5 Best VPS Hosting Companies of 2017

A review of the best VPS hosting providers. Learn about virtual private servers & how to find a VPS hosting plan to improve your website's performance.

best vps hosting

Are you curious about purchasing a VPS web hosting plan for your business? In this article, we’ll cover the top VPS hosting companies we'd recommend signing up with, the benefits of upgrading to a VPS, and how to get started with your new VPS hosting account.

The Best VPS Web Hosts at a Glance

A quick overview of the top choices for best VPS hosting listing the different purposes we would recommend each one for:

Web HostStarts at:Recommended for:Learn more
InMotion Hosting$24.99/moHigh performance & Affordable VPS hosting for businessesView Plans
Liquid Web$29.50/moFully managed VPS hosting w/ premium performanceView Plans
HostGator$19.95/moGreat hardware, performance, & well-known brandView Plans
Bluehost$29.99/moAll-purpose VPS hosting suitable for various needsView Plans
A2 Hosting$5.00/moCustomizable unmanaged & managed VPS hosting for developersView Plans

Rack of servers in a data center

What to Look for in a VPS Web Host?

Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are a hosting solution designed to give more power and flexibility to website owners for custom developed software requirements and complex web applications. Technically, a VPS will function in the same manner as a dedicated server while operating on a partitioned hardware framework that allows for the use of only a fraction of the resources of the host machine. When seeking the best VPS hosting solution, the most important account configuration options for you to compare are:

  • The number of dedicated cores allocated to the virtual machine
  • The amount of guaranteed RAM memory provided
  • The HDD/SSD storage space included with the plan
  • The bandwidth limits for monthly data transfer use

Web hosting companies offer managed, self-installed, and cloud VPS plans with a variety of features determined primarily by the virtualization software used for platform account management.

QUICK TIP: The first step is to determine which type of VPS you need. There are managed, unmanaged (self-installed), and cloud VPS hosting plans available.

Managed vs. Unmanaged (Self-Installed) VPS Platforms

Most managed VPS plans include a pre-configured version of the Linux operating system with Apache, MySQL, PHP, Python, Perl, and other server extensions for web development pre-installed with optimized settings. Some managed VPS hosts offer different OS “snapshots” (Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, etc.) that can be chosen that include additional distribution-based server utility frameworks to speed up deployment. Windows VPS accounts are provided with a default ASP.net configuration. With unmanaged, only the physical server hardware is maintained. It is the customer’s responsibility to install and maintain their own software on the server. Managed is recommended for beginners who want worry free hosting, while unmanaged offers complete customization and is great for tech savvy webmasters. We strongly recommend managed if you’re not that familiar with web hosting and how to install/maintain your own server software.

Cloud VPS Platforms

Cloud VPS platforms offer extremely fast hardware with solid state drives (SSDs) that usually include a pre-installed Linux version that is running under the Open Stack framework. The use of SSDs with multi-core servers and large amounts of installed DDR4 RAM on optimized Cloud VPS platforms has shown performance gains of up to 20x in page load speed under benchmark testing. Web hosting companies have launched Cloud VPS solutions as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) product designed specifically for the hosting needs of custom LAMP development.

Features to Consider in a VPS Plan

While many companies offer VPS platform services, attention to the difference between accounts is important in order to determine which options are most suitable for the development requirements of the website to be hosted. Some of the features to consider with any VPS plan are:

  • Choice of Operating System
  • Web Server Performance
  • Virtualization Software
  • Systems Administration
  • Cloud Optimization
  • Web Security & Back-ups
  • Technical Support

Site owners and developers considering leasing a virtual private server will need to closely scrutinize the difference between managed, self-installed, and cloud VPS accounts with regard to these features in order to make an informed decision between the variety of platforms available in the marketplace.

Choice of Operating System

The choice of operating system is not always available with managed VPS and cloud hosts who offer a default Linux distribution that is deployed across all installations of a virtualization framework. Windows VPS servers are normally priced without additional licensing costs due to vendor agreements with Microsoft that enables them to remain competitive with Linux. Some companies offer a free license for cPanel on CentOS with WHM, or a Cloud Linux upgrade on the VPS, which can be a good value. For the greatest amount of flexibility on the choice of the operating system, order a self-installed VPS account and put the time into custom configuration and systems administration.

