I’m a big fan of lightweight, cheap Linux VPS’s. They’re easy to spin up / down as needed as most providers do not require fixed length contracts. Given they’re so affordable it’s often cheaper to have one of these rather than leaving a dedicated server running at home chewing power.
In terms of choice, your best stop are the webhostingtalk forums. There are loads of deals and it’s a great place to have a look at reviews for a provider. While you often pay for what you get, it’s nice to check out who’s been around for a while and who are spoken of favourably. Some of the cheap providers are plagued with lots of network issues and hardware faults.
With the exception of some activities such as IRC, P2P, Sending Spam etc you’re basically free to do what you like with one (check your T&C’s and AUP’s first folks!). Here is a little list of ideas, good start to get your teeth into if you’re new with Linux, or VPS’s in general.
- Secure your Server – Harden the OS so it’s not so easy to break.
- Setup a DNS server – Host your own DNS zone.
- SSH Tunneling server – Get around work / or country restrictions with a simple forwarding service.
- Simple Proxy – Run an http proxy, for the same reasons as above.
- Webserver – Run an Apache or Lighttpd web server to host your own websites
- Monitoring Service – Monitor websites, your internet router, or the VPS itself. Why pay for an uptime service like Pingdom?
- Setup a backup server – Backup files from your home computer into ‘the cloud’