Dedicated servers and virtual private servers (VPSs) are two common hosting options for those companies too large or complex for shared hosting. Hosting clients typically wonder about the limitations of a VPS and whether it is worth the reduced cost to choose server virtualization over a dedicated server. Let’s briefly review exactly what makes a server virtual or dedicated before surveying a few basic differences.
Dedicated Server & VPS: definitions & hosting usage
You may have a general idea of what dedicated servers and virtual private servers are. However, a quick overview of these two terms will ensure it’s clear exactly how these two types of servers differ.
A dedicated server is a server that is charged with one particular task; hence the term dedicated. A dedicated server might be used to host your site, for instance, or an individual application. A server might also be dedicated specifically for email, for DNS purposes, or for gaming. Of course, you might choose to use a server for a number of different functions. The bottom line as a hosting customer, regardless of the technical definition of a dedicated server, is that the machine is fully available for your use.
When you use a dedicated server for hosting, you’re renting an entire server – the actual piece of hardware – from a hosting service. As long as you follow the guidelines within your hosting contract, you are able to customize the server any way you like. Other than limited access by the hosting staff for routine maintenance and to assist you as desired, you’re the only one using the server; it’s unavailable to other customers.
A virtual private server, as you can imagine, gets a bit more complicated. A VPS is a virtual machine (VM) that functions as its own server within a hosting environment. A virtual private server runs on its own instance of the operating system. On that OS, applications can run specifically within that section of the physical hardware. Virtualizing servers allows more than one operating system to be active simultaneously on the same server. Applications are also allowed full independence.
In a hosting environment, your VPS exists on the same physical machine as other companies/accounts; it has this feature in common with shared hosting. However, like shared hosting, VPS involves much stricter lines of demarcation. Operating with your own OS through virtualization means that your security is enhanced and you have much greater freedom to meet your needs by modifying the parameters of the VPS.
Dedicated versus VPS – Cost
VPS hosting is significantly less expensive than dedicated hosting is, simply because you do not need the full physical hardware with a VPS. The primary reason a VPS is selected for hosting is because it is a more budget-conscious choice.
Keep in mind, because a VPS only has access to a portion of the resources of the server, many customers prefer dedicated servers for their power. However, when VPS servers utilize a cloud hosting model (as ours do), they are optimized for scalability. In other words, with the advent of cloud technology, a virtual server is much better prepared for peak loads and rapid growth.
Dedicated versus VPS – storage & speed
Choosing a virtual private server, regardless of whether it uses a cloud model or not, is not standardly prepared for the same amounts of storage space and traffic as a dedicated server is. Clearly dedicated servers make sense for those who want to specify a particular type of machine with certain components and attributes they can preestablish. With a dedicated server, parameters are hard and fast, and you can add additional dedicated servers as needed.
VPS servers involve multiple accounts running on individual hard drives simultaneously. Naturally, access by a number of different hosting customers can decrease the speed and reliability of a site. You will also run out of room more quickly on a VPS server.
However, it’s again worth noting how virtual private servers that use cloud hosting differ from typical VPS offerings. In the past, a VPS was like a piece of the whole pie that was the physical server (which is still the case in non-cloud VPS environments, although features such as bursting and swap space allow some leeway). In that way, although a non-cloud VPS was not a physical server, its capabilities were physically limited.
With access to the cloud, though, a VPS can now scale easily, on demand, to meet the needs of a growing business. Adding additional storage and power is as simple as clicking a button in your administrative panel. Granted, VPSs are not for everyone. Because a VPS does not constitute a physical server, those in need of certain customization capabilities will want to choose dedicated hosting.
Dedicated versus VPS – selecting a host
Trying to decide between a dedicated server and a virtual private server can be tough. We hope that picking out a quality web host does not need to be nearly as difficult. At Atlantic.Net, we’ve been in business since 1994. With almost 2 decades of experience, we know you’ll be satisfied with whichever of our solutions you choose.
By Kent Roberts