- Popular Game Server Hosting Options
- What is a Dedicated Game Server?
- Game Server Hosting vs VPS Hosting
- Top Game Server Hosting Options
- How to Choose Game Server Hosting
- Do You Need a Dedicated Server for Gaming?
- Is It Worth Going to a Gaming-Focused Host?
- How Much do Gaming Servers Cost?
Multiplayer gaming has revolutionized the industry. In my opinion, few things are more fun (or addicting) as playing a game of Rust with your friends.
And nothing is more annoying than the l word:
If you want to run a game server for you, your friends, and others, a laggy server is a death sentence. Nobody likes to lag, and nobody likes a server with terrible performance.
But why am I qualified to write this article? Why should you trust some random guy on the internet?
Well, as a super gaming nerd and someone who’s hosted servers, and tried more than a dozen hosting companies for a variety of games, I’m pretty well-versed on the topic.
With that being said, in this article, I’m going to round up the top 7 best game server hosting companies I’ve tested, and teach you everything there is to know about game server hosting.
Let’s jump in:
Popular Game Server Hosting Options
This table compares some of the most popular game server hosting companies:
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What is a Dedicated Game Server?
Game servers are like traditional web hosting servers but used purely for gaming. Rather than having to host a game on your computer - which drains computing power and network resources - dedicated servers make multiplayer gaming fun for everyone.
Just like websites are hosted on servers, so are gaming lobbies. Gamers connect to a server that allows everyone to play together. Your computer handles graphics, but there’s so much more going on behind the scenes.
Servers are responsible for transmitting enough information about its internal state so that its connected clients (people playing the game) can maintain their version of the game in real-time. That means tracking movement, remembering how much loot is in your chest, registering gunshots, etc.
Game Server Hosting vs VPS Hosting
Choosing between a typical game server hosting provider and VPS hosting can be difficult for beginners, so let’s break it down.
According to C# Corner:
A dedicated server is a physical computer in a data center. When you run software on a dedicated server, it runs on the "bare metal". The full resources of the physical machine are available to the user and any software they run.
On the other hand:
A VPS is a virtual machine. You can think of it as a simulated server running in software — a hypervisor — on a dedicated server. That makes virtual servers flexible: they can be resized or moved to a different physical server.
What’s the bottom line here?
When you rent a dedicated server, you can make use of the full power of the machine. Nobody else can draw system power away from your game.
Conversely, a VPS is basically a segmentation of a dedicated server. There may be several VPS servers on a single dedicated server, and the computing power of the server is split between several VPS.
You can choose how much power you’re renting with a VPS, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you pay for.
Just like gyms tend to have more members than they can handle all at once, VPS providers tend to sell more space on the server than it can handle, hoping everyone won’t use the server at one time.
This can cause slowdowns if that does occur, which makes for an unpleasant gaming experience cough cough, lag.
Dedicated servers also have limits on their resources, but they’re clearly displayed before you buy a server, and you know that’s exactly what you’re going to get. After cross-referencing the game requirements with the server’s computing power, you’ll know which server is best for you.
Choosing a cheap VPS may be good if you want hosting on a budget, but keep in mind you get what you pay for. They allocate minimal processing power and RAM, which isn’t enough for even a simple game.
Take Minecraft, for example. Minecraft servers require a minimum of 2GB of RAM, and some cheap VPS providers start at 1GB or even less. If you unknowingly paid for a VPS server expecting terrific performance, you’d be sorely mistaken.
That’s why dedicated servers typically offer the best gaming performance. Ranging from average to powerful machines, dedicated servers are capable of hosting hundreds of players at the same time without issue.
Game Hosting Pros & Cons
Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of using dedicated hosting:
1. A dedicated server is entirely yours
The first advantage of choosing a dedicated game server host is that, well, it’s dedicated.
Yes, it’s obvious, but the importance of this cannot be overstated. When you choose a dedicated hosting provider, you won’t have to worry about other people clogging up the server’s processing power. Dedicated servers are entirely yours, and are (almost) always free from lag and downtime, assuming you choose a good hosting provider.
