A Crash-Course in VPS
I mentioned last week that I was moving this blog off of an internal server to an externally-sourced one at 1&1. Further, that I chose to use a VPS, or Virtual Private Server, for the installation. For servers that don’t require loads of disk space, CPU power or memory, a virtual server makes loads of sense. They are a lot cheaper than a dedicated server while giving the owner the same level of control (complete root access). The options with such a server obvious exceed those of a simple web host that just allows its owner to control the pages of a web site and, perhaps, a database behind it.
My goal is to use the server to host multiple web sites, including this blog, serve a variety of files – both public and private, run an IMAP/POP/SMTP mail server (Merak), and a couple of background processing programs of my own creation (therefore, fat and inefficient). None of these processes is very CPU critical so I wasn’t too concerned with the overall CPU load on the VPS. Also, after calculating the amount of disk space I needed, I found that I could easily last for a while on 10GB. This seems small, but the mail server compresses its files and I don’t need this server to serve audio/video (I have another server for that) reducing the disk space need substantially. I was a bit concerned about memory, but it seemed to me that all these applications could run in the 300MB space offered by 1&1’s lowest-end VPS offering. It’s in this last decision that I found I was very wrong.
Especially since 1&1 VPS’ are running a 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003, memory space got consumed pretty fast. If I was sticking with just the web and file server functions, I could have squeaked by, but my own applications plus the various processes that are part of the mail server kept me right at the upper bound of the virtual memory space that I had. This might even be acceptable other than the fact that the virtual machine didn’t like it when it ran out of memory and often crashed.
So, I upgraded the server to a higher-end VPS offering from 1&1, which I’m afraid required a complete rebuild. The new server offers more disk space, more CPU and more memory, although not a ton more at 500MB. This gives my applications plenty of breathing room though. I finally completed the transfer of everything this morning and it all appears to be running OK. We’ll see.
If you’re looking at a virtual server solution, look hard at your memory requirements. Hunting around at all the service providers out there (there are many), I found that not all of them are up front about the memory space available. 1&1 buried this factor more than most – they were clear about the disk space and CPU levels available, but I had to really hunt to get memory info. This is especially bad since it ends up being the most important factor.
FWIW, you can also get a VPS from 1&1 and others that comes with Linux (mostly Fedora Core). My guess is that you can build a leaner server with a Linux base so that may be a better option for you.