I have some sites hosted on a shared-hosting/cpanel environment and need to make a move up. I have some experience running my own server, but it is very basic (a local box to do live testing/file serv). My question is how difficult is it to run a VPS, should I buy a managed VPS (with stuff already installed), or unmanaged (blank box), and lastly if I go for unmanaged what steps should I take to keep my VPS secure? Edit: Also how difficult is it to backup files and databases? Can it be automated?
InMotion Hosting has a Managed Hosting team of system administrators trained to help customers with much more advanced customization, optimization and support. Launch Assist is 2 hours of Managed Hosting upon purchase of your VPS to help you configure your partition almost any way you want it. Normally, these two hours with our top tech guys costs $99, but all VPS Hosting customers receive it free as a part of their purchase.

One of the tools included with your Managed VPS within cPanel is Softaculous Free. Softaculous is another reason why these plans are easy to use. With Softaculous, you can setup software ranging from blogs to forums to CMS solutions all with a single click of your mouse. As the Premium Hosting partner for PrestaShop, you can also setup this popular eCommerce software with 1-click as well.
In a Managed VPS product, InMotion Hosting remains responsible for configuring and managing the VPS for the customer. That means we do the initial set-up, perform upgrades, and if something fails to operate correctly on our end, we fix it right away with minimal downtime to your site. You have access to your server through cPanel to do whatever you want with your site. We make sure the VPS gets regular updates, remains secure, and ensure that our resources run according to specifications. The rest is up to you.

Because Cloud VPS is an unmanaged VPS, it requires your own maintenance and setup. We highly suggest this product to those already comfortable with Linux and the command line. Not sure if this is what you need or worried about missing a control panel? Start a conversation with one of our Linux hosting experts and they'll point you in the right direction.
The golden rule for unmanaged VPS hosting is this: If you have a problem with your unmanaged VPS Account, it is your problem. If the problem is software related, resource related, performance related, need troubleshooting or configuration of software, or need general help understanding Unix or server applications, you are on your own and should not expect help from the web host.

Because you only are using a portion of the resources for the VM, you can have several of them running on one computer or server, as is common with hosting services. A hosting provider that offers VPS hosting has a vast number of physical servers that each contain multiple virtual machines. While demarcation and intrusion prevention within the physical machine is not a huge concern on your own PC, VPS hosts must have security safeguards in place to ensure isolation of each customer’s server. That’s why the terminology virtual private server is used – to denote the attention paid to privacy and the server programs that are typically loaded onto this type of VM.
Connect to the Internet using Network Address Translation (private subnets) – Private subnets can be used for instances that you do not want to be directly addressable from the Internet. Instances in a private subnet can access the Internet without exposing their private IP address by routing their traffic through a Network Address Translation (NAT) gateway in a public subnet.
Virtual private servers have become a popular choice for web hosting because they offer many benefits of dedicated servers at a lower cost. They also provide the added benefit of easy scalability. Since each VPS is virtualized, the configuration can be updated with a software modification rather than a hardware upgrade. Still, dedicated servers often provide better performance since all the resources of the physical machine are dedicated to a single server.
Partitioning a single server to appear as multiple servers has been increasingly common on microcomputers since the launch of VMware ESX Server in 2001. The physical server typically runs a hypervisor which is tasked with creating, releasing, and managing the resources of "guest" operating systems, or virtual machines. These guest operating systems are allocated a share of resources of the physical server, typically in a manner in which the guest is not aware of any other physical resources save for those allocated to it by the hypervisor. As a VPS runs its own copy of its operating system, customers have superuser-level access to that operating system instance, and can install almost any software that runs on the OS; however, due to the number of virtualization clients typically running on a single machine, a VPS generally has limited processor time, RAM, and disk space.[2]
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