Web Server Performance

CPU speed benchmarks are recommended to evaluate between VPS web hosting costs, as they can help determine the performance difference between the various Intel Xeon/Atom processors and AMD Opteron chips. Look for VPS accounts which offer a free upgrade to Solid State Drives (SSDs) for best performance and value. Bandwidth speeds may vary between web hosting companies, so it is necessary to establish what the data transfer rates are on each account, as well as if there is the ability to provision different uplink providers. Instant upgrades provide the ability to add more RAM, CPU cores, and disk space to a VPS account without the need to re-install the operating system and site files.

Virtualization Software

Identification of the virtualization platform each VPS hosting company uses (Xen, VMware, OpenVZ, Virtuozzo, KVM, etc.) is another way to evaluate company services. The type of hypervizor administration provided by the virtualization system will determine various aspects of VPS functionality including the operating system configuration options. Knowledge of the fundamental features of each virtualization platform will also help determine when to choose between managed, self-installed, and cloud VPS hosts. Open Stack is the most popular and widely used VPS framework for cloud web hosting.

Systems Administration

Developers should determine whether the command line or a control panel will be used to manage server settings in advance of signing up for a new VPS account plan. Instant provisioning in managed VPS hosting can speed up development time considerably over self-installed plans when configuring the operating system. The most popular choices for server administration on VPS accounts are cPanel, Plesk, Webmin, and Virtualmin. All of these tools for Linux provide a GUI navigation interface to simplify domain management and the configuration of server extensions. Most VPS users will need to be thoroughly familiar with use of the command line for remote systems administration.

Screenshot of Webmin, a popular free & open source alternative to cPanel

QUICK TIP: Webmin is a popular free, open source alternative to cPanel for managing server configurations on a Linux VPS platform. Another option is Virtualmin for users who have less command line experience.

Cloud Optimization

Cloud optimization solutions include server load balancing and website page caching software that is pre-installed in a managed VPS platform. Cloud VPS plans include all of the server extensions required to run popular web scripts like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Moodle, etc. with optimized settings for increased high-traffic scalability. Most Cloud VPS frameworks can also be further configured through the command line to support Nginx, Varnish Cache, new third-party database formats, or other custom development frameworks that extend the LAMP stack. Look for Cloud VPS accounts with “burstable” RAM and solid state drives for the best performance when hosting CMS websites.

Web Security & Back-ups

Before signing up for a VPS hosting account, users should determine whether or not the account includes provisions for integrated database and site file backups. It is also important to confirm the type of firewall, network security, DDoS protection, and anti-spam services offered by different VPS plans. Systems administrators on self-installed VPS hosting are responsible for maintaining server security settings on the OS, extensions, and web software. Managed and Cloud VPS hosts offer company network services that automatically keep server software patched with the latest security upgrades.

Technical Support

Uptime guarantees and the data center rating of the web hosting company are additional determinants that can be used to evaluate between the various VPS account plans offered by competitors. Look for companies with a strong commitment to customer service and who offer direct contact with experienced systems administrators for technical support. Companies that provide 24/7 support services through toll-free phone lines and quick turn-around on email requests are recommended for the most efficient management of common website hosting problems.

Final Thoughts on Choosing a VPS Suitable for You

While it is important to know the basics about virtualization platforms, most data centers manage this aspect of VPS web hosting behind the scenes. When looking to purchase the best VPS hosting plan, the method of system administration is the most important factor in determining the choice between different plans. Developers with custom requirements for web programming can choose between a Managed VPS, Cloud VPS, or “self-installed” VPS plan according to which platform most fits their particular sys admin background and experience.

Managed VPS accounts allow for limited choice in determining the operating system compared to the freedom of an unmonitored, self-installed approach. Cloud VPS web hosting plans are based on the most advanced and powerful servers with installed DDR-4 RAM, multi-core processing, and solid state drives. When a shared hosting plan does not provide enough processing power for a website, but a dedicated server is too costly, a Cloud VPS account can be a good middle option, allowing for strong performance gains in website page load speeds through software and hardware optimization.