Fully Managed vs unManaged VPS Web Hosting Servers
That's right. Managed VPS servers are similar to Shared Web Hosting in that knowledgeable professionals administrate the server, leaving you free to focus on generating content.
Each web host defines the term "Managed" a little differently, so you need to clarify with them exactly what they will and won't do.
WiredTree (my VPS host) does everything I could ever want. They do even more than Lunarpages did for me when I had Shared Web Hosting.
In fact, WiredTree even logged into my old account (at Lunarpages) and move my entire site to their server.
The only thing WiredTree would NOT do .. is tell me the average number of accounts they put on their VPS servers. Must be a trade secret. I give them points for not simply fabricating a number, or lying.
One of the guys who frequents the site (MrMagoo) administrates Linux servers for a living. Before I learned that I didn't need to know Linux in order to upgrade to a VPS, I was courting Magoo .. to see if he'd administrate the VPS for me.
It wasn't until I saw how much the tech support guys at WiredTree (Joe, Jake, Adam) were willing to do that I realized I wouldn't need Magoo's help. But of course I'm very grateful for his offer. (I feel fortunate to know Magoo.)
If you opt for an unManaged VPS, that means you're comfortable administrating a Linux server, and you don't need this guide. So everyone still reading will be opting for a Managed VPS.
All things being equal, you'll pay roughly double for a Managed VPS, over what you'd pay for an unManaged account. For example, $25 will by you a similar unManaged plan .. offering comparable features that cost me $50 (fully Managed). So you can $ave if you know how to administrate Linux.
Main thing you want with your Managed plan is periodic upgrades for things like » Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, WHM/cPanel, Fantastico, etc. These are items that would be difficult to update yourself.
With an unManaged VPS, you get a power cord attached to the physical server, along with a network cable. You also get a standard software installation, like you would with a Managed VPS, but that's pretty much it.
You must do everything else yourself, such as back-ups, troubleshooting most problems, and software upgrades. So you can see only those comfortable administrating a server would attempt such a thing.
Update January 2011 - After administering a VPS for a few years now, I can speak from experience and say that .. while it's true you don't NEED to know how to use the Linux shell, you should learn. Cuz that's where all the POWER is, and knowing how will make your life MUCH easer.