When choosing how to host your Drupal website, you have to select between the shared and non-shared hosting dichotomy. While non-shared hosting has traditionally implied the use of a dedicated server, the emergence of Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting has given the power and customizability of a dedicated server to users who can’t afford one. But in choosing between shared hosting and VPS hosting, which is better for your Drupal site?
To VPS, or not to VPS?
Shared hosting is cheap, but often lacks the types of control necessary for your website to operate. For webmasters who operate a Drupal website, this means that shared hosting may lack the permissions necessary to install new extensions or packages on your server. Not only is this a limitation on the growth of your website as technology advances, it also means that your Drupal website simply won’t work with many shared hosting options.
Will Shared Hosting Even Work?
Those who opt for shared hosting have to make sure that the modules and configurations that Drupal requires are available for your server. This includes support of PHP 5.2.5 and later, as well as PHP memory limits of at least 16 MB for Drupal 6 and 32 MB for 7. And if your Drupal website uses memory intensive modules like imagecache or cck, your shared hosts memory limit will need to be even greater. Fortunately, non-shared (VPS) hosting allows you to control your server and its configurations. You don’t have to worry about skating barely under memory limits, you can make sure that you use Drupal’s best database (MySQL 5.0), and that your database’s memory limits are ideal for your individual needs. You’re also able to choose between managed or unmanaged hosting, allowing you both the control and convenience necessary for you to run a successful Drupal website.
In comparing storage options between shared hosting and VPS, shared hosting appears to be the clear winner. VPS hosting might offer you as little as 10 or 20GB of storage space while incredibly cheap shared hosting plans claim to provide unlimited storage. This is actually a shared hosting marketing trick, because in spite of offering unlimited space, the host also heavily restricts the quantity of memory and CPU resources you’re allowed to use in any given minute. This restriction acts like a hard cap on your ability to make use of that disk space. (Huge quantities of space are probably not necessary anyway, since Drupal’s core files are less than 15 MB.) To make matters worse, Drupal websites tend to have relatively high CPU and memory usage, so shared hosting is often not at all viable for high traffic Drupal sites.
Finding Quality VPS Hosting for Drupal
Apart from the requirements and recommendations outlined above, you should seek a host with an excellent array of customer service options. This includes 24/7 e-mail, phone, live chat, and forum support.
While the release of PHP 5.3 was a crucial development for many Drupal web developers, most of the world’s hosting services were slow to adapt to the release, or simply didn't upgrade. HostGator was one of the first major hosts to switch to PHP 5.3, which historically makes them the best Drupal VPS hosting service. Another excellent option is Linode, which offers a variety of affordable and Drupal-friendly VPS packages.