How to Choose an ARMA 3 Server Hosting Provider - 2019 Guide

While it’s been out for a few years, ARMA 3 remains one of the best and most realistic military tactical shooter games available. With a wide variety of both single player and multiplayer content, ARMA 3 lets you experience true combat gameplay in a massive military sandbox. While some fans are waiting for Bohemia Interactive to announce ARMA 4, there’s still some fantastic new content being released for ARMA 3, like the new spin-off expansion, ARMA Contact, that’s was release don July 25, 2019.

Starting with multiplayer in ARMA 3

Because of the tactics involved, it’s essential that you have a solid ground in playing single player before attempting multiplayer. If you’re new to ARMA, make sure you complete all of the tutorials, the bootcamp campaign, showcase missions, firing drills, time trials and singleplayer campaign before considering multiplayer. Completing these will set you up with the basic mechanics of ARMA 3 and the range of keybinds you need to use. Plus, they’re a lot of fun! The advanced training missions will give you more experience with proper tactics, get you familiar with the variety of equipment in the game, and essentially just make multiplayer a lot more enjoyable when you’re ready to join a unit.

There’s plenty of information online with how-tos for new players looking to get started with ARMA 3. For the best coop experience it’s best not to cut any corners and rush into a public server for multiplayer. Singleplayer is the only way you’ll get the hang of the game and learn the tactics your team-mates will rely upon in multiplayer. Once you’ve learned the ropes with the basic principles of infantry combat (actions, navigation, and weapon handling) plus completed several simple objectives and learned the tactical concepts you need to survive, ARMA 3 offers the best experience in multiplayer.

Finding a good multiplayer server can be hard! If you’re a beginner looking for a relaxed server to play on, it can be a little frustrating trying to find your feet in an extreme MilSim or realistic warfare type server. The same goes for experienced players with plenty of hours in-game. If you want some hardcore campaigning with solid roleplay, there’s nothing worse than noobs who clearly haven’t even bothered with the tutorials. You might have a particular roleplay campaign or gamemode in mind, and not find any active servers that are looking for new players.

Plus, not all open servers have good admins or a welcoming player-base. If you’re keen on multiplayer but want to share a server with friends or start your own community, setting up your own ARMA 3 server means you get to say who has access, you set the style of play, and can enforce your game rules.

Advantages of running your own ARMA 3 server

Multiplayer ARMA 3 is 100% about teamwork and cooperation. You’re relying on your unit to help you take, hold, and garrison your position! The people you play with make a huge difference to how much you enjoy the game. If your style of play doesn’t match the rest of the unit, it leads to an unsatisfactory experience for everyone. Especially if you want to play ARMA 3 with a high level of roleplay. Playing with friends or promoting your server in a group of like-minded gamers means you can create the kind of ARMA 3 campaign that you have in mind. Your own server also means you can avoid the drama of dealing with people who have vastly different experience levels or different approaches to the game.

With your own ARMA 3 server, you decide how much of a challenge you want, and then customize your server to suit. ARMA 3 offers a huge variety of gamemodes, from RPGs to COOPs, Team v Team deathmatches, Zeus missions, Capture the Island, King of the Hill, Survival, and more. A definite advantage of creating your own ARMA 3 server is having control over the map, gamemode options, mods, teams, missions, and survival elements. You decide if you want to focus on cooperative no-kill PVE or full-on hostile PVP. You can set the best config options for your ideal gameplay style. You can also choose your favorite ARMA location or mod depending on if you want a harsh environment or something with more adventure and good storylines. If you want something completely different, adding in total conversion mods brings a whole new experience to the game. Creating your own ARMA server means you get all the benefits of playing coop with friends and can attempt large-scale missions with other people whose interests and style of gameplay matches your own.

Options for a multiplayer ARMA 3 server

If you want your own private server but you’re on a budget, a common suggestion will be to host a server on your own computer. For a small server to share with friends, hosting on your own computer is definitely an option. If that’s your choice, you’ll need a computer with decent specs to maintain performance, especially if you want more than a couple of other players to join you, or you need to also use your computer for other tasks at the same time. Covering a map 290km2 in size with photo-realistic terrain and a massive number of assets plus players can be rather demanding.