2. Better performance & enhanced security
Second, because you’re not sharing the server with anyone else, you can expect enhanced performance and esecurity. Choosing a dedicated hosting service guarantees maximum uptime for your game. Shared hosting options are typically used for websites with low to medium traffic. Trying to host a large Rust server, for example, on a shared server would be a nightmare.
Shared servers and VPS servers are typically locked to their default settings or at the very least are less customizable than dedicated servers.
Because a dedicated server doesn’t belong to anyone else but you, there are far more options in terms of customization. You can tweak the server to your exact needs in terms of CPU, RAM, disk space and software.
Creating a custom environment designed for your exact needs is incredibly beneficial, especially when it comes to hosting a video game server.
The main disadvantage of using dedicated game server hosting is the extra cost. You’re paying a premium to enjoy the flexibility, reliability, and performance of a dedicated server.
And while you could probably get away with cheap VPS hosting on a small website or even a tiny server, it’s not ideal. Once you have more than a few players, performance will take a massive hit, which is horrid for all parties involved.
As you can (hopefully) see, the advantages of dedicated game servers far outweigh the cons.
Top Game Server Hosting Options
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For the last several months, I’ve been looking for a new server company to host with.
I was a hosting virgin when I bought my first Rust server, hoping for the best.
And while things were alright at first, things didn’t go so well in the end, and I can’t recommend them to you anymore.
That’s why I’ve been researching and testing new game server hosting companies to find the best server company for me and you to host with.
This time, I knew what to look for:
1. Reliable servers: First and foremost, I was looking for servers that didn’t crash or lag.
2. Control Panel: I wanted a control panel that was simple, intuitive, but had all of the options I needed for mods, plugins, and more.
3. Support: The importance of going with a hosting company that cares about their customers with terrific support cannot be overstated, especially if you’re transfering a server from another company to theirs.
4. Price: And lastly, I wanted to find a company that offeres all of the above without breaking the bank.
After spending months testing different servers out, asking the companies loads of questions, giving their support team a run for their money, and comparing all of their prices against one another, my testing is complete.
Now, I can confidently recommend the top 7 best server hosting companies, for just about every game.
Let’s dive in:
With over 10 years of experience, GTX Gaming offers reliable, high performance game servers at a terrific price.
- Great performance
- Competitive pricing
- Free game switching
- Custom control panels
- Worldwide support
- Knowledgebase could be better
- Support could be faster
As you’ll find out in our GTX Gaming review, they’re one of the best game hosting companies around.
Brand reputation, performance, support, ease of use and insane value all come to mind when I hear their name.
I tested their Rust servers with my friends and I was blown away by not only the performance but their pricing as well.
Offering premium hosting for a variety of games, Host Havoc prides themselves on their performance, support, and dedication to their customers.
- 99.9% Uptime
- Servers around the world
- Best game server hosting support
- Great control panel
- Easy plugin/mod support
- High minimum server slot count
- No free trial
Host Havoc is my overall number one pick. I’ve been using them since 2016 when I wanted to go with a new hosting company for my Rust server, and I haven’t looked back ever since.
They blew me away in all four aspects of the criteria I mentioned above. Aside from their terrific performance and uptime, I love their support team.
In my experience their average response time was around 10 minutes, which is faster than any of the other companies I’ve tried. Most of my tickets were swiftly answered within just 5 minutes of asking the question.
Usually they would link to a helpful article on their resource page that solved the problem, and when that wasn’t enough, a support staff member would personally help me out.
And while their control panel is incredibly easy to use (another great feature of Host Havoc) you’re bound to run into issues with your server eventually, so having a responsive and helpful support team is crucial.
Host Havoc has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and in my experience, it’s been 100%. The only time my server went down was game related, not Host Havoc related (which I found out after their support team helped me.)
I’ve not had any issues with them (so far), and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a gaming server. Whether you want to play Rust, ARK, Minecraft, or any of the other 25 games they offer (including Terraria), you can’t go wrong here.
Click the red button below to check them out, or the blue button to read our Host Havoc review.
Not only do they have great servers and an awesome control panel, they also have an amazing support team. Their responsiveness and helpfulness absolutely blew me away, especially when compared to the other companies on this list.
