Hosting a game server on your local PC is easy. Many multiplayer games have server clients built straight into Steam for fast setup, while others only require running a bat file or running a few commands. Additionally, if you have access to fiber, your internet connection is probably capable enough to support at least 5-10 people.
So, why should you bother shelling out for a VPS server for your game hosting? There are five main reasons to upgrade from a home server:
- Availability: A home server is only active while your PC is turned on. If your friends want to play while you're alseep or out of the house, then they are out of luck. A VPS server allows you to give users access to your game server 24/7, 365. Of course, your home internet is also a lot more likely to go down than a VPS, which will be housed in a data center with high standards for availability and may include DDoS attack protection.
- Capacity: Yes, your home hardware may be able to support a few users, but it's unlikely to be a good fit for dozens or more. Aside from the limiting factor of your upload speed, hardware matters. Each player on your server will consume RAM and CPU resources, which will be in especially short supply if you plan to play the game while hosting it.
- Choice of server location: For the best experience, your server should be hosted as close to your users as possible. When you host at home, you do not have the ability to choose. If you live on the west coast but most of your friends are from the east, for example, then it makes sense to host either closer to them or at a midpoint.
- Latency: Home servers are almost always going to have higher latency (expressed as ping) than a VPS gaming server. This is because packets have to make more "hops" to get to users and more of the infrastructure between the host and the end user is usually high-capacity and well-maintained. Each hop has the potential to drop packets and slow the connection between server and host.
- Support: Server management can be a tricky business. A VPS host with a good support team can help you to troubleshoot and configure your server to provide the best experience for your users.
All of these are strong reasons to consider a VPS server over your home PC, but you can get the same benefits from a shared hosting provider rather than a VPS. So, why should you choose the latter?
Shared hosts vs VPS servers
It's easy to see why the shared hosting model is so popular: it tends to start cheap and feature a very convenient setup. However, it's our belief that many customers would be better off renting a VPS server instead. There are three main reasons for this.
Your own, better resources
Most game hosting providers conveniently don't advertise the fact you're sharing your server resources with other people. This leads many casual users to sign up expecting consistent performance, only to experience random slowdowns and lag spikes. Though this can sometimes be caused by poor configuration (more on that later), or sudden player spikes often it is a byproduct of the hosting model itself.
A shared hosting provider splits a single server into hundreds or thousands of servers and groups these into "blocks". Each block's resources are shared with all the other users in it, with the server's CPU, RAM, etc. dynamically allocated to game servers as needed.
The shared hosting provider tries to make sure that everybody gets an even share of the block's resources. However, if one customer suddenly gets an influx of users, everybody else can suffer.
A VPS server does not have this issue. Though it is still part of a larger server, it doesn't feel that way to the user. Each user has set resources of their choosing and is not impacted by others.
The fact that your server resources are set means that you can plan accordingly. You don't have to worry about somebody else slowing down your server -- if you have enough capacity to support a certain number of users one day, then you will the next. Additionally, the hardware used to power VPS servers is often of a higher performance than those found in shared hosting servers. You often have access to faster CPUs, faster RAM, etc.
Full control and visibility over your server
As you do not have to share a VPS server, it is yours to do with as you wish. You get root access and get to decide how it is configured, have control over its data, and can even destroy it at any moment. This might seem like an unimportant point until you need to make a change that your shared hosting provider doesn't allow. There are many things a server's config file alone won't let you do:
- Install mods (and for more complex mods, even FTP access may not be enough)
- Modify your firewall/ports
- Add additional security to your server
- Automatically start/restart your server at a specific time or under specific circumstances
- Choose your operating system
- Download resources via a web browser or install other services on your server
- The ability to ensure the privacy of your server and its users
Shared VPS hosts almost always require you to pay for at least a month of server time at a specific capacity. This is far from ideal, as demand for a server can fluctuate greatly. Server admins are left with an empty server two weeks after the latest DLC or update drops for their game of choice.
In the VPS space, there's more variety in payment options. While you can still find monthly subscriptions if you wish, it is also possible to rent a server for a specific number of days or pay for each hour your server is active.
In summary, a home server is just fine if you are intermittently hosting a game server for a few friends, provided you have strong hardware and a fast internet connection. For the more serious server host, paid hosting provides consistent availability, increased stability, and lower latency. Within that landscape, a VPS server grants users full control of a server with dedicated resources at a reasonable, flexible price.
Interested in using an anonymous VPS for your gaming server? Sign up to BitLaunch and talk to our support for some free credit.