Choosing A Low Cost Virtual Private Server (VPS)

For my open source ‘playground’ I need admin access to a server. I wanted the output of my efforts to be ‘available’ online and I wanted all this control at the lowest price possible. All things considered, it made sense to go for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) to support my learning experiences as I’d have complete admin control. As a user familiar with the rich UI of Microsoft tools (including IIS and SQL Server) one of my challenges would be to install and configure the required software for my new Linux server from the command line only – where possible.

The server will host my blog (so it needs to obtain a reasonable level of up-time) but it’s not going to process commercial transactions and no business will suffer if I achieve 99.9% up-time rather than 99.999% (i.e. five 9s). Incidentally, three 9s equates to eight hours of unplanned downtime during a year whereas five 9s is just over 5 minutes… Additionally, I’m really not going to ‘hammer’ this server’s resources so, although I wanted something respectable, CPU processing power, RAM, I/O didn’t need to be excessive (think lean principles… any more than necessary is a waste right?…) What I did want was a reliable support team behind the hosting solution!

I took a good look at some of the solutions on www.lowendbox.com had a reviewed the options relating to memory, processing power, storage etc and eventually came to the conclusion that when it comes to cost vs. capability I couldn’t improve on my favourite cost-effective host (which I could not recommend more) www.contabo.com – A German company operating two data centres in Munich who have won various awards.

Their VPS M offers a server equipped with two high performance Intel CPU cores as well as with 6 GB of guaranteed RAM. It has unlimited traffic and 500 GB of storage. There are choices of several Linux distributions (as well as Windows Server 2012 and 2008 available). As they say:

…this is the power of a root server at the price of a webspace package at only 6 .99 EUR per month!

BTW. I am NOT on commission here… I just use these guys a lot, their support is fast and they’ve never let me down.

I opted to install Ubuntu Server 16.10 and there’s an option where they install Webmin + LAMP for free which does give you a basic GUI to interact with your server (this is reassuring for me – until I become a die-hard Linux administrator). They also prompt for the reverse DNS PTR record so I could add this domain ‘agileleanopen.com’

After signing up, I received the confirmation email and waited for notification the server was up and running – I received this within 1 hour – those Contabo boys are fast! I did take a peep at Webmin to see what was running on the box. The answer was ‘a lot’… I guess the default configuration is ‘all things to all men/women’ and I doubt too much effort has gone into server hardening… Perhaps a review of required services and basic server hardening awareness is a topic for a later date…

Later, I’ll also be considering (and configuring) a cloud-hosting environment with AWS but I wanted both options to compare and contrast – and blog about!