To maintain performance, you’re better off setting ARMA 3 up on a spare computer (assuming you have one laying around!) so you’re personal game doesn’t suffer. To make sure other people can log in when you’re not playing, the host computer needs to stay running 24/7, which might not be practical in a lot of situations and isn’t great on the electricity bill!

Hosting a shared server also means messing around with the Arma3Server.cmd file, target line parameters, DLCs, and setting up port forwarding. There’s a range of online community guides to step you through the process, but it’s often more trouble than it’s worth considering how cheap and easy it is to setup a hosted ARMA 3 server with a rental company.

The easiest and most popular method of starting your own ARMA 3 game server is simply to choose one of the many game hosting providers that offer game server rentals. This involves paying a rental fee each month for space on a larger, shared server. It's comparatively cheap and incredibly easy to set up. Most come with instantaneous setup, so you can generally be set up and playing within 15 minutes, including the time it takes to choose your own game settings. Most game server hosts offer packages designed for specific games, so you can take advantage of an established, high performance network already tailored to Vanilla ARMA 3 or any one of the popular expansions or spin-offs.

If you’ve decided that getting your server hosted is the best choice, then there’s a few things worth considering when it comes to choosing the game server host that's right for you. We want to get you set up and playing multiplayer ARMA 3 as fast as possible! So we’ve put together a handy guide to help you understand what to look for when choosing a company to host your ARMA server. We also have a server host comparison chart to show you at a glance who has the best deals on server hosting.

If you want even more, the next level up from renting space on a host server is Dedicated Game Server Hosting. This gives you an entire server that’s completely dedicated to your world without having to share computer resources with anyone else. If you’re aiming to recreate the full massive multiplayer experience on your own server, you plan on monetizing your server, or you need total flexibility in creating a specific ARMA server from scratch, then renting a VPS or an entire dedicated game server might be what you need. This option isn’t for beginners! In exchange for a massive boost in resources, you get less customer support and will have to pay a much higher monthly fee. If Dedicated Game Server Hosting is the direction you want to take, make sure you have clear goals and can manage your own tech setup.

Renting ARMA 3 Server Hosting

Going through a professional game server host and renting a private server to share with friends isn't expensive. It’s quicker and easier than doing it yourself, and it lets you create your own perfect ARMA military mission or roleplay campaign adventure. Our guide will walk you through the process of choosing the best ARMA 3 game server host to suit your personal style of gameplay. Get tips from experienced gamers on how to compare hosts, what to look for in a server provider, and finally how to find a package with all the features you need without having to pay for extras you don't want.

Locations: Local or Global

The location of the host server makes a big difference on the in-game experience. If you're looking to set up an ARMA game server primarily for your friends to play on, choosing the server location will be easy. For local, lag-free gaming, server hosts with quality low latency infrastructure in your region will generally give the best experience. When browsing hosting options, most companies will show a list of the locations where their servers are located. Other server host sites make it harder to find their locations by only displaying details as an option during the order process.

For any multiplayer server, the goal should be a great game-play experience with minimal lag. While you might have a small budget, sometimes the cheapest game server host won’t offer the best gaming experience. This is especially true if you’re based in a regional area or outside the major server locations. For example, if you're based in South Africa or Brazil, you might find there’s cheaper ARMA hosting available in the United States. But if you’re aiming for a competitive game that’s fair and offers smooth PvE interaction, the high ping will be frustrating for local players. If you’re setting up a private ARMA 3 server that's just for you and your friends, start your search for the best host with a company that has servers at a relatively nearby location.

If your ARMA server is aimed at a wider audience and you intend to play with people from all over the world, a centrally located server will help reduce lag. This will also help to make your server fair and fun for everyone regardless of location. If you’re already talking to people in an online forum about creating a server, check in with them to see where the majority of players are located before setting up your server. If you’ve found an awesome game server host right near you in the United States, it might be fine for players from Canada but, if you want to attract players from Great Britain or Australia, then you'll need a server with a good global network and low average ping.

Some hosting providers will allow you to switch server locations at any time, provided they offer a server in that location. This feature might come in handy if your player base changes. Keep in mind that while it’s easy to choose a server in popular gaming countries with good infrastructure like the US, UK, Germany, or the Netherlands, some companies charge extra for more countries with fewer options like Singapore, Australia, or New Zealand.