- Terrific performance
- Great support
- Fair pricing
- Servers all over the world
- Lots of games
- Some of their support documentation is lacking
- Control panel has less functionality than others
Before I began using PingPerfect, I was hosting my server with a different company. Traditionally, transfering a server is an absolute nightmare.
But that wasn’t the case with PingPerfect.
They transferred all of my data from another company to theirs, the first time. That was surprising, to say the least. They’re also a company that’s open-minded and take suggestions from their user base.
Ping Perfect is a large company with server nodes around the world. They probably have a server node near you, wherevever you live.
Whether you want to play ARK, Rust, 7 Days to Die, or any of the other 130+ games they support, Ping Perfect is a great option.
Game Server Kings
Despite having a limited game selection, Gameserverkings' servers are fast, reliable, and best of all, cheap.
- Terrific performance
- Great support team
- Affordable prices
- Support less than 10 games
GSK aims to make their service “less about technical configuration, and more about playing the game.”
That’s a breath of fresh air, considering most hosting companies can be a pain in the ass.
After all, paying for dedicated game hosting is supposed to make your life easier, not harder!
How to Choose Game Server Hosting
Alright, you’ve decided to go with dedicated game server hosting. Awesome!
You’re not done yet though - now, it’s time to choose your hosting company. Here are some things to keep in mind before you make a decision:
One of the first things I look at before I buy game server hosting is the proximity of the nearest server to my home. It’s also important to consider where the majority of your server’s player base live too.
The farther you are from the server, the worse your connection will be. That’s why gaming with Londoners when you live in San Francisco is a horrible idea.
Choosing a server location closest to you will ensure the best possible connection and performance. If the hosting company you’re looking at doesn’t have servers near you, it’s best to go with a company that does.
Even if you have to pay a bit more to get hosting closer to your house, it’ll surely pay off. Paying for a dedicated game server across the world is pointless because you’ll lag anyway.
Generally, if the server node is on your continent, it should be okay, but if you live somewhere huge like the United States (probably most of you reading this) pick a server closest to the side of the US you live.
The more players you want to support at once, the more server slots you’ll need.
And the more server slots you have, the more powerful the server must be.
That’s why it’s usually okay to host a few people on a dedicated server hosted from your own computer.
But if you want to have more than 10, 20, hundreds, or thousands of players, you’re going to need a pretty powerful dedicated server with lots of computing power.
More players on a server at one time means a bigger map, particularly in open world games like Minecraft and Rust. Big worlds use a lot of RAM.
And if you have a lot of people on at the same time, you’re going to need a powerful processor that’s capable of handling everyone’s actions at the same time.
This isn’t the case for a small server with a few people - you can get away with (more or less) a potato for a CPU.
But if you want fifty, one hundred, or two hundred players on at once, you better make sure you have a capable CPU.
Check the server requirements of the game you’re playing before making a decision.
Also, it’s important to note that servers with many slots will use up a lot of bandwidth as well. Unless you have world-class internet, you and your server’s members will experience severe lag once there are more than 5-10 active members.
Lastly, many servers will offer a ton of slots, say, a maximum of 250. And while a server that’s supposed to be capable of hosting 250 people is awesome, that’s usually not the case.
If everyone logged on at once, the server would surely go down. Oftentimes servers advertise more slots than they can handle. Theoretically speaking, you can set the maximum slot count to whatever you want. But being able to handle that many people is a different story.
Even things like mods, plugins and DLC can slowdown servers. The more plugins you have, the more your server has to compute on top of its already large workload.
Make sure you know the game’s server requirements, and calculate how much computing power and bandwidth you’ll need before choosing your server host.
Server Latency (AKA Ping)
Ever lagged before? It’s because you had a high server latency (ping). Server latency is a measure of the time it takes for information to be sent and received between your computer and the server.
Higher ping means slower connection speed, and more lag. And if you’ve ever gamed before, you know lagging is one of the most infuriating things you can experience.
Purchasing a server with high latency issues is a surefire way to have a terrible time and piss off your server’s community.
That’s why testing your hosting provider’s speed is important prior to making a decision. Or at the very least, read what others have to say about their latency, especially those that live near you.
