I am looking for a VPS that can help me transition out of a shared hosting environment.

My main OS is Ubuntu, although I am still new to the linux world. I spend most of my day programming PHP applications using a git over SSH workflow.

I want PHP, SSH, git, MySQL/PostgreSQL and Apache to work well. Someday after I figure out server management I'll move on to http://nginx.org/ or something.

I don't really understand 1) linux firewalls, 2) mail servers, or 3) proper daily package/lib update flow. I need a host that can help with these so I don't get hit with a security hole. (I monitor apache access logs so I think I can take it from there.)

I want to know if there is a sub $50/m VPS that can help me learn (or do for me) these three main things I need to run a server. I can't leave my shared hosts (plural shows my need!) until I am sure my sites will be safe despite my incompetence.

To clarify again, I need the most helpful, supportive, walk-me-through, check-up-on-me, be-there-when-I-need you VPS I can get. Learning isn't a problem when there is someone to turn too. ;)

  • Can I bother you to ask what exactly your trying to accomplish? You seem bent on getting rid of the shared environment, but you don't seem to know what you're doing, or will be gaining, by the move. So I have to wonder if you should be moving at all. – Chris S Feb 27 '10 at 4:29
  • Ah, good point. Well, I am getting crowded by the limitations of shared hosts. They don't allow testing of new applications (like nginx) nor compiling/making (custom PHP installs). They also don't have the resources that I need to run my sites any longer. I look at server administration as just mountain to climb like programming and auto-repair. However, unlike other tasks I must be extra careful so I don't jeopardize my sites and users. Perhaps you are right and this isn't something I should get into until I know more. If so, (epic question to follow) what should I learn first? – Xeoncross Feb 27 '10 at 4:40

Slicehost and Linode are two services that I've seen a lot of good reports about. Both have reasonable rates, and are easy to get started with.

However, before you spend a single penny, I highly recommend that you download either VirtualBox or VMWare Player, and start learning on your own PC. Conceptually, a VM running on your PC & a VM running on somebody else's machine are the same.

The VPS services will have some things automated for you, but as far as the "system management" aspects go, you'll still be the one doing the work. So learn it on a local VM, when you're ready, set up a VPS with your chosen provider, and then apply your skills/knowledge there.

  • Well, I already run linux and use it everyday on my own PC - so I'm not sure how running one on a VM would help me. However, I haven't had to setup email (gmail), a firewall yet (Ubuntu auto-does this I think), and my updates are handled by the gnome desktop app. Also, I am not running any web services to let people know I'd be open to attacks. So I still don't know how these three would be handled on a real server. Or even if I need to worry about them - maybe the hosting company would configure the firewall for me... – Xeoncross Feb 27 '10 at 5:02
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    OK, so setting up a VM let's you safely learn all of the things that you don't know how to do in a hands-on manner. If you screw it up, just start over (or fix it). A VPS is just that - a virtual private server that you are responsible for the management of, unless you hire somebody to manage it for you. I don't know of any VPS providers that offer managed hosting; you'll need to google for that. But even at that, it's in your best interest to learn the fundamentals of how to manage your own network. And don't think otherwise - having a VPS is the same as having a network. – Joe Internet Feb 27 '10 at 5:30
  • Thats true, I guess I don't want to test the limits of the box I'm on because I have to use it. However, I still don't know what remains for me to learn to manage a server (other than what I listed) so even if I get those three down I'm unsure if that will be enough to consider my box safe enough to deploy into the real world. That is why I need a very helpful host that can check/support these three because I don't know exactly what I'm doing. – Xeoncross Feb 27 '10 at 15:53
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    A VPS is essentially a VM someone else is running for you. The advantage with trying out things with a VM is, you do it, you document it, and you carry out what you need. with all the things you ask about, there's decent docs. ubuntu uses UFW by default ubuntugeek.com/ufw-uncomplicated-firewall-for-ubuntu-hardy.html should get you started. Start with all ports closed, then open what you need for the mail server flurdy.com/docs/postfix is the best docs i have seen. the last part... just let ubuntu handle it- there's automatic security updates as an option – Journeyman Geek Mar 1 '10 at 5:07
  • +1 yes, but again I would like to find a host that will be very supportive in this process. There must be one out there... – Xeoncross Mar 1 '10 at 23:14

Slicehost has a good community with a number of well written articles to get you started (e.g. getting various configurations of LAMP running, firewalling and ssh tutorials). Past that though, you're on your own. If you require a high degree of help, you might want to look at managed hosting.

It helps tremendously to have a VM running a configuration as similar to your VPS as possible. Your VM can then be a platform for you to mess around with and test configs before pushing it onto your production server.

At the end of the day, the responsibility of managing the VPS is on you. You'll be the one monitoring the log files, doing patch management, etc. It may sound intimidating, but having switched from a shared environment to a VPS only just a couple months ago myself, it has been a tremendous learning experience.


+1 Linode. They've got unbelievable (less than an hour) support response, and my sites are blazing fast.

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