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What Is A Virtual Private Server (VPS)?

If the needs of your website have outgrown the server resources of your shared hosting account, the typical next step in the past was that you had to get a dedicated server. However, moving from a shared hosting account to a dedicated server is a huge leap in price, typically from the $10-$20 / month range up to the $100-$300 / month range. One affordable alternative to a dedicated server is the Virtual Private Server.

While a dedicated server is too expensive for most small businesses, and standard 'shared' servers do not provide enough freedom or security, the Virtual Private Server is able to hit a middle ground.

A VPS is more than a shared server and less than a dedicated server. Simply put is, a VPS is a server that runs inside another server. Each VPS web hosting account operates exactly like a dedicated server but shares the same hardware. In this manner, a VPS allows multiple customers to share the expense of hardware and network connections without sacrificing performance, security or freedom.

More Security, Performance & Stability Than A Shared Hosting Account

Each Virtual Server is a private and secure area that operates as an independent server. The secret behind the Virtual Private Server system is how a single physical web server is shared. Although multiple customers share hardware (memory, CPU, disk space, etc), VPS accounts do not share software with the other VPS hosting accounts on the same machine.

Every Virtual Private Server has its own complete directory structure and set of dedicated applications (web server software, mail server software, etc.). New software installations and configurations can be made on one VPS account without effecting any of the other VPS accounts on the same hardware.

You can even reboot the operating of your VPS account yourself, as it operates in total isolation from the rest of the physical server.

Furthermore, even though hardware is shared, VPS accounts 'fair share' scheduling of CPU processes, memory, network connection, etc, so each VPS account receives the resources it deserves.

Dedicated Server Features For A Much Lower Cost

With a Virtual Private Server you get the main benefits of a dedicated server, but the price range is much lower - typically from $39.95 to $49.95 per month for a reliable VPS account. The main features that customers want from a dedicated or VPS web hosting account are as follows:

  • Isolation - Avoid server downtime caused by the mistakes of other hosting customers.
  • Freedom - VPS customers can install and operate their own software applications.
  • Security - Your VPS account has its own security separate from that of other accounts.
  • Reliability - Your website will always have the dedicated resources it needs.

Since VPS accounts basically provide you with your own low-cost, dedicated hosting solution, you should only be required to move up to a full-blown dedicated or colocation server when you are truly ready for it. In most cases, you won't need to move to an actual dedicated server until your bandwidth is in the 100's of GB's per month, and that would mean a relatively high traffic website.

The Low Cost Web Hosting Guide does not list or review VPS accounts, because they don't fall into the range of "low-cost", but you can find a good listing of hosts with Virtual Private Servers at The WHIR.

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