Downloadable Content (DLC) and Mods Support
There are many game server hosting companies, but not all of them support mods and plugins.
Considering mods and special plugins are half the fun, buying a server without mod support is a bad idea, unless you plan on running a vanilla server.
For example, imagine buying game server hosting for a modded minecraft game like FTB (Feed The Beast), only to find out your hosting provider doesn’t support mods.
Fortunately, most modern game hosting companies do support modpacks and plugins, as they know their customer base wants to run mods on their servers.
Before buying game server hosting, check their mod support to make sure it’s compliant with what you’re looking for. You may also want to know how easy/hard it is to add mods to your server once it’s been purchased.
Do you have a control panel? Does it take the click of a button, or is there more involved?
That brings us to our next point:
Control Panel (Standard or Customized)
According to Server Mania:
The control panel is an interface that server administrators use to deploy and manage game servers, often automatically in response to the needs of the hosting provider's clients. The interface itself is the tip of the iceberg and depends on a library of scripts and tools to do its job. A control panel oversees multiple servers, and, for larger game server hosting providers, multiple dedicated servers.
In laymans terms, the control panel is used to manage all aspects of the server. From increasing player count to adding mods and plugins, the control panel is your one-stop shop for server settings.
When you host a server on your own computer, you’ll end up with a folder full of server files and a terminal where you can enter commands to change server settings.
A game hosting provider’s control panel is pretty much the same thing, with a far easier to understand user interface. Rather than having to type console commands and mess with folders, hosting companies make it easy with a well-designed control panel. In fact, that’s one of the value propositions hosting companies have to offer.
If you’re not hip to current server technology, it’s in your best interest to choose a hosting company with an easy-to-use control panel. Though they’re all easier than hosting a server yourself, many control panels have so many buttons, settings, and pages, they themselves can be hard to navigate.
There are three leading game hosting control panel companies you should look for when choosing a hosting company. Most professional game hosting companies will use one of the following:
TCAdmin is one of the oldest and most well-known game server control panels. Developed by Balance Servers, TCAdmin is the control panel of choice for most large game hosting providers because of its robust functionality, dependability, and support for a vast number of games. It may not be the best-looking control panel out there, but I’ll take reliability and functionality over looks any day of the week.
Open-source and built on PHP7, Nodejs, and Go, Pterodactyl is a younger, better looking control panel than TCAdmin. However, it still has all of the same functionality, including WHMCS integration.
It also has a team of devs who have security top-of-mind, which is why the control panel features password hasing, 2FA, and HTTPS by default.
All game servers running on Pterodactyl include Docker support, which provides superb control over resources, heightened security, and custom environments tailored to suit each game. It’s not withstood the test of time like TCAdmin, but it’s certainly a viable option nonetheless. If your game server hosting company uses Pterodactyl, you’re on the right track.
Multicraft is a modern control panel with terrific gaming support for those with an interest in Minecraft servers. With a rich variety of functionality, Multicraft supports all Minecraft server versions, plugins, mods, and more.
If you’re looking to host a Minecraft server, go with a company that makes use of Multicraft. It’s the most straightforward, easy-to-use and reliable control panel for Minecraft servers on the market.
Choosing a game server hosting provider that supports official game updates is crucial. Updating your server should be quick and painless.
Too many hosting companies make updates a pain in the butt. You don’t want to lose your game files or have to reconfigure the entire server after a simple update.
Thanksfully, the three control panels mentioned above make updating your server pretty easy.
Whether you want to migrate your game server to something advanced like the Google Cloud or just another game server hosting company, make sure the hosting company of your choice makes migration easy.
Unfortunately, making migration easy is against hosting companies’ agendas, but it’s definitely a feature to look for.
You can either transfer your server to another company, or simply transfer server ownership. Either way, having this option available is always a plus.
Suppose you’ve been gaming on your server for months and you’ve built up a substantial community. There are bases everywhere and you don’t want to delete the server, but you’re not happy with your hosting, for whatever reason.
Would you rather delete the server, or have the ability to easily move it to another host?
