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What is VPS Hosting?
If your site's too big for shared hosting, but too small for dedicated server hosting, VPS hosting may be just the right solution for you.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server, and it's a type of hosting you'll encounter if you outgrow a basic shared hosting plan. VPS hosting offers a partially isolated environment along with more control, and the ability to do more advanced things with your website. The server space is divided into containers, and those self-contained servers are less prone to risks.
To better understand VPS hosting, you must first understand what both dedicated server hosting and VPS are. A dedicated server offers privacy, security, and dedicated resources. You don't have to compete with any other websites for bandwidth, speed, and storage space. It's your own private little island in the hosting ocean.
A VPS creates an environment similar to that of a dedicated server, but in a shared hosting situation. In other words, you're still sharing the physical server with other publishers, but you have a bit of private space within that shared space. So you're sharing an island with other natives, but your area is fenced off from everyone else.
Why Use a VPS?
Most beginner website owners start off with a shared hosting plan. Shared hosting is designed for small sites that don't demand too much. Once your site outgrows shared hosting, you'll probably look at a VPS for the next step up.
The important part of VPS hosting is virtualisation. The host divides one server into several smaller virtual servers, each with their own chunk of RAM and hard drive space. When a customer takes on one of these virtual servers, they enjoy a more isolated experience, since their virtual server can't be disrupted by other customers. (Note that you still share some things with your fellow customers.)
VPS hosting is ideal for small businesses that want a little peace of mind and are willing to pay for it. If you need to know that your website won't be dragged down by a bad neighbour, a VPS will be worth the extra spend.
Pros and Cons
VPS hosting is a great compromise between shared and dedicated hosting:
- It's affordable
- The VPS can be set up in a few minutes
- VPS hosting tends to be more reliable than shared hosting, since your site can't be affected by another resource-hogging customer
- This kind of hosting gives you more access to the server's configuration, so you can control settings yourself
- You can create and remove sites from your VPS at will
- Each site can have its own control panel
- Software can be installed and modified
- It's more secure
Another advantage of VPS hosting is the ability to customize your operating system, something you can do with a dedicated server, too, but not with shared hosting.
There are a few downsides to VPS hosting:
- You need to know a little more about server administration
- There's quite a jump in cost
- An unmanaged VPS may look like a cheap option, but if you don't know what you're doing, fixing a fault gets expensive fast
- Choosing a plan can be complicated
VPS vs Cloud Hosting
You may be wondering where cloud hosting fits into the hierarchy. In truth, cloud hosting and VPS hosting are very similar. There's no industry definition of the cloud,and in hosting, the word 'cloud' might not mean what you expect it to mean. Hosts can also use the word 'cloud' fairly loosely in their marketing blurb.
Normally, hosts will roll out a VPS on one server, which has a single disk. That disk might fail. If it does, you'll need backups to restore your site. Other hosts provide a similar service with the VPS hosted in the cloud. This means that multiple copies of your site are stored on a Storage Area Network (SAN). Often, this SAN will be connected to a single physical server.
So while this kind of cloud VPS hosting sounds fancy, there are pros and cons. On the plus side:
- The VPS is saved as several instances across an array of storage devices, with any device ready to step in if the primary device fails
- This reduces the potential for downtime
There are a few drawbacks:
- It's more expensive
- It's less secure
- All the storage devices are linked to one server
A different form of cloud hosting involves clustering servers together and linking them with a cloud platform. Your host can deploy its VPS servers on this platform and adjust resources assigned to your VPS instances. With this method, you can also theoretically grow the VPS beyond the restraints of a single server, giving it much more RAM than a single machine could provide. If you choose this method of cloud hosting, you will lose a lot of the control over your VPS, since some of its traditional server features will be bypassed.
There's nothing wrong with traditional VPS hosting, although cloud hosting may provide some redundancy. The nature of that redundancy needs to be investigated so you know exactly what you're getting. And, in exchange for the extra cost, you should look for a host that's offering a significant uptime boost.
Where smaller sites will do just fine with shared hosting, and large, enterprise-level sites definitely need dedicated server hosting, VPS hosting can work best for medium-sized sites that have a moderate amount of traffic.