Once you've found several choices for hosting providers with servers located near you, it's time to think about what features they include, and how easy they make it to customize the server to your specific needs.

Slots: 10, 20, or even more?

The number of slots you choose for your ARMA server will limit the number of people that can join. The game server host allocates a specific amount of processing power to your server according to the number of slots you purchase. Each slot equals one player, so your choice here will limit the number of players and your game style options. Usually, adding more slots means an overall increase in price, but at a lower cost per slot. Your choice for the number of player slots you want to purchase for your game server will vary depending on the type of gameplay you have in mind.

If this is your first multiplayer server and you are just using it as a low-cost way to get more game experience with friends, then you won’t need very many slots. For a laid-back server to share with a small group of friends, look for server hosting for 10 or fewer people. There are a few game server hosts that either offer no minimum number of slots or have a smaller minimum number (usually a minimum of 4 or 8 slots). You’ll probably look to expand pretty quickly as the game is a lot more fun with more players. Most of the time you’ll need to start with the more common 10 or 16 slot minimum. For some companies, it’s likely that the monthly price for hosting 20 slots isn’t that much more expensive than 10. Either way, have a closer look at what else is included in the price. Many companies offer great package deals beyond their entry level plan that offer more slots or better features for very little extra cost.

If you aim to play proper military campaigns on your ARMA server or are part of a larger gaming community, then you'll want to find a game server host that has a higher slot capacity. You’ll get a much cheaper price per slot if you get a package with 40 or more slots. If you already have a lot of players who want to join your server, you’ll get a cheaper price per slot if you choose a host offering plans designed for larger multiplayer games. Obviously, the more slots you purchase, the cheaper the price is per slot.

If you’re new to multiplayer ARMA and you’re not sure what you need, it's better to start small and then add more slots later if you need them. Make sure you consider all the options and choose a server host to suit your future expansion goals. If you want to start off with a small server just for friends and family with the goal of building up to a larger server for people from around the world, make sure you take that into consideration when comparing hosting providers.

Our handy ARMA 3 server hosting comparison chart shows you the various minimum and maximum slots available from each of the gaming server providers plus the price per slot.

Downloadable Content (DLC) and Mods

One of the biggest reasons for starting your own ARMA 3 server is to be able to choose which mods you install and which DLCs you use. Many of the game server providers offer a range of different server setups depending on which edition of the game you want to play. Apart from Vanilla, the most common DLC and mod options for servers are:

  • Altis Life
  • Epoch (Altis)
  • Epoch (Stratis)
  • Epoch (Tanoa)
  • Epoch (Zombies and Demons Tanoa)
  • Exile (Altis)
  • Exile (Namalsk)
  • Exile (Tanoa)
  • SealDrop Altis Life
  • SealDrop King of the Hill
  • Tanoa Life
  • Wasteland (Altis)
  • Wasteland (Stratis)
  • Headless
  • Desolation Redux
  • Breaking Point

These add whole new game experiences by setting the players in different open-world scenarios. For example, the popular Altis Life is an interesting cops and robbers scenario that offers great roleplay options with all the crimes, drugs, and violence you’d expect of a seedy border town. Other full conversion mods add zombie survival elements, or more base-building, or put players in the middle of the World War 2 Eastern Front. While ARMA Contact is a singleplayer campaign in which you’re sent on a reconnaissance mission to investigate an extraterrestrial presence, the new vehicles, weapons, and other gear will also be usable in multiplayer assuming all players have the expansion.

There’s also a whole heap of great smaller community workshop mods that add new items, and a whole range of different weapons. The best ARMA mods for multiplayer servers are those that add new content or simple improvements to the gameplay experience like introducing realistic sound effects, better interaction menus, advanced combat environments, realistic wounding, and more.

Mod support is pretty standard for most server hosts, but sometimes the ability to add mods comes at an extra cost or it’s just not easy to install them. A lot of players get bored with Vanilla and will look for a server with a good collection of mods. If you want to immediately create a modded ARMA 3 server or you just don’t want to restrict your server to Vanilla in the future, then start by checking that your potential server host supports mod installation. Check whether they support a range of DLC options including mods, custom maps, plugins, and their method of installation.

