Web Hosting 101: What Is VPS?

Your website is a space you share with your customers. You want it to be the best it can be for them. You want to be a gracious host, just like you would if you were throwing a party.

If you’re using a shared web hosting service, your party may be getting a little crowded. There is a limit to the processing power and memory that comes with shared hosting. If your shared hosting website is as successful as you want it to be, it’s likely that your visitors are starting to notice lag times when it comes to performing basic functions.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are elegant solutions to the problems shared hosting poses. First among them is a Virtual Private Server or VPS.

What is VPS? We’re glad you asked.

Below, we’ve compiled an introduction to all things VPS. Keep reading to learn about this potential next step in the evolution of your website.

What Is VPS in Layman’s Terms?

Unless you’re a web developer, you probably didn’t start your website to become an expert on web hosting services. You built a website to support your business out in non-virtual reality. So let’s break down VPS in a way we all can understand, no matter our skills or familiarity with web hosting platforms.

Let’s start with that middle word, “private.” There are ways in which it’s literal, and there are ways it is misleading.

When it comes to the physical server where a VPS is housed, “private” is a misnomer. There can be, and usually are, multiple Virtual Private Servers on the same piece of hardware.

To explain why the word “private” is appropriate, we need to bring in the first word in our acronym, “virtual.”

A VPS uses virtualization software to partition a physical server into multiple “virtual” servers. In this sense, a VPS is private. Thanks to this software, you do not have to share key aspects of your server with the other users of the physical server.

Your CPU, your RAM, and your other data are completely private when using a VPS.

So, in layman’s terms, a VPS is a part of a physical server that is virtually private. It is dedicated for use only by one person or entity.

When Do You Need a VPS?

You may have noticed we referred to a VPS as the next stage in your website’s evolution. It is not necessarily the final stage, depending on the needs of your business and your website.

We can understand why someone might choose a VPS by first looking backwards. What is VPS an upgrade of?

The Limits of Shared Hosting

The answer to that question is almost always shared hosting.

Shared hosting is a great start when it comes to web hosting services. Shared hosting services are the least expensive hosting option, and they serve new and limited-function websites quite well. These providers also take care of maintaining the server, which is a role that often falls to the clients themselves in the other types of web hosting.

Shared hosting services spread the resources of a server across several website clients. This is cost-efficient, but it can lead to all sorts of problems. When one website hogs all of a server’s resources, it can choke the performance of the other websites on that server.

It’s when websites require more than limited functions that they begin to outgrow shared hosting. If you need the privilege of using more resources for your website alone, you’re probably willing to handle the responsibility of server maintenance that comes with that privilege.

The VPS Upgrade

Thanks to the virtual partitioning that comes with a VPS, you do not need to share resources with other users when you use a VPS hosting service. There is increased security that comes from being on a virtual private server, and your website works faster because it has all of the resources of the private server to itself.

The reason a VPS is a such a nice middle ground between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, which we’ll talk about later, is that there is a still a shared cost of services that comes with VPS.

Types of Clients Who Can Use a VPS

Keeping in mind the features a VPS offers, it is easy to see what kinds of businesses might best take advantage of this kind of web hosting.

Companies that are looking to add e-commerce platforms, or increase the robustness of their existing platforms, can benefit greatly from VPS.

Companies that use many complicated web applications will find that a VPS can integrate these different applications more seamlessly into a site’s functionality.

And businesses that have in-depth databases, like a CRM system, can use a VPS’ increased memory for more storage and quicker recall of stored information.

What Are the Benefits of VPS?

We’ve hinted at some of the benefits of VPS web hosting in our explanation of what the service is. But it’s time to make these benefits explicit now from the point of view of the user.

A VPS is not the end-all, be-all solution for everyone. But since it is a common middle-ground solution, it helps to see how broadly its functions can apply across different types of businesses and their websites.

Improved Website Performance

The first benefit we’ll highlight is the reason most people go searching for a VPS in the first place. Their current hosting is just not cutting it, and they need greater performance.

With a VPS, these clients get guaranteed performance. That’s because a VPS offers resources that are dedicated only to that client. These resources include guaranteed bandwidth, private storage, and a CPU and RAM that are untouched by other users.

