Linode VPS Hosting

A virtual private server (VPS) is a way for a large server to be split into many smaller servers, which then can be provided to others. In other words, a VPS is a virtual machine hosted by a large server. Companies that provide VPS services typically have redundant servers, backup generators, multiple Internet connections, and redundant hardware.

Thus, a VPS can be a convenient alternative to locally-run servers for small businesses, especially law firms, which are dependent on computer servers for their own mail hosts, websites, backups, and the like. The downside to a VPS is that most provide Linux functionality. Windows VPS typically cost two or three times as much as a Linux VPS. Furthermore, the cheapest services offer unmanaged services, which mean that the user is responsible for setting up and maintaining the virtual server by himself.

I recently joined
Linode, a provider of Linux VPS. (Link contains a referral code.) For $20 a month, they provide 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of disk space, and 200 GB a month in network transfers. They have various data centers in the US and London. I chose the server in Newark because my firm is located in New York. 

Selecting a closer server gives better performance but lowers geographic protection. 

For my operating system, I installed CentOS 5.5. This version of Linux is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Basically, a group of open source developers take the latest releases of RHEL and remove references to Red Hat and its trademarks and copyrights. CentOS is a well-tested operating system that is stable but does not have the latest software. 

It took a week or so for me to get used to Linux. I had to reinstall CentOS a few times to get the hang of everything. However, once I got used to the basics, things weren't that tough. Essentially, a LAMP server is all that's needed for the most popular web applications. A LAMP server uses Linux, the Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP to provide a programming platform for various web applications such as WordPress. I hosted a few WordPress websites with Linode and set up my file server to automatically back up onto the Linode VPS using RSYNC. 

Having more control over the web server allows for more security in WordPress. I installed AskApache Password Protect, which was not possible on the shared hosting of JustHost. I also set up a web mail server using Squirrel Mail, Dovecot, and PostFix. For a company that decides to host its own email instead of using Google Apps, a VPS may be a much better solution than running their own web server. (However, Blackberry Enterprise Server does not support Linux, so anyone interested in BES should be using Google Apps, hosting their own server, or using a Windows VPS.)

Of course, I didn't go through the trouble of setting up a Linode VPS just for website hosting and backing up my server. I joined Linode in anticipating of the forthcoming release of HoudinESQ Version 1.7, which is a web-based legal practice management suite that integrates with Google Apps. A hosted version of HoudiniESQ costs $64 per month per user, but a free version of the software for solo attorneys is available but it must be hosted by the user. This solo version is compatible with CentOS, so hosting HoudiniESQ Solo on my Linode VPS should be relatively simple to set up, and allows me to access the service from any web browser.

I will post again after I get HoudiniESQ set up and had a chance to play with it.


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