Choosing the right server for your drupal site can be a difficult process. What specifications do you need, what about connections/ftp/ssh host reliability and such like? With the plethora or hosting packages available on the internet, probably 10,000+ it can be tricky deciding on what may be best for your site. Here are a few pointers that I think about when choosing hosting/servers.
What is the expectations of your hosting provider? This is an important quetion to ask of yourself. So you have decided to build a site and maybe hope for it to be the next Facebook, however, when you are starting out you probably don’t need a data center to server pages and a shared hosting package may be sufficient.
Shared hosting servers will often give you unlimited space and bandwidth, but when you think that the majority of sites in the world aren’t over 200mb in size or serve over 1gb of data in a month, you have to be realistic. Shared hosting accounts range from between about £120 per year for a shared hosting account to as little as £20. Shared hosting will largely involve having the hosting provider makin a lot of decisions for you, what version of PHP/Apache/MySql you use, however, it does mean that you don’t have to decide on this yourself! Brilliant, especially if you don’t really want to be a server admin, you just want to run a small site.
The problem with shared hosting come from its lack of configurability and resources. With upto 2000 sites hosted on 1 server in shared hosting account, potentially you will have to share the bandwidth of your site with thousands of other sites, and that includes RAM and processor cycles.
VPS or virtual private servers, are a virtual machine within a server. This can be between 4-30 VPS servers within one base machine, however, by using virtualisation you are awarded a guaranteed amount of resources. VPS largely involve the user to make more decisions about how they want their site to run, but that can be essential for your site if you want more control. Also by having guaranteed resources, you can rest assured that you won’t be affected to negatively by how others are operations on the server. Often VPSs also give ssh connections to control all of your site from cmd line, especially if your comfortable in linux! Brilliant.
I would recommend VPS servers for most Drupal sites as they are a middle ground between shared hosting and a dedicated server. By the nature of the virtualisation you can scale your site fairly easily and cope if you become the next Facebook! Also if you are running a few websites a VPS solution may end up cheaper as you can run multi-sites easily from VPS solutions.
Dedicated servers are definately at the expensive end of hosting. However if you need ultimate control over your server, or are running sites that have a lot of traffic the dedicated servers could be the option. Don’t forget that unlimited traffic at 10mbps connection is 3592gb p/m so not actually unlimited!
Anyway hope that this might help a bit in choosing your next hosting solution. If you are planning a few sites go for a virtual server, learn some linux and with 512 RAM and a little machine you can bring your sites to the rest of the world, and scale like Facebook!