Moving to VPS from shared hosting

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Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:46 am

I currently have a shared hosting plan with Dreamhost. I know there are some people who absolutely hate Dreamhost, but I've had a good experience with them. The point being that their basic shared hosting plan has enough juice to serve the (very) small sites that I run. Unfortunately for Dreamhost, I'm a tinkerer and really like to be able to have full control over whatever projects I'm working on and Dreamhost isn't always flexible with custom stuff. Therefore when I read Damage's latest Etc. post where he mentioned that TR switched to Linode, I checked them out again. Their prices have apparently dropped and now the lowest tier VPS with Linode is the same price as Dreamhost's shared plan so I'm going to switch.

I'm planning on running Nginx as the server on the VPS, but I'm wondering with the differences in architecture between Apache and Nginx and the fact that the low tier VPS only has one core, is it worth switching server software? Also, for you folks who have done this more than I, is it worth segregating the web server from other services I might run with a chroot jail, docker container, etc, or is running it all directly sufficient?
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:43 am

Unless you've got a high traffic site, need a lot of storage, or have a web app that does a lot of host-side processing, the lowest tier single-core VPS should be sufficient.

I don't know much about Nginx, but it is widely deployed, and one of its big advantages over Apache is that it is less resource-intensive. For a lightweight VPS this sounds like a win to me.

IMO unless you're handling highly sensitive data setting up a chroot jail or docker container is just extra complexity you don't need.

Any idea what distro you plan to use?
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:18 am

just brew it! wrote:IMO unless you're handling highly sensitive data setting up a chroot jail or docker container is just extra complexity you don't need.


Sounds good to me, the server I run on my local network has Nginx running in a chroot jail and it's kind of a pain.

just brew it! wrote:Any idea what distro you plan to use?


Arch. (cue ridicule :) )
I've been running my home server on Arch for a few years now with no stability issues and I put it through much more torture than I would a production server. If I were managing for someone else, I might use a more venerable server-oriented distro, but for my own stuff, I really do enjoy Arch.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:44 am

alloyD wrote:Arch. (cue ridicule :) )

Hey, at least it is one of Linode's officially supported distros. So using it for a production Linode is only moderately masochistic (as opposed to outright insane). :lol:

(Personally I'd go with Debian or Ubuntu 14.04 LTS if I was deploying a new Linode today; my existing Linode currently runs Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.)
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:56 am

I've had a great experience with RamNode. They vps's are very fast and they have an exceptional level of uptime. Their support is also very responsive.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:12 am

Yeah nginx is typically much more efficient than apache so it should run better than a similar apache site, especially under constraints from a low-end VPS. I've had great luck with my linode VPS, but I basically use it as a scratch box so it's rarely under a heavy load. Down time has been pretty much non-existent, in the 2 years I've had it I think I've had only one unscheduled outage, and it was in the form of a VM reboot (could have been a local kernel panic, but I think it was the host dying), so it took like 2 minutes to come back online.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:59 am

just brew it! wrote:(Personally I'd go with Debian or Ubuntu 14.04 LTS if I was deploying a new Linode today; my existing Linode currently runs Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.)

There is actually a chance I'll go with Ubuntu LTS. I think I'll spin up a local VM and try it out before I decide. I've got a few months before my prepaid Dreamhost account expires.

From what you guys have been telling me, it sounds like I'm really going to like the Linode VPS. Out of curiosity what kind of stuff do you guys do with your VPS's that you couldn't do with a shared plan?
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 12:25 pm

Debian Master Race!

Mine is just mostly for random side projects and places where I need a high-bandwidth, always-on server, like spinning up a Teamspeak instance when some buddies want to play a game, throwing together a quick website for someone, 'I need to share this 800 mb file with a handful of people and I don't want them to wait 6 days for my crappy home DSL to serve it' etc. I could have probably gotten away with a lighter-weight shared host, but Linode was highly recommended, and still pretty cheap with high transfer quotas, so I stick with them. My Linode has been upgraded for free like 3 times since I've had the account, doubling storage, then ram, then CPU, so I'm pretty happy with them.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:41 pm

I haven't dealt with Dreamhost, but dealing with other people's Fatcow and Bluehost setups has been a pain even for basic WordPress/Django/whatever administration. A lot of modules or plugins you might want to install require you to have access to the server to install php libs or the like. A good VPS is definitely a better way to go for a "tinkerer."

