Tech Battles: Leveraging Servers for Business

A VPS can kill several birds with one stone

If you’re like me then you are probably paying for a lot of online services like web hosting, file storage, and so on. It’s time to take your sovereignty back from these entities!

VPS: Your Virtual Private Server (Lock & Load, Private!)

I started out working with VPS’s (virtual private servers) about ten years ago. My platform of choice at the time was Digital Ocean which is a great provider but expensive.

Once I started working as sysadmin on my virtual servers, I did all the stupid things a person could do. I guess I have a lot of self-confidence because I apparently had no problem deleting my entire hard disk by accident one time. Thankfully DO has a great “restore from snapshot” function that took literally a button click to bring it all back.

But after doing everything wrong, I finally know how to avoid the pitfalls and there is a pretty simple path to do that. Also the operating systems have really improved in the last ten years and linux has more than one completely free alternative to CPanel, each of which allows you to control every facet of your server with a click or two so you really never have to learn how to run linux from the command line these days.

What you really are looking for is to get the most powerful server for the least amount of money. If you try this with Digital Ocean, you’ll find that in order to get a server with any kind of stronger hardware configuration, you are going to pay a pretty penny, like hundreds per month. Thankfully, a lot of less expensive alternative providers have popped up in recent years.

What Server to Get

In my experience so far – I haven’t had time yet to really research and try them all – SSD Nodes and Contabo are the ones where you can get powerful hardware for a very reasonable price. on Contabo you can get a 12 CPU VPS with 48GB RAM and 1.6 Terabyte SSD for $32,50 US monthly. With SSD Nodes you can get basically the same package for around $14 monthly – IF you pay for 3 years in advance which is $486 US. It’s definitely worth it, I’ve been using them for several years now and it’s worth paying for three years in advance.

And I can tell you that if you have 48 or 64GB RAM on your server then you can host a LOT of websites – like a hundred or more, without risking a crash. If you have only 16GB RAM and try to run 200 websites on it, more than likely your server is going to fail. That’s why it’s vitally important to understand how much load to put on your server depending on the memory limit and CPU power. So if you buy a powerful package, you don’t have to think about it and you can pretty much host as many websites as you want on it.

So that’s why you need to look for the best deals when it comes to VPS hosting platforms.

National Security: Redundancy & Backups

The other factor that you have to think about when purchasing a VPS, is the option for either backups or snapshots or both. The great thing about Digital Ocean, while their hardware can be expensive, they have a GREAT system for “bare metal” backup and restore. So you can take a snapshot of your entire server whenever you want, and if anything goes wrong you can restore from the backed up snapshot. I have done that many times and it works flawlessly on D.O. They do charge you like twenty five cents a Gigabyte to keep the snapshots on hand.

Contabo also has a snapshot feature, but they only allow you to retain a snapshot for a limited time, like three months at most. Which could be a drawback if you somehow forget to take your snapshot within the three months and then your server goes down, you are out of luck. There are other ways to back up as well, I personally use IDrive on my Contabo servers, which backs up whatever you want, every day.

But there’s no question that backing up your server is an extremely important part of running your own VPS. In the free CPanel I mentioned before – it’s called VirtualMin – there is a control panel for scheduling automated backups, including the ability to save your backups directly to S3 or any ftp connection that you want to program in. Virtualmin easily restores websites from your backup with a click.

And with VirtualMin, creating new websites is a snap – you do need to manage your DNS on Cloudflare or whatever to point to your VPS’s IP address, but other than that it’s just about filling out the domain name, a password and click to add the web host. That action automatically publishes your website on the input domain, creates a new user with FTP access and mysql database access all at the same time. Then you can immediately use FTP to create your website OR do a one-click install of WordPress from the VirtualMin panel. It’s not necessary to get your hands dirty with linux back end hacking.

File Storage: No Need for S3, Dropbox etc.

There are a few other things that having your own VPS can solve for you – one of them being file storage. I used my own VPS to replace my S3 usage, and it has save me thousands of dollars.

I was actually paying over $50 a month to Amazon for S3 file storage – and that’s just for the storage. I guess that’s because I’d been saving files on S3 since the early 2000s, and then went into overdrive when my internet marketing career took off in 2012. So Ive been getting that $50+ bill from Amazon every single month and paying it faithfully.

And that’s not all I was paying them – for example, if I wanted to do any kind of serious giveaway and have my customers download something from my S3, like maybe a video file or some zipped up images – it could cost me a lot for the download bandwidth used by my customers just to download the files.

I learned that the hard way a few years ago, when I did a huge bonus giveaway for my entire list and it ended up costing me $500 in bandwidth for people downloading by the time it was all said and done.

So, while I didn’t take the time to move the files out of S3 at the time, I definitely stopped hosting any kind of public downloads there, because it was just too expensive. What I do now, is I’ll store those files on my website or WordPress media library instead and share the links.

And while it’s true, S3 has a nice system for managing permissions to the files, you have pretty much the same thing in linux that you can manage from the VirtualMin console. So why pay Amazon or Dropbox or whoever, while you get that same service for free when you have your own VPS!

And here, having bested our enemies in another Tech Battle, we lay down our arms until next time, valued fellow Warriors!