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One of the most important decisions you have to make when running a website is what type of hosting service you will use. Web hosting comes in many different types, each of which should be used in specific situations.

For many businesses, a VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is the perfect option for website hosting because:

  • A VPS can be faster and more stable than other types of hosting
  • A VPS can improve the experience of customers visiting you online
  • A VPS is often the best balance of cost and performance

Let’s take a closer look and see if VPS hosting is what your business website needs.

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What Is a Virtual Private Server?

All websites are hosted on one or more servers, but not all servers are set up or configured the same. A VPS is set up to have a virtual environment on a larger hosting server (or set of servers). The virtual environment uses advanced software to segment off resources from a physical server to be used exclusively for one customer.

When this is set up correctly, the VPS will look and function just as if it were its own physical server. This means you can have full control over what type of hosting software you want installed, how the files are handled, and much more.

In the image below, for example, you can see three options for VPS hosting from the very popular hosting company, Liquid Web. They list the specific system resources you will have exclusive access to for running your website or sites:

How is a VPS Different from Other Common Types of Hosting?

One of the best ways to learn more about a VPS is to compare it with other hosting options. This illustrates not only how this type of hosting functions, but also when it should be used.

The most common hosting options today include shared hosting, dedicated servers, and cloud hosting.

VPS vs. Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is by far the most common option in terms of the number of sites that it is used to host. This is because shared hosting is extremely inexpensive. Shared hosting allows multiple different sites and customers to be set up on one server environment, similar to a VPS.

However, with shared hosting, each customer does not get its own virtual environment with dedicated resources. Instead, customers on shared hosting accounts all have access to a large pool of system resources including disk space, RAM, processing power, and more.

If one customer website gets a massive amount of traffic, it impacts the performance of the other websites on the same server. With a VPS, even if another customer’s site on the same physical server gets a spike in traffic, it will not impact your site.

When you need to have reliable performance, a VPS is a very significant improvement over shared hosting.

VPS vs. Dedicated Servers

As the name suggests, a dedicated server is an individual server dedicated to one account. In most cases, this will mean one website runs on one physical server. It is also possible to configure the account so that multiple physical servers are used to power a single website.

From the perspective of the website owner’s interface, it is difficult to see the difference between a dedicated server and a VPS. The main advantage of a dedicated server is that your account is given all of the resources available instead of dividing them up like with a VPS.

Dedicated servers are quite a bit more expensive than a VPS option though. Only large websites that get a lot of traffic will need to spend the extra money to get a dedicated server instead of a VPS.

VPS vs. Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is growing in popularity, especially with smaller websites. In many ways, it is very similar to shared hosting in that each account shares a pool of resources.

Unlike shared hosting, however, cloud hosting has the resources spread out over a large number of servers on a cloud infrastructure. This means there will be less of an impact when one website gets a spike in traffic.

While there are advantages to cloud hosting compared to shared hosting, the price is still in the same general range. Cloud web hosting is quite a bit cheaper than a VPS because you do not have full control over the environment on which your site is kept.

Pros and Cons of a VPS

Virtual private servers have been an option for webmasters for decades now. They are a proven way to ensure your site is up and running to serve all types of visitors. Learning about the pros and cons of this option will help you make the best decision for your specific site.

Advantages of a VPS

  • Dedicated Resources – You have a set amount of system resources dedicated to your account at all times.
  • Easy Upgrades – If your site gets a spike in traffic, you can quickly have the web hosting company upgrade your resources on the fly to maintain excellent service.
  • Reasonable Prices – While a VPS is quite a bit more expensive than shared or cloud solutions, the price point is still typically very affordable, especially compared to dedicated servers.
  • Improved Security – A VPS is kept in a logically separate environment, which means it is not vulnerable to hacks or viruses that may infect other systems on the same server, so your website is secured.
  • Control – You can typically manage your VPS in any way you would like. This means you can install whatever software you require, make custom configurations, and more. This is often not allowed on shared hosting.

In the below image from A2 Hosting (a highly recommended hosting company that offers VPS solutions) you can see several additional benefits of this type of hosting:

Disadvantages of a VPS

  • Cost – While a VPS has a very reasonable price point, they are a big step up in price compared to shared hosting.
  • Confusing Configuration – You often need to configure the resources when signing up for a VPS, which means you need to know how much disk space, RAM, CPUs, and other resources you will require. Good hosting companies, however, will be happy to help you through this process.
  • Resource Allocation – Since multiple sites are running on one physical server, it is important to ensure everything is allocated and configured correctly. If the web hosting company does not handle this well, it could hurt the performance of all the sites on the server. This is why choosing a reputable hosting provider is so important.

Can You Move from One Type of Hosting to Another?

Choosing the right type of web hosting is very important for ensuring your website operates properly. One great thing about all modern web hosting options, however, is that it is pretty simple to move from one type to another.

For example, if you start with shared hosting on a small site, you can upgrade to a VPS once you start getting a steady stream of traffic. Almost all web hosting companies will be happy to migrate you from a shared hosting service to a VPS, or from a VPS to a dedicated server.

You can also downgrade if you find you do not need a higher-cost package for your site.

Is a VPS Right for You?

With your understanding of what VPS hosting is and how it works, you can make an informed decision on whether it is the right option for your site.

A VPS offered by one hosting company may be quite a bit different than one offered by another. With this in mind, make sure you read through our list of the best web hosting providers (constantly updated based on recent performance) to ensure you not only pick the right type of hosting, but also the right hosting company to meet all of your needs.