When shopping for VPS hosting providers, you’ll see that some providers give you root access, and others don’t. Usually, this dovetails with the hosting provider’s philosophy of how much they want to leave you alone. In some extreme cases, providers will only give you root access when you purchase a dedicated server!
At NameHero, we provide full root access for all our VPS products. Here’s an explanation of what root access is, and why you might need it (or might not!).
Root Access is Power – And Responsibility
Root access is basically the power to do anything you want on or to your server. Want to install a package? Go ahead. Want to remove it? That’s your choice too. Want to make a configuration change that can potentially repartition your disks? Well…if you have root access, you can do that. In short, root access represents power.
But it also comes with a frightening amount of responsibility.
A server is a very complicated piece of machinery – not just from a hardware standpoint, but from a software one. There are literally thousands of virtual parts that all interact with each other, and a misconfiguration of any of them can cause the entire stack to collapse. Imagine if you had the 100% free and easy ability to change anything you want in your own body. A simple change like increasing the length of your thigh bone will have catastrophic consequences on your health, likely break your tendons, and destroy your stability.
Sorry for that macabre example – it’s just an illustration that sometimes, the power to change a complex system is dangerous.
Root Access Isn’t Just About You
Professional server admins are themselves so wary of their root power, that they typically don’t go about their everyday work as the root user. They only temporarily access root privileges for specific tasks. This is because hackers have multiple ways to steal root access and permissions from users on the system. The less time spent in root mode, the better.
Using Root Responsibly
As mentioned earlier, NameHero provides all its VPS customers with root access. If you’re setting up a VPS server on your own, you need this to get things done. However, we recommend that you follow best practices while using root. For example, here’s an article from our knowledge base about disabling root access via SSH login, and performing admin tasks via the “sudo” command.
Managed and Semi-Managed VPS Hosting
Providers sometimes restrict or provide root access based on whether they’re offering “Managed” or “Semi-Managed” VPS hosting.
Semi-managed hosting is supposed to give you a lot more freedom and employs a “hands-off” approach. The provider will probably just install your software, update it, make basic security checks, etc.
Fully-managed hosting as provided by NameHero however, goes far beyond that. It also optimizes the server for speed, troubleshoots performance issues, makes suggestions for security, and implements best practices for maximum server performance and safety. NameHero also assists in migrating over websites and servers from one provider to another.
A Note on “Cloud Hosting”
“Cloud Hosting” is one of those terms that everyone in the industry defined differently. Ever since VPS virtual machines were no longer tethered to a single hardware unit, the terms “cloud hosting” and “VPS” have been interchangeable.
Sometimes however, it indicates a difference in the level of control you have. “VPS” servers typically have full root access, whereas “cloud hosting” often does not, even if they’re referring to pretty much the same type of service.
With NameHero, you get full root access on your VPS. But it’s something that should be used carefully, and not all web hosts provide it.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!