Echoing SuperSpy--a VPS is just nice to have for side-projects and miscellaneous server needs. I run a couple of Debian instances on DigitalOcean (which has been super fast and always up for the year and a half I've been on it) that I use to host some git repos for my random development projects. I'm also using it to learn how nginx works, which is handy to have in conjunction with said development projects. It also runs Mumble server for my group gaming needs, and hosts a couple of simple WordPress sites for friends and family.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 2:13 pm

alloyD wrote:Out of curiosity what kind of stuff do you guys do with your VPS's that you couldn't do with a shared plan?

It gets used for a lot of different things:

- When I access the Internet on the road, I run a SSH tunnel to a SOCKS proxy on the Linode, to ensure that all local traffic on public WiFi and hotel Internet is encrypted.

- It gets used as a public test server for a brewing competition management package that I've been intermittently been working on fixing/customizing with another member of the local homebrewing club.

- It hosts a bug tracker, Subversion repository, and Wiki used by me and a couple of friends for various personal projects.

- The guy who's working on the competition software with me knows a few people with simple web sites who would be willing to pay us ~$5/month for hosting. Get a few of those and we can cover the cost of the Linode (making it effectively free).

- I sometimes use it to send large (too big to e-mail) files to other people.

- I plan to migrate a number of smaller web sites (personal/family/friends) that are currently hosted on my home DSL connection to it (just haven't had time to deal with this).

- I plan to set up my own mail exchanger.

Granted, I could do a lot of the above with a shared plan. But it is easier when you've got full root access, and the freedom to install whatever packages you want.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:01 pm

alloyD wrote:I currently have a shared hosting plan with Dreamhost. I know there are some people who absolutely hate Dreamhost, but I've had a good experience with them. The point being that their basic shared hosting plan has enough juice to serve the (very) small sites that I run. Unfortunately for Dreamhost, I'm a tinkerer and really like to be able to have full control over whatever projects I'm working on and Dreamhost isn't always flexible with custom stuff.

I'm planning on running Nginx as the server on the VPS, but I'm wondering with the differences in architecture between Apache and Nginx and the fact that the low tier VPS only has one core, is it worth switching server software? Also, for you folks who have done this more than I, is it worth segregating the web server from other services I might run with a chroot jail, docker container, etc, or is running it all directly sufficient?


I haven't tried using Ruby or Python based stuff on Dreamhost, but from my experiences of standing up webapps at work, I'm a little leery of trying it. RoR applications can be a picky beasts, I'm not really sure what Dreamhost has installed on their servers, and they don't like long running processes.

Difficult documentation and an odd config format are the only knocks against Nginx I've heard. Apache has been around longer, and if you're wanting to lean on features of the HTTP service, Apache would probably be better.

I'd probably look at LXC containers if you want to segment things. The nice thing about containers is that they keep all of the customizations contained in a VM, and the host OS stays relatively clean. Linode might have some policy about multiple IPs, and what not, so look into that before trying this. Also, check the space requirements for an LXC container before trying this.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:40 pm

just brew it! wrote:- When I access the Internet on the road, I run a SSH tunnel to a SOCKS proxy on the Linode, to ensure that all local traffic on public WiFi and hotel Internet is encrypted.


Oh yes, I've wanted to do this for some time, but it keeps getting bumped from the top of my project list. I imagine it'll be one of the first things I implement once the web services actually work.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:54 pm

alloyD wrote:
just brew it! wrote:- When I access the Internet on the road, I run a SSH tunnel to a SOCKS proxy on the Linode, to ensure that all local traffic on public WiFi and hotel Internet is encrypted.

