have experience with running a server, your best bet is to get a managed plan. There are still affordable plans available, so just keep an eye out for which type of hosting you’re buying.

Do I need a VPS?

VPS is often considered the next step after shared hosting. Probably the most cited benefit of VPS is that it offers more resources than shared plans.

Yes, VPS servers are often more powerful, and, yes, if you’ve outgrown shared hosting, VPS is likely your next destination. VPS is definitely the way to go once your shared server starts struggling with its workload.

That said, upgrading to VPS doesn’t always mean a resource upgrade, especially if we’re talking about a cheap VPS server. So what other reasons are there to go for VPS, if not for more resources?

For one, VPS means better account isolation and dedicated resources.

Shared plans usually have some sort of account isolation that prevents other users from affecting your hosting experience. In the end, though, all users are drawing from the same pool of resources, and all it takes is one bad apple to make a mess of things.

VPS, on the other hand, gives you your own virtual server, with its own IP address, and guaranteed resources. If you pay for a certain number of CPU cores, they’ll always remain available, even if you don’t use them.

If you need high reliability, virtual server hosting gives you just that.

The most significant advantage, however, is the control you get with VPS.

A common issue with shared hosting is that its particular type of server partitioning makes it too stiff. Any changes you implement to the shared server affect all users on it. The hosting provider has to be selective about what it allows.

So, any customization of the technology running on a server depends entirely on the provider—not great if you can’t find a provider with the exact configuration you need.

With VPS, you have complete freedom. You can install whatever technology you might need, as if you were using your own server. It’s a necessity for running a custom setup.

Even though VPS plans often include much more resources than shared hosting, that’s not their only advantage. Even a cheap VPS server can give you the reliability and flexibility of dedicated hosting—at a much more accessible price, of course.

So, Which One Do I Go For?

One obvious case where you want to go for VPS, in particular, is if your application is too demanding for shared hosting. Once you start getting performance issues, it’s simply time to upgrade.

However, even if you’re just starting out, you can go for VPS if you need a bit of flexibility. Essentially, if you can’t find a shared provider that supports all the technologies you need, you can get straight into VPS and make a custom configuration.

Also, you might want to go for a VPS if you are on a sensitive project and need near 100% availability. A provider that runs a hypervisor like Hyper-V or VMWare with failover clustering can be a fantastic asset here. This simply means, if your server goes down, the virtualization software will just let an alternative version of your server take over. You will always have one server available.

Also, VPS tends to be more secure than shared, so you can opt for it if you keep some sensitive data like customer information. Online stores tend to be demanding anyway, so a cheap VPS server can be a decent place to start.

If you’re just starting out with something basic and aren’t really concerned about flexibility and reliability, shared hosting can do the job. Shared hosting is more restrictive, true, but there might no need to overspend on VPS if you’re just starting out.

Wrap Up

If you’re reading this, you’ve now seen the reviews of the providers that have the best cheap VPS hosting in 2020. The prices range from $2 to $20 per month, so there’s something for you, regardless of your budget.

If a provider might seem like a good fit for your first VPS experience, take it for a spin and see what it can do.

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