A Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Private Servers

What is a virtual private server?

First, let’s define what VPS really means: virtual private server.

In simple terms, a server is a powerful computer that stores all the data and files that make up your website. When someone types your domain name into their web browser, that powerful computer “displays” your website on the browser screen.

Now for the virtual aspect: VPS uses virtualization technology to divide that powerful server we just talked about into multiple virtual servers. Think of it this way: it is a piece of physical hardware that functions as several separate servers.

The word private means exactly what it implies. Your virtual server is reserved for you, so you will not have to share RAM, CPU, or any data with other users.

How does VPS work?

VPS Hosting services simulate the experience of a dedicated server even though you are still sharing the physical server with other users.

Your web host installs a virtual layer on top of the server’s operating system (OS) using virtualization technology. By separating the server into individual compartments with virtual walls, this layer allows each user to install their own operating system and software.

Because a VPS separates your files from other users at the operating system level, it really is a private server. This means that your website lives inside a secure container with guaranteed server resources – think memory, disk space, CPU cores, etc. You do not have to share anything with others.

How VPS Compares With Shared Hosting And Dedicated Hosting

To really understand how VPS works, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the basics of web hosting, including other common plans. Here is a brief breakdown of the differences between shared, dedicated, and VPS hosting.

1. Shared hosting

Shared hosting is the most common form of web hosting and it works well for many new website owners. When you buy a shared hosting plan, you are sharing key resources like CPU, RAM, and hard drive space with other website owners using that same server. Let’s use an analogy to make this concept easier to understand.

Think of a shared server as a large apartment complex, and all individual apartments are rented by other website owners. Everyone needs a place to live, as do the files on their website, but going out to buy a huge family home would be too expensive for their needs. Sharing common areas and utilities in an apartment block helps keep costs down. And the same goes for shared hosting.

However, there are some downsides to shared hosting, mainly because you are sharing. For example, if someone else on your shared server has a large increase in traffic, that could affect the performance of your website. However, if your website is just taking off and you don’t have a high volume of traffic, shared hosting is a great way to get connected.

2. Dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting is the opposite of shared hosting. Instead of pooling resources (and sharing the costs) with other website owners, you have a dedicated server that is reserved for your website only.

Sounds great right? The problem is that it is more expensive, but you get 100% control over your resources and can customize the software to meet your individual needs. This type of hosting package is best for websites with strong technical demands. For example, dedicated hosting might be right for you if:

  • receives a large amount of traffic every day.
  • you need to install your own operating system.
  • you are handling thousands of financial transactions.
  • your website requires custom software.

3. VPS hosting

VPS hosting sits perfectly in between shared and dedicated. When you choose VPS, there will be other websites hosted on the same hardware as yours (remember that powerful server we talked about earlier?).

But, and it is very important, your website is the only domain assigned to your particular virtual compartment. And that means you get your own operating system, dedicated storage, powerful CPU, scalable RAM, and unlimited bandwidth. With a VPS, you get many of the benefits of a dedicated server at an affordable price. In short, VPS hosting can give you more for your money.

When should you switch to VPS?

The best way to assess whether you need to upgrade to VPS is to take stock of your website. Here are eight telltale signs that it’s time to go virtual.

1. You are concerned about the safety

If you need improved security features, advanced monitoring capabilities, more backup space, improved website reliability, or plan to accept any form of payment online, then you can consider VPS. With VPS, you get reliable resources and can count on top-notch security features.

2. You start to experience high volumes of traffic

If you are just starting your website and you are not getting a lot of traffic, shared hosting is the ideal solution. If your website’s audience is constantly growing, we recommend that you consider upgrading. First check your RAM memory. You don’t want to risk your website running slow or worse, your server crashing because it can’t handle the traffic. If you anticipate an increase in visitors, do yourself a favor and switch to VPS.

3. Your website is consistently slow

Shared hosting is not designed for websites that use large amounts of RAM. As your website grows and you add more and more content, you will start to see a decrease in your website load times. As soon as this happens, it is an indication that you are pushing your limits. Upgrading to a VPS will allow you to scale your website without worrying about slow load times.

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