Oh yes, I've wanted to do this for some time, but it keeps getting bumped from the top of my project list. I imagine it'll be one of the first things I implement once the web services actually work.

You don't even need the web services up and running to do this. All you need is the SSH service (it has a built-in SOCKS proxy).

Just establish a SSH session with the "-D" option, e.g.:
Code: Select all
ssh -D 1080 yourname@yourserver
and tell your browser to use localhost:1080 as a SOCKS proxy.

That's it!

(This is actually less important than it used to be, with more and more sites switching to HTTPS by default.)
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:19 pm

Regarding Apache vs. nginx, I've been looking at that myself.

Even without using it, I have to say that nginx's configuration is cryptic at best, and nightmarish at worst. It also doesn't have as many fancy features as apache. However, it seems to utilize a threaded model by default, which is why it's a speed demon.

A lot of people use nginx as a front-end for Apache, having it serve simple requests and redirecting to Apache for scripts and other stuff.

I should note, however, that a properly tuned Apache is also pretty efficient, and it has different models to work with (google "prefork vs worker"). The stock configuration, as is the case with most server software, works fine but isn't terribly optimized, as it has to be one-size-fits-all.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:03 am

I've been playing around with DigitalOcean (https://www.digitalocean.com/pricing/) for almost a year now and its been quite enlightening. They have a $5/month plan - which is quite good to start off with and they charge hourly.

They have quite a decent collection of guides and HowTo's.

Looking into RamNode pricing/performance tier - looks slightly better than DigitalOcean for hobby VPS setup. Wonder if there is any specific difference between their OpenVZ SSD premium and OpenVZ SSD Standard setups.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:38 pm

just brew it! wrote:You don't even need the web services up and running to do this. All you need is the SSH service (it has a built-in SOCKS proxy).

Just establish a SSH session with the "-D" option, e.g.:
Code: Select all
ssh -D 1080 yourname@yourserver
and tell your browser to use localhost:1080 as a SOCKS proxy.

That's it!

(This is actually less important than it used to be, with more and more sites switching to HTTPS by default.)


This also comes in really handy for debugging ISP problems/shenanigans. With just ssh/putty I can get access to a different route or DNS, as well as bypass any sort of traffic 'management'. With the high monthly transfer quota on my Linode, I have many times considered just proxying all my home connection traffic through it, just in case my local ISP starts trying to mimick Comcast.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Tue Sep 02, 2014 1:03 pm

I never thought of using it that way, but that's a great idea. Sometimes I wonder if my ISP is doing that, but then I remember that I'm on cable and sometimes it's just slow. On the other hand it's pretty darn fast at times too. Such is cable.
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Tue Sep 02, 2014 1:16 pm

The only downside I've found of doing the remote SOCKS proxy thing (and it is only a small one) is that it confuses the web sites of B&M retailers when you click the button to find their nearest stores. The default list of choices is invariably in NJ (where my Linode is hosted) instead of near where I live (hundreds of miles from there). But having to click "change location" and key in my zip code every time isn't *that* much of a hardship. (And I'm sure many people would consider the ability to trip up web sites' location tracking capabilities to be a feature instead of a bug... :lol:)
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Re: Moving to VPS from shared hosting

Postposted on Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:13 pm

just brew it! wrote:The only downside I've found of doing the remote SOCKS proxy thing (and it is only a small one) is that it confuses the web sites of B&M retailers when you click the button to find their nearest stores. The default list of choices is invariably in NJ (where my Linode is hosted) instead of near where I live (hundreds of miles from there). But having to click "change location" and key in my zip code every time isn't *that* much of a hardship. (And I'm sure many people would consider the ability to trip up web sites' location tracking capabilities to be a feature instead of a bug... :lol:)


I get that 'feature' for free with my crappy Frontier DSL, their GEO database is borked so 80% of the IP's they give out in my area lookup to wherever Frontier's HQ is in New York. :lol:
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