Some server control panels offer a simple one-click mod installation system. If you know you want the freedom of adding mods then this is by far the easiest option. You will be able to install mods, custom missions, and other addons via a built-in Mod Manager. One-click mod managers make it simple with less messing around with the control panel and more time in-game. You’ll be able to easily switch between Epoch, Wasteland, and Exile with just a single click. Other mod support control panels will give you easy access to the range of mods available through the Steam Workshop but you need to subscribe, download, and install the mods yourself. Other game server hosts do support mods and DLCs but don’t make it quite so simple. In some cases, you need to use FTP (file transfer) to upload and install the mods. Some server providers offer a drop-down menu with only a limited number of the most popular mods available.

Latency (AKA Ping)

Latency, commonly referred to as ping, describes the time it takes for data to travel from your network to the game server's network. Your ping rate has a huge effect on game play! Location plays a big factor in the amount of ping that you experience, but it also comes down to network quality. Low ping means a smoother game playing experience. High ping means you’ll experience more lag. Combat-intense games like ARMA 3 rely on low ping to be enjoyable. You'll have no chance in Team vs Team or against attacking zombies if high latency means you’re response time is several seconds behind everyone else in the game. Ideally, you want to be able to play ARMA with zero lag. For the best multiplayer experience, it's important to choose a host with the lowest possible ping. It might take a bit of research and testing to make sure you choose a host that actually delivers on their claim of low or zero ping. A lot of game server hosts will have demo servers set up in various locations so you and your friends can easily join at the same time to test the latency or ping to each computer. If the company you’re considering doesn’t advertise a test server, it’s often worth contacting their customer support for an IP of one of their servers to ping.

Control Panel: Standard or Customized

The control panel is where you first set up your own ARMA server. The main server control panel allows you to alter the game configuration files, set the server visibility or password (for either a public or private server), enable admin cheats, select gamemode, make a back-up of your world, and install mods. The standard TCAdmin panel is what you'll find from most game hosting providers. It's straight-forward, intuitive, and easy to use. TCAdmin is all you really need if you're just running a private server for friends. Specialized or bigger game server hosts will offer more options, some of which are customized specifically to suit ARMA 3. Drop down menus and slider bars make changing config values simple. For example, Nitrado and gameservers.com are known for their highly customized control panels designed to suit specific games including ARMA 3. A customised ARMA 3 control panel can help make server administration easier by allowing you to schedule tasks and in-server messages, manage multiple servers at the same time, or switch between common expansions. If you need to administer your ARMA game server on-the-go, some hosts also offer a user-friendly mobile control panel optimized for devices.

Official Updates: Manual or Automatic

Different game server hosts handle installation of official updates in different ways. While it’s important to be able to quickly and easily install new versions and official updates, if you’re running particular mods you might not want updates installed automatically. In most cases, just clicking the Steam Update button in the control panel should initiate updates without affecting your in-game world. If automatic updates are possible, there should be a checkbox in the control panel so you can choose if your server is automatically updated when a new version is available. Automatic update installation is the simplest and most hassle-free way to manage game version updates and patches. But it's not always easy to return to an older version, and some mods could break your server due to incompatibility with a new version of the game. If you’re running mods, be careful when selecting how updates are handled.

Backups and FTP Access

Don’t take risks with saving backups of your game, particularly if you’re running a public server with a large player base. Nothing will make you more unpopular than losing your players’ campaign progress! Most game server hosts for ARMA 3 will allow you to easily backup or restore your world as needed. For added assurance, check to see if your host provides daily or regular scheduled backups, or automatically backs up your server on restart. Ideally, a zip file of the backup should also be stored on an offsite system offering an additional layer of protection if something goes drastically wrong with the server’s systems.

Full FTP access makes it easier to administer your server and store backups. This is 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 gives you more control and can be handy for downloading backups, installing mods, uploading existing configuration files, or existing game save files. If you’re tech savvy, FTP access will also allow you to migrate to another host in the future if you choose.

Migration: Moving between hosting providers

Changing hosts for your ARMA 3 server should be easy! Most server hosts will offer the ability to migrate server data from, or to, another host. If you're not happy with the service offered by your current ARMA host and you're looking to change servers, the ease of site migration might be one of the most important features for you. It’s also important to make sure you can migrate from your new host in case you want to change game servers in the future. Some hosts are happy to offer a migration service for free but, in most cases, this will be a service addon. It helps to compare migration policies when considering a new server host. Uploading a local save from your own computer to your new server is another option which is possible if FTP access is provided.

