Under most circumstances, when a person or small business sets up their first website, they are going to choose shared hosting from the start. Shared hosting is typically less expensive but other than price… there really are not many benefits to using it. Eventually, you will find yourself outgrowing the limited resources and setup configuration restriction imposed by most shared hosting providers. If this sounds like your situation, it might be time to look into upgrading to Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting.
We are going to assume that if you are getting enough traffic to necessitate the transfer to a more robust virtual private server hosting package, you are probably a little more advanced than the “average” webmaster. Regardless of your skill level, it can be a somewhat daunting task to setup a virtual private server hosting package on your own due to the sheer number of variables involved and with so many different hosting platforms out there, it is nearly impossible to write an article that will cover all of them. Regardless, this guide will help you wrap your head around exactly what you are getting into.
Step One: Backup Your Data
Out of all the steps listed below, this is by far the most important one. Chances are, a large portion of your livelihood is going to be generated by one or two of your main web properties – so it is absolutely essential that this data be backed up. This will ensure that if something were to go wrong with the transfer, you will have a back-up copy of your most recent site changes. If your site is extremely large, it may take several hours to back everything up, but it is well worth doing. Once you have your data backed up, we can move on to the next step.
Step Two: Choosing a Provider and Operating System
If your current host doesn’t offer VPS services, you are going to need to find a company that does. There are hundreds of such companies online and it shouldn’t take long to find one that matches your needs. Remember, if your site is growing rapidly, you are going to want to spend the extra money to ensure the server has plenty of RAM and bandwidth to spare. Otherwise, you are going to lose page views due to your site taking too long to load. When choosing a provider, it is worth mentioning that Linux servers are usually cheaper than Windows servers but for those unfamiliar with Linux, you are better off spending a few extra dollars each month to go with Windows. For the sake of space, we are going to focus solely on Windows in this article. However, many of the core concepts discussed will apply to both operating systems.
Step Three: The Real Fun Begins
We know you don’t have a ton of time to waste researching different options and fiddling with different settings, so we are going to recommend taking the “easy” route by installing AMPPS. AMPPS is a third-party, free software program that makes it super simple for anyone to get their website up and running quickly. It even includes MySQL and MongoDB to handle your databases! Note: If your site uses ASP, you are going to need to use a different method. AMPPS is designed for PHP and static websites only.
Now that we know what we are going to do, it is time to explain how to do it.
First, go to the AMPPS website at Ampps.com and install the program on your VPS server. (We are going to assume you already know how to use Remote Desktop Connections.) After installing the program, you will need to start up the AMPPS server. Notice your taskbar has a new icon. This is going to represent your AMPPS control center. Go ahead and start both the Apache and MySQL services. This is basically “activating” your server and will allow it to be used to host your site.
Step Four: Put Your Files in the Right Place
After you have installed the software, you are going to need to set it up with your site. Browse to the directory where you installed AMPPS and go to the “www” directory. This is where you are going to need to drop your websites files. Once you have finished transferring the files to this directory, you can type “localhost” into your web browser and see the directory structure of the AMPPS server. If you placed your index file into the root directory of the “www” folder, your site should load automatically.
The next phase is going to be setting your system up so that it is accessible by other web users.
Step Five: Making Your Site Accessible Online
Our final step is going to be a little bit complicated so brace yourself. The first thing you are going to need to do is find out what the IP address of your server is. You can do this using the command prompt and the “ipconfig” tool. Once you have located the IP address, you are going to need to edit the “httpd.conf” file located in your AMPPS installation directory and change the default server name. It will look something like, “ServerName localhost:80”. Switch out “localhost” with your server’s IP address and after a restart, you should be able to access it from anywhere in the world. Now that we have the site online, we are going to need to connect the domain name to the new host. This can be done by, logging into your registrar’s backend and finding the section that allows you to make adjustments to your domain’s “A NAME”. Simply replace the current information with your new, updated server IP address and after 30-90 minutes, the changes should propagate with your registrar and your site will be accessible to the outside world. This differs on a site-to-site basis so you may need to check your registrar’s help section to find the exact method for changing “A NAME” records with them.
Well there you have it. If you are a webmaster that is looking to get more bang for your hosting buck, a VPS server is a great way to squeeze every bit of value out of your hosting dollar. However, as you can see from our example above, this isn’t exactly something a novice should attempt without having done extensive research. It is probably a good idea to practice going through the steps with a site that isn’t one of your main revenue earners the first time around. This will ensure, that if anything goes wrong, you are not going to lose any of your hard-earned dollars.