How to Choose an ARK Server Hosting Provider - 2019 Guide

Once you've figured out the basics of how to tame a dino and build a base, ARK: Survival Evolved is a lot more fun when played with friends. Joining a tribe and taking on the other players on an unofficial PvP server can be both exhilarating and frustrating. But spawning naked on the beach when everyone else has a massive fortress guarded by a dozen Gigas isn't much fun. So you've decided you want your own server, but what exactly are your options? That's the question we'll try an answer in this guide.

How To Host an ARK Server

For new players, the first step towards playing ARK with friends is often just selecting to open your single-player world as a non-dedicated server. You'll need a PC with pretty good specs if you hope to maintain performance, and you'll have to put up with the tether restrictions that force players to stay within a certain distance of one another. It also means your friends can only play whenever you're in the game. Another option is to set up a dedicated server on your own machine and play on the same computer or a spare PC you have laying around, but that can often result in poor performance and hurt gameplay. If you enjoy playing competitive PvP ARK, the last thing you want to do is to give the other tribe an advantage because you keep lagging. If you plan on running an ARK server on your own PC, make sure your computer has the CPU and RAM to handle it. You'll also need to be confident messing around with .bat files and port forwarding. If you want your friends to be able to join the server when you're not in-game, you'll also have to leave your computer on to keep the server running.

For easy multiplayer ARK gaming, Shared Game Server Hosting is the most popular alternative. This involves renting space on a larger, shared server. It's relatively cheap, incredibly easy to set up, and you can take advantage of an established, high performance network. There's a few things to consider when choosing an ARK server host that's right for you, and this guide will help you understand what to look for when choosing a company to host your server.

If your needs go beyond the standard 200 player slots, perhaps you need total flexibility in creating a specific server from scratch, or you're interested in monetizing your server, then renting a VPS or an entire dedicated game server are also options. But in exchange for the massive boost in resources, you'll get less customer support. If you think that's the best option for you, then check out our guide to VPS and Dedicated Game Server Hosting.

ARK Game Server Hosting Rental

This guide will help you to find the best ark server hosting provider so you can create a server that's customized for your personal style of gameplay with all the features you need and without having to pay for the extras you don't need. Renting a private server isn't expensive, and it lets you create your own perfect ARK adventure.

You might be tempted to start by looking at the cheapest server options available, but this guide will explain why there's more important things to look at before you start comparing prices. Initially, we'll go over the choices you face when buying a server, and the first thing you need to choose is....

Platform: PC, Xbox, or PS4

It might seem obvious, but the first step in choosing an ARK server host is to find a company that offers game hosting on the platform you play ARK on. That's because until Crossplay is universally supported, it's simply not possible to play ARK on one platform and join a server that's intended for another. That means that if, for example, you play ARK on your Playstation 4, you can't play on a server for PC or Xbox (and vice-versa). There is one exception - you can crossplay between ARK for Xbox and ARK for Windows 10 UWP (NOT the Steam version) The catch is that servers have to specifically enable the crossplay option, and not many hosting providers give you the ability to change it. So before you start comparing prices and ping rates, you need to look at which platforms are supported.

For PC gamers, there's a huge range of hosting providers to choose from – from budget friendly hosting that suit local, player-run servers, to high performance hosting for the ultimate server cluster with Cross-ARK travel. Servers for console gamers are a little harder to find. For Playstation 4 and Xbox One players, the number of hosting options has definitely increased over the past year, although it’s still far behind the PC version. No matter what gaming platform you use, you can easily use our ark server hosting comparison table to filter providers who support it.  The next thing you should look at is...