Increased Website Security

After performance, the biggest benefit of a VPS service is the dramatically increased security it offers to websites. Since a user’s information and resources are isolated from their neighbours, they are not affected by security breaches that occur to those neighbours.

This might be an even bigger benefit than performance, and it’s why many users don’t mind paying extra for the private space. What they lose in money, they gain in peace of mind.

Maintained Server Support

One of the great aspects of VPS being a midpoint solution is that hosting providers still offer technical support to VPS users. So while you’re getting the virtual benefits of isolation, you’re not actually shouldering the responsibility of the hardware or the bottom-line security of the server.

Other Uses for a VPS

With a VPS, you’ll also get complete server root access. A VPS is the closest thing to dedicated hosting you can get without actually choosing dedicated hosting for your website.

Since there’s nothing saying you can’t use multiple Virtual Private Servers for your company’s site, you can get creative and really improve the customer experience. You could run two VPS, with one serving as a playground for testing and development while the other is live.

It’s easy to switch between VPS for your site’s hosting, so you could play these two servers off each other to rapidly improve the quality of your website. You would not need to take long periods of downtime for website maintenance.

The VPS hosting model can doubly increase security when you use another VPS as a backup for data storage.

skilled web developer should be able to get as much use and power from a VPS as they would a dedicated server.

Are There Drawbacks to VPS?

No web hosting service is perfect, and that doesn’t just apply to individual companies. The VPS model will not be right for everyone. But the specific drawbacks of this style of web hosting have less to do with objective flaws and more to do with what you require from your website.

We’ll take a look at the so-called drawbacks of VPS from the perspective of a website too small for it and the perspective of a website that has it too big for it.

The View From Too Small

If you are starting out your journey as a company with a new website or limited resources, the drawbacks of a VPS include price and complication.

If this is your first website, your business is likely still in its infancy. We don’t expect you have a lot of money at your disposal to throw at your web development just yet. Since a VPS is a higher-order web hosting service, it will cost more on average than a shared hosting service.

When it comes to the complexity of the server, you may simply not need all of the features that a VPS offers. And simplicity is your friend in web design, so a heap of unnecessary features can do more harm than good.

The View From Too Big

By the time you reach this point, it’s rare that you’re overly concerned with cost. You’re not worried about the price of a VPS because you’re getting so much traffic to your website and need so much additional computing power that you actually need to spend more money than a VPS costs.

The reason a user may outgrow a VPS, or simply be too big for one in the first place, is the same reason a company may need to switch from shared hosting to a VPS web hosting service. Namely, the company needs more privacy, more power, and even tighter security.

We’ve danced around the dedicated server model of hosting so far, but to dive right into it, it may be the easiest model to understand. Each user gets an entire server dedicated to their needs. It’s quite literal.

Of course, dedicated servers cost a pretty penny, so this is usually the last step in the process of evolution for a company and their website. That’s why VPS forms such a nice middle ground for many businesses and web developers.

What Should You Look for in a VPS?

If you’ve crunched the numbers and know you need a VPS, you’ll want to evaluate the different services on similar criteria. Here are a few criteria we recommend checking on before you go diving into the first VPS service you find with a great deal upon signup.

Guaranteed Uptime

One of the nice aspects of upgrading to a VPS from shared hosting is that there should be a minimum uptime guarantee. Notice that we said “should.” That word is why you want to be careful in your search.

It’s totally realistic to expect to find a host with a 99.9% minimum uptime guarantee. As technologies advance, there are decreasing reasons for downtime at all. However, if price is a real sticking point and you find a service with at least 99.5% uptime guaranteed, that’s an acceptable minimum.

Live Customer Support

Customer support is essential in all web hosting services, but some companies only offer an email address.

While email support is quite fast from many companies, we recommend only choosing a company with live customer support, whether that is over the phone or via chat. You just don’t want to deal with the headache that comes when you have a server that’s down and no guarantee that your support requests are being addressed.

On Your Way to VPS Expertise

Hopefully, this guide has given you insight into not only what is VPS but how it can assist you in the creation or upgrading of your website. VPS is a powerful yet still cost-effective solution for website that has outgrown shared hosting but can’t yet commit to a dedicated server.

Take some time to let this information soak in, and then take a look at our VPS hosting solutions.