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Everything your business needs to know about VPS

Everything your business needs to know about VPS
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Most of us have heard of shared hosting, for personal use, and dedicated servers, which power large company infrastructures. However, if your business sits in between personal use and such enterprise giants, there is a third alternative, VPS hosting.

What is a VPS?

VPS (virtual private servers) are isolated virtual environments created from a physical server through a process called “virtualization”. This means that in effect you can have your own customized server solution at a fraction of the cost of an entire dedicated server. 

One bare metal server can support several VPS’s at once. The other massive advantage of VPS hosting is scalability: depending on your needs at any given time, you can easily add or remove resources and only pay for what you are actually using.

Flexibility as the end game

While hardware resources are shared, each client on a VPS still gets its own software environment (operating system) and therefore more flexibility to play around and for all purposes, a VPS is almost equivalent to a fully kitted computer. Virtual Private Servers can be managed or unmanaged with the client taking full responsibility of software updates and patches. Being isolated means that VPS are great for running SaaS projects (like a personal cloud or a VPN server) or websites that have a reasonable amount of concurrent users.

VPS vs Shared Hosting

The very reason why VPS came on the market in the first place was to fill a gap between dedicated servers and shared web hosting offers. For small and medium businesses as well as IT managers, it represents the “Goldilocks” of web hosting; not too complex, not too expensive, not too slow, just the right balance.

Shared web hosting may be very cheap and great for novices but ultimately, you get what you paid for which is the lack of flexibility especially when it comes to handling traffic spikes (e.g. Christmas sales or a popular page) or when a website has simply outgrown its original bedding.

The ability to scale rapidly without additional complexity or overhead and with at least one order of magnitude, sets VPS apart from other types of hosting.

VPS vs dedicated server

VPS cost a fraction of a dedicated server and are far more flexible as you do not need to pay for extra capacity or resources that will be unused. Instead, most providers allow customers to transition without friction between different tiers depending on demand.

Traditional VPS vs Cloud VPS vs SSD VPS

Traditional VPS tend to use hard disk drives for storage; However, some vendors, like VPS.net, have eschewed HDD completely, not only because of performance but also because of reliability and kitted their servers with SSD (solid state drives) only, hence the moniker SSD VPS. SSD are great for serving concurrent users as they can handle a high number of input/output operations simultaneously.

Cloud VPS extends the virtualization paradigm across multiple servers rather than one making it more redundant but also more expensive.

In traditional and SSD VPS, a hardware failure will affect all VPS hosted on that particular machine, cloud VPS adds a layer of reliability, allowing websites and services to run without significant downtime even if a server is physically removed from the server cluster.

Businesses opting for Cloud VPS are likely to seek stringent SLA as downtime would be very costly; some providers, for example, offer a 1,000% SLA; that’s 10 times the pro-rated rental for the downtime of the affected services.

Types of VPS Hosting

Broadly speaking, VPS can be divided into two categories: fully managed and self-managed. 

With a fully managed VPS hosting, all management and maintenance responsibilities are handled by trained IT professionals who take care of your virtual server and make sure it keeps humming along nicely. This includes everything from the initial server, to installing updates, applying security patches, constant monitoring and taking backups. 

On the other hand, in a self-managed VPS, all the above mentioned items are the responsibility of the user. As you can expect, this requires a considerable high level of technical know-how and isn’t recommended for individuals who lack the technical expertise. The upside of course is that with this hosting, the user can tweak their system exactly as per their requirements, without having to work with the environment offered by the provider.

Do you really want a VPS?

As we’ve established, most users prefer VPS over other means of hosting due to the availability of adequate resources. So if you are receiving a good amount of traffic, a VPS will give your website much more room to flex than other hosting avenues. 

This is particularly true if you are hosting something like an eCommerce website. You’ll need to process payments in such an operation, which has some strict regulations not just here in the UK but virtually everywhere. Chances are a shared hosting plan will not meet the specified requirements, which can however be satisfied with a VPS server.

Also, instead of directly starting out with VPS, most users will upgrade to it after hitting performance and resource bottlenecks in their existing hosting plans. For instance, since you are sharing resources with multiple users on a shared hosting plan, if any of them starts to hog all the bandwidth, you’ll be left with little to service your clients.