<a href="/go/survivalservers">Survival Servers</a> were among the first hosting companies to offer PS4 ARK server rentral

Survival Servers were among the first hosting companies to offer PS4 ARK server rental

Locations: Local or Global

If you're looking to set up an ARK game server for your friends to play on, choosing the server location will be easy. Most hosting companies will list the locations in which their servers are located, though some make it a bit harder to find by only letting you see and choose during the order process. Start by looking at the game server hosts with infrastructure in your region. Your goal should be a great game-play experience with minimal lag, and the cheapest game server host might not offer the best experience. For example, if you're based in Australia, you might find some cheap ARK hosting in the United States, but the high ping is going to kill the fun.  So, for a private ARK server that's just for you and your friends, you should look for a host with a relatively close by location.

If you're aiming for a wider audience and want to play with people from all over the world, a centrally located server will help reduce lag so it's fair and fun for everyone. Even if you found an awesome server host right near you in the Netherlands, if you want players from Canada or the United States to join you, you'll need a server with a good global network and low average ping. Some hosting providers will even allow you to switch locations at any time, which might be come in handy if your player base changes (or if you decide to move to another country - I heard Spain is nice in the summer!). It's important to note that while choosing a server in well known countries such as the US or Germany is typically free, some hosts charge extra for so-called “exotic” locations like UAE, Singapore, South Africa and the like. Once you've narrowed down your choices to the server hosting providers near you, it's time to think about the ability to customize the server to your specific needs.

Slots: 10, 50, or even more?

The number of slots you choose for your ARK server will limit the number of people that can join. Usually, more slots equals an overall increase in price, but a lower cost per slot. Your choice for the number of slots for your game server will depend on what kind of server you want. A lot of people who just want a fun, casual server for their friends will only need server hosting for 10 or fewer people. If you're lucky, you'll find a local game server host that either offers no minimum number of slots, or a minimum number around 10 or 15 slots. But with many hosting providers, even the smallest ARK server package has a minimum of 30 slots. Either way, have a closer look. Many companies offer great deals with their basic ARK package offering more slots for around the same price.

If you want to build a larger community, then you'll need more slots than the typical 10 slots server. Lots of providers offer a scaling rate where the more slots you get, the cheaper the price per slot is, which means more value for your money. Whether you want a small server for friends and family or a huge server full of people from around the world, it's sometimes better to start small and add more slots later as you need them. Just be sure to choose a provider to suit your future goals. You can use our comparison chart to see exactly the minimum and maximum slots and price per slot each provider offers.

Downloadable Content (DLC) and Mods

Not everyone wants to play on The Island! If you want easy access to maps and other DLCs, you need to make sure you choose an ARK game server host to suit. Some hosts have an easy drop-down menu where you can select your world map as The Center, Scorched Earth, Ragnarok, or Aberration, some require you to configure your world map using a commandline manager, while others, like Craft and Survive specialize in expansions and offer a huge amount of DLC and custom maps, which you can load to your server in a click of a button. So while installing a DLC should be easy for most users, if you don't want to deal with command line arguments or ini files, make sure to choose a host with easy DLC setup.

One of the best reasons to start your own ARK server is so you have total control over which mods are installed. The best ARK mods for servers are those that help improve general gameplay, like Primitive Plus, Death Helper, and Structures Plus. But you can add a whole new ARK experience for your players with mods like Stargate Worlds and Play as Dino! If you intend to play modded ARK, then you'll need to check if your potential server host supports mod installation. The ability to add mods sometimes comes with an extra cost. Some ARK server hosts have a custom console that offers a one-click install system. Nice and easy! For others, you'll need to use the commandline manager or edit an ini file on your server to manually add the mods. While that's not overly hard, if you already know you want the freedom of easily adding mods to ARK then that's one feature you'll want to look out for. You should also look for ARK server hosts that offer automatic mod updating, which means less messing around with the control panel and more game time.

If you want to create an ARK server that offers a totally unique experience, using a procedurally generated map is the first step. This lets you randomly generate your own ARK map using a seed or based on specific parameters. Not all ARK game server hosts support this feature, while others have a simple option to enable the Procedural Map Generator in their control panel.