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 should be 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, ARMA servers aimed at beginners or casual gameplay with friends, but if you intend to market your game server to a wider audience with guaranteed up-time, DDoS protection is essential.

Branding

Many low-cost server hosts use branding as a way to offer cheap prices and advertise their company. In-game branding might include displaying their company name at the beginning of your server name, or it might involve a semi-intrusive message of the day that pops up every time players join the server. It usually costs extra to remove the company branding. If you want a cheap private server to enjoy with friends, the branding might not bother you. But if you are aiming for a more professional look for your ARMA 3 server, check to see that the host offers free or affordable debranding.

Price: Cheap can come at a cost

We all know you get what you pay for! Game servers are no different. Once you've found several companies offering a local network with low ping, the right number of slots, an intuitive control panel, one-click mod support, and with all the extra features you need, it's time to start comparing prices. In most cases, you should be able to find a great game server for less than $1 per slot if you're in Australia, around 75c for users in the United States, or 60p for those in the UK. Obviously, you want to choose a package that offers the best value. The best value package might not be the one with the cheapest monthly price on offer. Consider each of the points listed here to make sure you know what you're paying for and exactly who you are signing up with. It’s important to remember that the cheapest game host is not necessarily the best option. Find a balance between price per slot, control panel options, protection, and ping.

Company Information

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

You need to consider the following:

Customer Support

A great reputation for customer support is essential when choosing a host for your ARMA server. At some point, you're guaranteed to need to contact them with an issue of some kind. Before you sign up with a host, it helps to know how responsive they are to customer enquiries. Check their website for contact options to see if there is a contact method that suits you. 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 signing up. Unfortunately, some companies with cheap prices have few customer support staff, so it can sometimes be challenging to get their attention.

Refund Policy

If you’re new to game server hosting, or you're not sure your potential host offers the services you need, it might be worthwhile asking them if they'll create a test server for you to trial. Game server hosts won't always advertise the possibility of a trial, but if you contact them you might be surprised by their willingness to provide a test service. If a trial isn't possible, you need to be clear on their refund policy. See if they offer a “money back guarantee”. Some game server hosts will offer refunds if requested within the first 24 to 72 hours and, in rare cases, even up to 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

It pays to check to see how long the company has been in business. A well-established company can be the most reliable. It will usually say on their landing page or About Us page how long they’ve been providing game server hosting.  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, but it’s becoming more common to see hosts offering support for a huge range of the latest multiplayer games. A game server host specializing in FPS or combat games is going to make it their business to tailor their services to offer the best user experience for games in that genre. On the other hand, larger companies that offer a range of hosting services might have extensive infrastructure that you can tap into. A company that has grown alongside online gaming and who have a solid track record of providing a reliable service is likely to know what they're doing and be around to support you in building a successful server long-term.

Reviews & Ratings

Reading online reviews and ratings from previous or existing customers is a must when it comes to spending your 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. Reddit, the official ARMA community forum and the ARMA Steam community are all great places to find reviews on game servers and server hosts. TrustPilot is another well-established site that shows crowd-sourced customer reviews for game server hosting companies.

Conclusions

To summarize, here are the basic steps to take when searching for an ARMA 3 game server hosting provider:

  • Choose a location: the closer the better, but don't forget not everyone lives near you.
  • Ping your potential host!
  • Think about slots: are you playing with friends or building a community?
  • Figure out your budget. For larger servers, it's better to think about it in terms of price per slot. For a server for just a few friends, you want to consider the bottom-line.
  • Check support for Mods & other DLCs.
  • Check to see how user-friendly their control panel is.
  • Check if you can you migrate from and to your new host.
  • Send a support ticket to the new host and test their responsiveness and manner. While you're at it, if there's something you're not sure about, ask them!
  • Ask about backups, migration, DDoS protection or anything else you're not sure about.
  • Do a bit of research: find reviews, figure out the refund policy, find out when the company was established.

Hopefully this guide has helped you become more confident when comparing all the options for choosing a server hosting provider for ARMA 3. For an easy-to-understand summary of the features offered by the most popular ARMA game server hosts, check out the ARMA 3 server hosting comparison table on our home page.