If you’ve been considering a Virtual Private Server (VPS from now on) and have finally got one then this guide may be of use. Those considering a VPS may also find this guide useful too. Here are a few good tips for people who are either first time VPS users or are looking to become one.
Write down all your critical info
This includes things like version numbers of every program you’re using. If you need to keep notes about what the paths are to critical files you may want to do that too until you get familiar with the layout.
The main reason for this is that if you run into any issues (and you might) having the version numbers handy can help save time in figuring out what the issue may be. Sometimes it’s as simple as a program that’s installed is out of date and needs updating. (This can easy happen as newer versions may add features that will be relied upon.) Even the core aspects like PHP may need to be updated and having an incorrect version can cause problems. (For example some forum software may run on PHP version 5.3.29 but plugins for that software require version 5.3.35 or later.)
Write down your passwords and store them in a safe spot
Running a VPS usually means having loads of passwords. (One for: the hosting account, Domain Name Server, the Virtual Machine panel, SSH, FTP, any control panels you install like Plesk or cPanel, and finally the software you actually want to run.) Do not fall into the trap of using one password for everything! This is a dangerous thing as one compromised password (like if your forum/blog gets broken into) means they have complete access to everything. (At least if the passwords are different if someone gets into the end user level you can still shut them out and retake control through the server level.)
Also, speaking of password practices, follow standard good password strength advisories. (Passwords that have: at least 8-10 characters long, at least one uppercase letter, at least one number, and; at least one punctuation mark.)
Keep a log of everything
Any actions you take, make a note of it so you know exactly: what you did, when you did it and how to undo it. It is entirely possible that you’ll make a change that has effects you won’t see immediately. (For example if you change from PHP version 5.3 to 5.5.) You’ll think things are fine but it’ll take a few days before the issue becomes visible (like when plugins throw errors under specific instances). And in even those few days later will you remember what the last change you made was and how to undo it? (Even if you might, take the extra few minutes to be safe rather than sorry.)
Any tutorials you use, save a copy
Save a local copy of any tutorials you referenced because you never know when the host could go down (either temporarily or permanently). Without a local copy it can leave you in an unfortunate state where you may not be able to recall what steps you’ve taken (or may need to take again). Look into a youtube video downloader for any youtube tutorials you watch. Despite the adage that anything posted to the internet is there forever, this isn’t always true.
Check your spelling
Whenever you’re using a Secure Socket Shell (SSH) program take your time and check your spelling. Any misspelling can cause massive problems and it can be very hard to figure out why. Like with most programming endeavours SSH is unforgiving of errors. And there are certain commands that can take on entirely different meanings if the wrong spelling is used by accident. Be especially careful whenever using the delete command.
Note values before changing
Before you make any major changes to a file, take a copy of the file (or at least the values of whichever settings before you made changes) so that if something goes wrong you can easily reset to a version that you knew worked. There may be times when you’ll be experimenting with settings so it’s a good idea to know what the settings you have are in case you make a change that either doesn’t work or causes problems.
Although it may seem somewhat common sense, whenever using a VPS just take your time. Get used to using the system. Don’t rush into things and make huge changes. Being impatient only makes troubleshooting errors worse as compounding changes can aggravate an issue (meaning you may have no idea which change you made is causing what).
Those above tips are a good start for anyone looking at using a VPS. Many of these tips can also apply to web hosting or community running also. However they are only the tip of running a VPS. So check back soon for more on running a VPS.