Clusters and Cross-ARK Travel

Having more than one ARK game server enables you to cluster your servers together which allows you to create multiple worlds and have players transfer items and dinos between them (also known as Cross-ARK Travel). Not all hosts support clusters, and some charge extra for enabling clusters. Though not a must have feature, being able to travel between different maps can certainly enhance your ARK experience.

Latency (AKA Ping)

Latency, also commonly referred as ping is a networking term to describe the time it takes for data to travel from your network to the game server's network. Location is a big factor, but it also comes down to network quality. Low ping means a smoother playing experience. High ping means your game will lag and you'll have no chance against the dinos or other players. Ideally, you want to be able to play ARK with no lag, so it's important to choose a host with the lowest possible ping. A lot of server hosts will have demo servers set up in various locations which you can join to test the latency or ping yourself, for example, GameServers.com. You can also ask customer support for an IP of one of their servers to ping.

GameServers.com Provide a list of demo ARK Servers so you can join them (or just ping it through the command line)

GameServers.com List of demo servers which you can ping

Control Panel: Standard or Customized

The control panel is going to be where you first set up your own ARK server, and it will allow you to alter the configuration files, enable admin cheats, back-up your world, and install mods. A basic TCAdmin panel is what you'll find on most game hosting providers, and that's all you really need if you're just running a private server for friends – it's intuitive and easy to use. Specialized or bigger game server hosts will offer more options, some of which are customized especially to suit ARK.  A customised ARK control panel can help make server administration easier by allowing you to schedule tasks and in-server messages, or manage multiple servers. ArkServers.io and SurvivalServers are known for their highly customized control panels. If you need to administer your ARK game server while out and about, some hosts offer a mobile control panel optimized for devices.

<a href="/go/arkservers">ArkServers.io</a> has one of the best custom control panels for ARK

ArkServers.io has one of the best custom control panels for ARK

Official Updates: Manual or Automatic

Your host should make new ARK version updates available immediately. Just clicking the Steam Update button in the control panel should initiate any necessary updates without affecting your in-game world. Some hosts even have an automatic update checkbox in their control panel which means your server is automatically updated when a new version is available through your host. Note that some mods can break your server due to incompatibility with newer versions of the game, so be careful because it's not always easy to return to an older version.

Backups and FTP Access

Via the control panel, you should be able to easily backup or restore your world as needed. For extra safety, check to see if your host allows for regularly scheduled backups or even automatically backup your server every time you restart. A zip file of the backup is generally stored on an offsite system offering an additional copy that can be restored in case something goes wrong.

Full FTP access makes it easier to administer your server, and it's a feature supported by most game server hosts. FTP access will allow you to upload or download files between your computer and the server. This can be handy for downloading backups, or even uploading existing configuration or save files. If you are tech savvy, this will also allow you to migrate to another host if you choose, which brings us to the next point in the guide...

Migration: Moving between hosting providers

Some server hosts will offer the ability to migrate data from, or to, another host. If you're not happy with your current ARK host and you're looking to change servers, this might be the most important feature for you. Additionally, it's important to make sure you can migrate from your new host, in case you'll want to move to another one in the future. Some hosts will be happy to offer a migration service for free, but in most cases this will be a service addon, so better check their policies before choosing. Uploading a local save from your own computer to your new server is another option which should be possible just with FTP access.

DDoS Protection

Distributed Denial of Service attacks (commonly referred to as DDoS) are attempts to cripple or shutdown online services by bombarding them with traffic from multiple sources. Specialized software and hardware, or multiple redundant servers, are needed to prevent DDoS attacks or minimise downtime in the event of an attack. DDos protection might seem pretty standard, and most hosts offer it to protect themselves as much as to protect you, but a lot of server hosts either don't provide protection or only offer it on some network locations. This might not be a big deal for small private ARK servers aimed at casual gameplay with friends, but if you intend to market your ARK server to a wider audience with guaranteed up-time, DDoS protection is something you want to check for.

