A virtual private server (VPS) is a separate dedicated space for your website on a physical server. This partitioning is done through special virtualization software on the physical server. Unlike shared hosting where your website shares the server's resources with other websites, a VPS has its own operating system, allocated memory, dedicated processing power and storage space. This type of hosting is most suitable for business and personal users who require high performance and desire customization and control, yet do not want to pay for expensive dedicated hosting.
How VPS Works
Although a physical server can have many virtual servers on it, each VPS acts as if it is a separate physical machine or container. Since each VPS has its own allocated resources, its performance won't get affected by other users as much as it would with regular shared hosting. If another user makes a change that causes his or her VPS to malfunction or decides to do a reboot, the other users won't be affected. In addition, changing the software or configuration on a VPS doesn't affect other users.
VPS hosting offers several benefits over using shared or dedicated servers. Some of these include potentially lower costs than with dedicated and more control, scalability and customization than with shared.
- Less expensive than dedicated hosting: Since dedicated hosting allocates an entire physical server to your website, it is much more expensive for the web host than allocating a VPS for your website. Although prices vary by provider, a dedicated server can cost between $100 and $300 a month. On the other hand, you can generally find VPS hosting from $15 to $200 a month. By using a VPS, you will still get dedicated resources for a lower cost.
- More control than shared hosting: Hosting providers give you root access to your VPS, so you can install software, reboot the server, manage the operating system and perform other tasks just like you could with dedicated hosting. You also have more control over security than you would with a shared hosting service.
- Scalability: A major benefit of using VPS hosting is that you can change your service plan to increase or decrease memory and processing power as your website's needs change. This provides greater flexibility than a dedicated server that has a set hardware configuration.
- Customization: Using a VPS gives you the customization options you'd get with a dedicated server. Depending on what your hosting provider has available, you can choose the operating system, amount of memory, amount of storage, RAID configuration, bandwidth allowance, processor cores and processing speed.
Although there are many benefits to this type of hosting, it has a few drawbacks as well. The most notable are its cost over shared hosting, performance limitations, limited bandwidth and the need for more technical knowledge to properly manage the server.
- More expensive than shared hosting: Although using VPS hosting is cheaper than paying for a dedicated server, it is still usually more expensive than shared hosting plans. If your customization includes a large amount of memory and processing power, a VPS can cost significantly more than a shared plan. While there are free shared hosting plans available, paid plans usually can cost anywhere from $1 to $25 a month. It's common to find basic shared hosting packages for under $10 per month, while the cheapest VPS hosting will likely cost $15 per month and up.
- Performance limitations: Although your VPS would have its own allocated resources, the physical server still has its own Internet connection and hardware that could fail. In addition, you might find that performance degrades during peak usage. There might also be performance problems if your service provider doesn't allocate resources appropriately to each VPS on the physical server.
- Limited bandwidth and storage: Many VPS hosting plans come with a bandwidth limit and, unlike with shared hosting, you may have to pay fees if you exceed the bandwidth allotment. While some providers give you the option to have your website turned off if you exceed the bandwidth, this can be a problem for websites that receive a lot of traffic. In addition, VPS hosting plans usually come with a limited amount of disk space to store your website and its files. Shared hosting, on the other hand, often comes with unlimited storage, although each provider may set reasonable limits.
- May be harder to maintain than shared hosting: The ability to customize your VPS requires that you possess some technical expertise, such as knowing how to use its operating system, install software and configure modules. However, this may be less of a problem if your service provider offers good technical support, such as live chat, phone support and a community forum. In addition, you have the option of obtaining managed VPS hosting. While this type of VPS hosting can cost more and usually starts at about $25 a month, your service provider handles most of the server management duties for you. This option enables you to benefit from VPS hosting even if you don't have the technical knowledge to run the server yourself.
Factors to Consider
When deciding whether to use VPS hosting, you first need to determine if your website's requirements exceed the resources shared hosting can provide but don't require the completely dedicated hardware of dedicated hosting. If you find that your need for resources varies, VPS hosting may be the most suitable since you can get your service provider to change the configuration easily. However, you do need to consider the bandwidth and storage you expect your website to use in order to choose an appropriate service plan. If your website requires 100 percent of the processing power and memory of a physical server, then dedicated hosting would probably better fit your needs.
Customization and Control Needs
You should also consider whether you need the customization and control VPS hosting provides since there is a higher cost and more complexity than shared hosting. If you plan to run a simple website and don't plan to install software or customize the operating system your website runs on, shared hosting may be a better option. This is especially true if you lack the technical expertise in server administration needed to operate a VPS. However, if your website has outgrown what shared hosting can offer and you don't have the technical knowledge to run a server yourself, managed VPS hosting may meet your needs. There are also managed dedicated hosting plans available if you need the higher performance they can provide.
Make an Informed Decision
VPS hosting can be a great option for many websites. It might be the best choice for you if you're aware of its potential drawbacks, can afford it and have a website that would benefit from its advantages over the other types of hosting.