I imagine the latter is your answer. Reputable companies like Host Havoc have support pages that’ll show you what to do. If a company doesn’t make it obvious, maybe you should reconsider…
Server DDoS Protection
DDoS protection is a BIG one. Any half-decent hosting company will at least advertise DDoS protection. Whether or not their DDoS protection works is another story, but that’s for another article.
DDoS attacks are designed to exhaust the resources of their targest, effectively overloading your server and causing it to shut down.
They happen more often than you think, and the last thing you want is an angry server member or competiting server owner trying to maliciously take down your server.
Top companies like Survival Servers and Host Havoc offer 24/7 DDoS protection, as do other big game hosts. Make sure your provider does the same.
Even the best servers have their fair share of issues - that goes with the territory. Expecting to host a populous game server without encountering any problems is foolish.
Enter customer support.
My grandma is always on the phone with tech support, but that’s because she can’t figure out how to copy and paste properly…
I never thought I’d have the same amount of issues and questions as her, given I’m a young chap who knows his way around a computer.
But after testing more than a dozen hosting companies on a variety of games, I’ve found that it’s pretty much impossible to escape technical difficulties.
If you want to be a game server host, the importance of choosing a company that cares about their customers cannot be overstated. This is the case with all businesses, but I’ve found it to be especially true with game server hosting.
When I had trouble logging in to my server, Host Havoc was available immediately via email. I received a response within 30 minutes, and my problem was solved shortly thereafter.
However, after testing GameServers.com I was disgusted by the poor quality of their customer service.
Every company is bound to advertise their “stellar 24/7 customer support”, but like all things in life, a guarantee isn’t necessarily guaranteed.
When reading a company’s reviews, pay special attention to any reviews that specifically mention their customer support.
The last factor to consider is cost - what’s your budget?
Cheap VPS game server hosting may run you $5-$10 per month, but I can promise you the server’s performance will reflect the price. Like all things in life, you get what you pay for.
Determining an appropriate monthly budget depends on what you want your server to be. A server meant for you and a few friends shouldn’t cost you more than $5-$10 per month.
Conversely, if you want to grow your server as large as possible, the monthly cost will need to scale with your server population. As you already know, more players means more powerful servers, which cost more money.
For most people, [spending between $29-$129/month is necessary, depending on the scale of your server. Anything less is probably too little for a server with a decent population, and anything more is probably overpriced.
If you want to learn more about how much game servers cost, check out our guide.
Do You Need a Dedicated Server for Gaming?
You always need a server for online gaming (like everything else online) but technically, you don’t need a dedicated server. That’s why games like COD used one of the lobby members as the host back in the day.
That’s also why COD lobbies were notorious for lag. Dedicated game servers significantly increase performance, and make the experience better for everyone. Additionally, COD lobbies are smaller than Rust, ARK, and Minecraft servers, for example, which is why they could (kinda) get away without dedicated servers.
So technically, you don’t need a dedicated game server if you’re okay with bad performance and lag. But if you want a lag free server for you and everyone else online, then yes, a dedicated server is definitely recommended.
Is It Worth Going to a Gaming-Focused Host?
Yes, gaming-focused hosts are much easier to work with than traditional hosting companies when it comes to deploying your server.
If you choose a traditional hosting company whose main customer base are non-gamers, deploying your server will be harder than necessary.
Gaming-focused server companies know their customers, and make it easy to deploy your server.
For example, I bought a Minecraft server from Apex Servers, and within 30 seconds of buying the server, my friends and I logged in successfully and were playing.
If I had gone with a regular hosting company, I would’ve had to jump through a bunch of hoops before being able to play.
Gaming-focused hosts are ‘plug and play’ in that most of time time, you can start playing immediately after setting up your server.
How Much do Gaming Servers Cost?
I hate to answer the question this way, but it depends.
If you want to game with a few friends, paying $5-$10 per month should be fine. But if you want to have any sizeable community on the server, you’re probably looking at $29-$129 per month.
I’m paying a measly $3/month for a Minecraft server meant for my girlfriend and me to play a survival world. The server doesn’t require any high-end equipment or anything because it only has to handle the two of us playing.
But if I wanted even 10 people to join, it would surely start to lag. If you’re taking your server seriously, it’s worth spending the extra money because you get what you pay for in the hosting world.