Branding

Many low-cost server hosts use branding as a way to offer cheap prices. Branding might include their company name at the beginning of your server name, or it might involve a semi-intrusive message of the day that pops up when players join the server. Sometimes it costs extra to remove the company branding, and other times can you get a small discount if you add it. If you want a cheap private server to enjoy with friends, the branding might not bother you. But if you want a more professional look, choose a company that offers free debranding.

Price: Cheap can come at a cost

Finally, if you've found several companies offering a local network with low ping, a good number of slots, an intuitive control panel, and with all the DLC and features you need, it's time to look at price. In most cases, you should be able to find a great game server for less than $1 per slot if you're in Australia, and around 50c for users in the United States or Europe. Obviously you want the best bang for your buck but remember, the cheapest game host is not likely to be the best option, so make sure you know what you're paying for.

Company Information

Once you've settled on one or two potential server hosts, take a look at their individual company information before you sign up.

Customer Support

Good customer support is essential when choosing a host for your server. At some point, you're guaranteed to need to contact them with some kind of issue, so it helps to know how responsive they are to customer enquiries before you sign up. Check their website for contact options. In addition to the usual ticket system, do they offer chat services or email support? You could even try contacting them to ask a few questions and judge their professionalism and response time before deciding.

Refund Policy

If you're not sure your potential host can offer the services you need, it might be worthwhile asking them if they'll create a test server for you to trial. Hosts won't always advertise the possibility of a trial, but if you contact them you might be surprised by their service. If a trial isn't possible, you need to be clear on their refund policy. Some game server hosts will offer refunds if requested within the first 24 to 72 hours and in rare cases even 7 days. Others clearly state that they don't offer refunds except under extreme circumstances. If you're still unsure, try googling refund + the server hosting provider name to get an idea of other people's experiences with them.

Year Established

You can always check to see how long the company has been in business. If they've been servicing the gaming market for several years there's a good chance they're doing something right. Some companies focus on servicing just one or two games. A game server host specializing in ARK is going to make it their business to tailor their services to offer the best user experience for that game. On the other hand, larger companies that offer a range of hosting services are likely to have extensive infrastructure. A company that has grown with online gaming and who has a solid track record of providing reliable service is likely to know what they're doing and be around to support you in building a successful server, but it's important to remember they have many customers and as such it can be sometimes challenging to get their attention.

Reviews & Ratings

Reading online reviews and ratings from previous or existing customers is usually a must when it comes to spending money. If you're looking for specialized features for your server, searching reviews for customer feedback can be a great way to judge if your potential game server host is living up to their claims. You can see if customers in your local area are getting low ping, check on downtime, look out for deals or coupons, and see what features are important to those who are already running successful servers. The official ARK community forum and the ARK Steam community are both great places to find reviews on game servers and server hosts, and TrustPilot is a well established site which contains many crowd sourced customer reviews for game server hosting companies.

<a href="/go/nitrous">Nitrous Networks</a> was and still is the #1 host by TrustPilot ratings since BestArkHosting.com first went live

Nitrous Networks is still the #1 host by TrustPilot ratings since BestArkHosting.com first went live

Conclusions

To summarize, here are the basic steps to take when searching for an ARK server hosting provider:

  1. Choose a platform: Xbox, PC, or PS4
  2. Choose a location: the closer the better, but don't forget not everyone lives near you
  3. Ping your potential host!
  4. Think about slots: Are you playing with friends or building a community?
  5. Figure out your budget, usually it's better to think about it in terms of price per slot
  6. Check support for Mods & DLCs
  7. Check if you can you migrate from and to your new host
  8. Send a support ticket to the new host and test their responsiveness and manner and while you're at it, if there's something you're not sure about, ask them!
  9. While you're at it, ask them about backups, migration, ddos protection or any other thing you're not sure about
  10. Do a bit of research: find reviews, figure out the refund policy, find out when it was established


Hopefully this guide has helped you to become more confident when looking at all the options when choosing an ARK server hosting provider. For an easy to understand summary of the features offered by the most popular ARK game server hosts, check out the ARK server hosting comparison table in our homepage.