Virtual private servers (VPS) provide many advantages over shared hosting, without the high costs of a dedicated machine. Learn how VPS works and see how the advantages and disadvantages compare.

A virtual private server (VPS) gives you the freedom to control your own web server without the high costs of a dedicated machine. VPS is generally more expensive than shared hosting, but a better choice for many growing businesses. Blogs, e-commerce sites and content sites can all benefit from VPS when traffic increases and shared hosting isn’t sufficient.

What is VPS?

VPS is a virtual machine, an interface that provides all the same facilities as a physical computer. Such virtual machines run their own operating systems, independent of other virtual machines that may be running on the same hardware.

VPS may sound like shared hosting, but there are some notable differences that are best explained through the “Housing Analogy”.

Think of shared hosting as an apartment building. The residents share infrastructure along with resources such as the laundry, utilities and parking lot. Inevitably residents end up waiting for the elevator, much like applications on a shared server end up waiting for computing resources from a physical computer.

VPS on the other hand is more like a townhome. Residents share some infrastructure with their neighbors, but have their own dedicated laundry, utilities and parking. As a result there is less competition for resources, which results in less waiting. Similarly VPS server resources are pre-allocated, allowing for less contention and higher throughput.

Advantages of VPS

One advantage of VPS is that your server cannot be affected by someone else’s mistakes. Each VPS uses separate memory resources, and each VPS is “sandboxed” from the other. The hard drive space is dedicated when you sign a hosting contract, but you do not share hard drive space with other users. Even if another website owner crashes his VPS or gets hacked, your VPS is unaffected.

VPS also typically allows you to administer the server remotely. This allows you install the software you want and configure the server for your own applications without needing physical access to the machine. Overall, this tends to give you more control of your hosting account than shared hosting dashboards, which typically restrict what you can do.

Finally, VPS can be more cost-efficient if you run many websites. While VPS is more expensive for one or two sites, it’s cheaper than shared hosting as you scale up the number of sites that you are hosting. You can potentially run hundreds of sites on one VPS and only pay the monthly costs for one VPS.

Disadvantages of VPS

Along with the advantages, VPS has a few disadvantages. First, VPS is not a dedicated machine, so you do share some resources with other users. For instance, the web host dedicates the amount of hard drive space you can use when the VPS is set up. If you need more space, there must be more space available on the physical hard drive.

Second, basic VPS accounts give you full control of the server, but this means you must be diligent with backups. Backups must be placed on a separate physical server to be truly reliable. If you crash the VPS, the host will reset the VPS, and you lose all applications and documents.

Even with VPS’s disadvantages, these servers are generally faster, more convenient, and give you better control of your applications. If your shared hosting is slow or you need to host more advanced applications, VPS is an affordable step up from lower-end shared hosting servers.

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