March 26, 2010

What is VPS? Virtual Private Servers Explained


Hostway Team

What is VPS Hosting?

A virtual private server (VPS) is a cost-effective way for a small business to gain more flexibility and efficiency than is offered with shared hosting without the expense associated with running a dedicated server. Most small businesses also don’t need all the power of a dedicated server, so VPS provides a good in-between option when you outgrow your shared hosting. Get the power and flexibility of your own server without the cost and complexity of managing outsourced hardware.

How Does a Virtual Private Server Work?

A VPS is basically a server running within a server. One physical server hosts multiple virtual servers, each isolated from the others. This is accomplished with software, called a hypervisor, that segments the physical server and keeps each segment separate from the rest.

Each VPS runs its own operating system, independent of the others, creating the illusion that it is actually its own independent server. Each VPS can also be rebooted independently.

VPS vs. Shared Hosting

VPS and shared hosting both share a single server’s resources. But with shared hosting, resources are shared equally between all users. This means the bandwidth any user has available will always be in flux, and each user won’t have as much control over how much bandwidth they have available at any given time.

VPS offers a more customized option that includes more control over your data and bandwidth usage. When you select a VPS service provider and plan, you can select one that allows you access to a maximum amount of RAM, bandwidth, and server space, so you can select how much you may need, and all of it will be yours to use at all times.

VPS vs. Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is true to its name. It includes a fully-dedicated host server where 100% of resources are dedicated to your site. VPS, on the other hand, has a dedicated amount of resources allocated to your site from a shared server, essentially giving you a piece of a larger whole. When you have a dedicated host, the entire host is yours to utilize.

What Are the Advantages of a VPS?

Every hosting solution has its own advantages and is suitable for different stages of a business. But what is VPS used for? A VPS is good for businesses that are feeling constrained by their shared hosting plans but aren’t ready for—or can’t afford—a dedicated server. It’s ideally used for organizations that are seeking:

  • More flexibility than shared hosting: With a VPS, you can customize your hardware and software configurations and run your own applications.
  • Lower cost than a dedicated server: The hosting company can spread the cost of running and maintaining the server across all businesses operating on a given machine. Depending on your host, monthly fees can be as low as $20.
  • Better security than shared hosting: Because you are not sharing space with others, their mistakes, faulty scripts or resource usage won’t affect the up-time or accessibility of your Web site.
  • Independent FTP and POP access: Again, other users's use of FTP and POP email don’t affect your access and speed.
  • Root access: Because a VPS functions as an independent server, you get root access, which is what you need to configure and install your own operating system and other applications. Shared hosting only gives you access to a directory on the shared server, which does not allow for software customization.
  • Lower technical knowledge requirement than a dedicated server: In most cases, you access your VPS through graphical user interface control panels, from which you install and configure your applications. Dedicated servers usually require manual configuration.

Do You Need a Virtual Private Server?

It might be time to consider upgrading from shared hosting to VPS if:

  • Your business is growing and getting more traffic: If your Web site’s resource needs are approaching your shared hosting provider’s premium-level plan, you can often get more resources and flexibility with a VPS for the same cost.
  • You want to run applications your shared hosting plan doesn’t offer.
  • You’re looking for increased security: With multiple sites hosted on the same server, your site can become vulnerable if another is breached or attacked. With VPS, you’ll have a more protected piece of real estate on the server that keeps your data more secure.
  • You need more reliability and uptime: Depending on how much each user is utilizing at any given time, the bandwidth on a shared server is constantly changing. If your infrastructure is going down, your business can’t run. VPS can offer you more uptime on your own allocated portion of resources.
  • You want more control over your server overall: With VPS, you’ll have root access to control your configurations and install any software you need.

Choosing the Right VPS Hosting

Here are some basic questions to ask and things to consider when you’re deciding on VPS hosting for your website.

  • Environment: Which environment will you run on? Windows and Linux are two options, which are both quite different, but you will need to start by selecting one.
  • Managed vs. Unmanaged: Do you have an IT person or team to help manage your VPS server? If not, you may want to consider a managed hosting solution where server management is included in the service.
  • Redundancy and Scalability: How will your server back up data? You need to a hosting solution with a failover plan to ensure your data is securely backed up outside of a single server. Also, if your business bandwidth needs to change or you need to scale up, can your hosting solution grow to meet your needs as they change?
  • Cloud-based or Conventional: Will you want your data hosted on the cloud or on conventional servers? Conventional servers tend to have more limitations, whereas the cloud tends to be more flexible and scalable.
  • Customer support: Even the best laid plans go awry, which is why you'll need support at the ready. Ensure that you select a hosting provider that will offer you 24/7 support. Without customer support available, you risk losing valuable uptime.
  • Price: Most hosting providers offer an allocation of storage and RAM along with a specified data transfer speed, IP addresses, and more. Typically, they charge a monthly fee for the whole package, so compare your options and see who provides what you need for the best possible price. Pricing can start at under $10 a month.

As more and more business is conducted online, an inability to scale digitally could also slow the growth of your business. A VPS solution like Hostway VPS could be the perfect solution for your expanding business. Hostway offers robust VPS with a unique approach that results in high performing cost-effective virtualization and efficient allocation of your dedicated server resources with the ability to add more when available.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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