What is a VPS? An intro to virtual private servers

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What is a VPS?

VPS is short for Virtual Private Server.

Essentially, a VPS is a virtualized server that acts like an independent physical (dedicated) server.

A VPS is created using virtualization software that divides the resources of one dedicated server into multiple virtual servers (VPS). Each VPS is allocated a specified amount of CPU, RAM, and bandwidth.

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Virtualization software divides the resources of a dedicated server into multiple, independent virtual servers environments (VPS).

How does VPS hosting work?

Generally, you’ll rent a VPS from a hosting company that houses dedicated servers in a data center.

A single server could house hundreds of virtual servers. But each VPS has its own resources and its own operating system. So it works just like a dedicated server but at a fraction of the cost.

It’s a hugely popular and flexible hosting solution, carving out a middle-ground between shared hosting and dedicated server hosting.

A virtual private server offers you better performance than shared hosting, lower prices than dedicated hosting and increased flexibility over either of the other options.

So, is VPS hosting right for you? Let’s find out…

Why choose a VPS over other hosting options?

VPS Hosting vs Shared Hosting

Think of shared hosting like a huge open office—everyone has their own desk but they’re essentially sharing the same space….and stealing each other’s yogurt out of the fridge from time to time.

VPS hosting is more like individual offices in a high-rise building, each with a lock on the door. And their own refrigerator.

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A VPS gives you more control over your hosting environment.

Performance in shared hosting is unpredictable, as many accounts share the same server without restrictions. And that means your site might experience performance issues if traffic spikes on another site on the server you’re sharing.

A VPS lets you utilize the maximum server resources allocated to you.

Depending on the provider, you may even be able to scale these resources when needed.

VPS hosting also gives you more control over your security.

You (or your host, in a managed service) are responsible for managing the security of your server— meaning that your VPS security is as strong as you make it.

On a shared server, on the other hand, all accounts share the same environment. An affected site on the server could cause damage to your site, even if your site security is strong.

VPS Hosting vs Dedicated Server Hosting

A dedicated server is an entire physical server reserved just for you.

And that sounds pretty great, right?

Well, in some ways it is. Dedicated server hosting guarantees maximum performance, zero sharing of resources, and the best security, as no one else shares CPU cycles with your applications.

But the cost of running and maintaining a dedicated server is just too high for most small companies…and many larger ones too.

You’ll need an in-house or outsourced system administrator for managing, patching, and upgrading the server. And when it’s time to scale up you have to purchase hardware and send someone to the rack to put it in.

A VPS is functionally equivalent to a dedicated server, and much more affordable.

With the right specs, it can offer a similar level of performance. A VPS is also easily scalable– in many cases, you can add new virtual resources in real-time with just a few clicks.

And because your virtual private server is isolated from other virtual servers on the hardware, your security is as strong as you make it.

Types of VPS Hosting: Managed vs Unmanaged

Depending on your level of experience (and how much you want to spend) you can either manage your own VPS or pay a hosting company to do it for you:

Managed VPS

A Managed VPS is actually two products in one: a VPS and a service contract that makes your hosting experience easier.

You’ll still get full control over your server, but you’ll also get support from the engineers who can help with installing software, updating your server, and keeping it secure.

Depending on the level of service, they can also help you with reviving your website after a possible cyber-attack or take full server backups.

Unmanaged VPS

An unmanaged VPS is a more raw server experience.

You’ll get access to the server with a pre-installed operating system, but you’ll need to install most everything else you want on your box from scratch. You’ll also need to set up your own security.

That means you either need to know how to do it or hire someone to do it for you. Some VPS providers do offer some basic services—like one-click software stack installs and automated snapshot backups—for an additional charge.

An unmanaged VPS is great for experienced server administrators as well as for aspiring developers and students. If you’re curious, there are great resources and tutorials to help you get started.

What can I do with a VPS?

The flexibility of VPS technology makes them perfect for almost any application. Let’s look at some of the popular use-cases:

Web Hosting

Websites hosted on a VPS server are faster and more secure (when properly configured) than shared hosting.

You can also run your own software or even host multiple websites on a single server. And if your site gets popular, it’s easy to upgrade to more resources—like RAM and CPU—to accommodate the demands of your growing traffic.

Blog Hosting

If your blog traffic is growing and you’re unsure if your existing shared hosting can handle it, a VPS may be the solution.

A VPS can give you the performance your blog needs to serve each visitor with speed, even when your traffic spikes unexpectedly.

Database Hosting

Hosting a database on a VPS lets you manage it in an environment that’s isolated, secure and scalable.

It’s ideal for large applications with many concurrent users accessing the database that expect fast delivery on every request.

Recent advancements in storage technology—NVMe drives—allow virtual servers to produce some mind-bending database speeds to keep your apps humming and users thrilled.

Application Hosting

Unlike shared hosting, a VPS is a server with its own operating system so you can use it to host, develop or test new applications.

It’s a great option for hosting your web app startup without blowing your whole budget on hosting in a couple of months.

Or for self-hosting apps to save money on SaaS subscriptions. Or for setting up a staging environment for your newest development project.

Advantages of VPS hosting:

  • Cost effective compared to a dedicated server.
  • A more private and secure environment than shared hosting.
  • Better performance and more control.
  • Customizable to your needs.
  • Easily scaleable by simply adding resources
  • Install custom software stacks and security measures

Disadvantages of VPS hosting:

  • You’ll need a bit of server-side knowledge to leverage its full capabilities.
  • It requires a bit of management and you might have to do a few tasks manually.
  • It costs more than shared hosting.
  • Security is your responsibility on unmanaged VPS servers.
  • Slightly lower performance compared to a dedicated server of the same specs.

Is a VPS right for you?

When picking a hosting solution, you need to consider a lot of variables— like your budget, your experience level, and what you plan to do with it.

So you’ll need to weight all those options.

That said, a VPS is an extremely flexible hosting solution that can provide tons of performance, resources, and control at very low prices.

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is a VPS?” we’ll move on to tackling some more specific questions about how to pick the right one for you.

And how to get started putting your new virtual server to work!

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