Sure, we all love to talk up the scalability potential of virtual private server hosting and being able to virtualize computing resources, but it can sound like a bit of science fiction to those who don’t understand web hosting.
However, tons of major companies thrive on VPS hosting — for example, we at HostingAdvice love our VPS host. Still, it’s one of those subjects where everyone feels the need to toss around a lot of ill-defined words and technical jargon.
If you had to explain the difference between virtual servers and cloud servers to a fifth grader, could you do it? We’re covering all the basics (and not-so-basics) of this particular server niche.
In short, a virtual private server (VPS) is just a physical server that uses virtualization software to divide the processing power and storage into multiple partitions, each acting as its own separate server environment. Because of the separation, a VPS is occasionally called a virtual dedicated server.
VPS Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting
All right, we’re going to go a bit beyond the basics here. The distinction between cloud hosting providers and virtual private server hosting providers can be a tough one to grasp. Even if you understand the differences, the similarities between the two services mean the lines are sometimes blurred.
To compare VPS and cloud hosting, I’d like to throw it back to 10th-grade geometry: In the same way that a square can be called a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square, a cloud server environment can also be a VPS — but not all virtual servers are in the cloud.
The main differences you’ll see:
- Scale: Because cloud providers allow you to take advantage of multiple machines, you get unlimited storage, mega bandwidth, and superior load balancing all on the fly.
- High Availability: Cloud hosting offers high availability because of redundancy across the network. If a single physical server fails another is ready to fill in.
- Price: With the added server power and flexibility often comes added cost for cloud hosting — or at least a more confusing bill-by-the-minute invoicing system.
While a VPS offers your site room to grow, a cloud server is known for offering on-demand resources. You can often pay for said resources by the hour or minute, but this means you have to be vigilant about how long you keep your servers spun up.
What About Managed VPS Hosting?
Managing servers is time-consuming and technically demanding. It can be expensive to staff an entire team dedicated to maintaining hardware updates, monitoring security, and generally keeping things online. With this in mind, some of the leading hosts offer IT expertise to manage the infrastructure for you. It’ll cost a bit more but, more than likely, managed support will also save you a priceless number of headaches. InMotion Hosting’s service is top-of-the-line when it comes to managed VPS hosting.
Let’s cover the perks, the downsides, and who are typically using this particular hosting product.
At a very high level, VPS hosting is considered a bridge between shared and dedicated hosting. It’s often said that once your site outgrows your shared hosting environment — meaning you need more RAM, more storage, or the ability to accommodate higher traffic volumes — it’s time to consider a VPS.
That’s really the biggest benefit to migrating from a shared to a virtual server: Your site can grow to receive more visitors without you having to eat the higher cost and hardware responsibility of a dedicated server. VPS users are rarely first-time site owners or folks seeking a personal email server. Typically, the people using a VPS are those whose sites or apps are receiving upward of 100,000 visitors a month.
Let’s examine the features we look for when conducting our VPS hosting comparison above. What separates the so-so from the best private servers? We found flexibility to be a common theme, and that begins with having your choice of operating system.
Linux VPS Hosting
Below are some of the buzzwords we look for when judging the best Linux servers:
- CentOS, Ubuntu, or Debian operating system
- Linux-friendly software like CGI, MySQL, or Apache
- 24/7/365 expert support
- Managed security patches and updates
- Uptime (preferably 99.99% or better)
Whether you’re hosting your increasingly popular website or you’re in need of a Linux backup server for secure storage, hosts like InMotion Hosting and Bluehost never cease to exceed expectations in terms of service.
Windows VPS Hosting
For those shopping for Windows server hosting, here are the things we look for:
- Choice of modern Windows versions, backups included
- OS-friendly applications with easy management via Plesk
- 24/7/365 expert support
- SSH access with Windows SFTP servers
- Uptime (preferably 99.99% or better)
If you’re wondering which operating system to choose, chances are you should go the Linux route; only go the Windows way if you have a specific reason for doing so, such as running some sort of software that’s not Linux-compatible.
Roughly 70% of websites online operate within a Linux-based environment, with Windows only accounting for 30%. That being said, check out our reviews for the best Linux VPS hosts and top Windows VPS hosting.
Top Cloud Providers
Since we’ve covered the differences between VPS hosts and cloud hosts, feel free to delve deeper into the nuances of what makes for the best cloud hosting providers here.
The question of the hour: How much does VPS hosting cost? First, it’s important to remember that the cheapest VPS is not necessarily synonymous with the best VPS. It’s important to consider the overall value that a web host is offering.
Free Virtual Private Servers
There are VPS providers out there offering free hosting or a VPS free trial, and this can be great for gamers, part-time vloggers, or developers spinning up mini side projects from time to time.
If you’re serious about getting a site online and you’re expecting serious performance or traffic, you need to be able to pony up the cost of a decent plan. An entry-level VPS plan used to cost around $20 per month just a few years ago, but prices have dropped rather rapidly to less than half that amount.
I don’t know how many fifth graders are studying up on virtual servers, but I hope you all found our guide to our VPS hosting reviews to be informative, and actionable. With all the main questions answered, you’re ready to sign in and spin up.
Providers like Bluehost and iPage offer instant deployment, so you can quickly get on to business. The InMotion Hosting team offers Launch Assist — two hours of assistance from experienced SysAdmins — to customers who sign up for 12 months or longer. Our team tested all the top VPS hosts and found the signup times to take around six or seven minutes, so getting started is — virtually — a snap.