What Is a VPS? a Complete guide (2023)

Introduction to Virtual Private Servers

VPS hosting is becoming more popular as businesses and individuals seek affordable hosting solutions that provide adequate resources and flexibility. However, its popularity is not enough reason for you to buy a VPS service. This article will help you determine if you need a VPS.

In this beginner’s guide, we will break down complex concepts of a VPS into simple everyday terms. We will compare VPS hosting with other types of web hosting and give you our verdict on which is better for you. Finally, we’ll wrap up this guide with the benefits and disadvantages of VPS hosting and the key factors to consider when choosing a VPS provider.

Introduction to Virtual Private Servers

What Is a VPS (Virtual Private Server)?

VPS means Virtual Private Server. It is the middle ground between cheap but limited shared hosting and the more resourceful but expensive dedicated server.

It works as a virtual operating system that resides on a physical server. The VPS provider uses a specialized virtualization technology called a hypervisor to split the server into different compartments. It then rents out these compartments to users.

You may observe that VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting as both involve sharing one server amongst multiple users. However, there is a crucial difference between VPS hosting and shared hosting.

A VPS hosting solution offers well-compartmented virtual servers within a physical server. In contrast, a shared hosting simultaneously offers an unpartitioned server to several users. This distinct difference makes VPS the ideal choice for businesses who want to own their server but cannot afford to have an entire server dedicated to their needs.

With a VPS hosting plan, these businesses or individuals can access more resources, better performance, improved security, and more administrative controls than they would with a shared hosting plan. It is the perfect choice for gamers, programmers, and SaaS providers.

How Does VPS Work?

VPS uses specialized virtualization technology to compartmentalize a single physical server into multiple virtual servers. We use the term “virtual” because the compartment only exists on the internet. Only one server provides the resources for the many virtual servers on the hardware end.

VPS hosting is like an apartment building divided into flats. It is still one building, but each flat stands on its own and has its facilities and occupants. The “Private” element comes in because each user has their resources assigned to their compartment. Other users cannot access their resources, and they cannot access other users’ resources.

The server is private, so you can reconfigure your hosting environment, install your preferred applications and make changes at the root level.

Hosting providers offer several types of VPS packages. Each one has unique features that appeal to different segments of VPS users depending on their needs and preferences.

Users can request more resources from the VPS provider if they outgrow their allocated virtual server resources. They can upgrade to a dedicated server if their needs outgrow a compartmentalized virtual server and they have the budget.

Now that we’ve answered the “what is a vps hosting?” question, we can compare it to other types of hosting.

VPS vs. Other Web Hosting Types (Compared)VPS vs. Other Web Hosting Types (Compared)

Performance2 stars1 star5 stars3 stars4 stars
Support4 stars5 stars3 stars4 stars3 stars
Security4 stars3 stars5 stars4 stars5 stars
Features2 stars1 star5 stars3 stars4 stars
Cost4 stars5 stars1 star3 stars2 stars

1. VPS vs. Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is a type of web hosting that shares a single physical server among multiple users. Each user will use the same OS and server configuration as everyone else. They will also have to share the same resources available to other users on the server.

Shared hosting solutions are the most affordable and easiest to manage on the market. It is the perfect hosting for beginners and those whose websites require minimal resources and no server customization.

But they also offer the least flexibility and the most risk. Suppose a user on your shared server installs viruses on their website, probably due to carelessness. In that case, the virus can spread to other users’ sites hosted on the server.

Furthermore, since all the users share the same resource pool, a high-demand website can quickly drain the server resources, forcing other websites to run on fewer resources.

Lastly, you can not configure your server environment or install your preferred applications. The shared hosting provider handles those tasks and all other server management and maintenance activities.

A VPS hosting plan eliminates those risks since you get your compartmentalized server and allocated resources within the server. It costs more than shared hosting, but the benefits often outweigh the price.

So for the VPS vs Shared hosting comparison, VPS hosting is the clear winner due to its dedicated resources, customization options, and improved security.

2. Dedicated Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

A dedicated server is the top-of-the-line web host solution as it offers all the benefits of a single physical server to one user. With a dedicated server, you can expect the best web hosting performance and security your hosting provider can offer.

However, since dedicated servers are at the top of the ladder, you should expect to pay top dollar for the benefits they offer. It is not uncommon for companies to spend tens of thousands of US dollars on dedicated servers monthly.

Many providers now offer VPS hosting solutions with robust server resources, so you might not need to move to a dedicated server. For instance, high-end VPS plans offer hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, ample customization options, and highly efficient CPU cores. If your only concern is getting more resources, you are better off with a premium VPS hosting than paying for a costly dedicated server.

Regarding security and complete freedom, dedicated servers rule. But this benefit is not that impressive considering that many businesses and individuals have enough flexibility with VPS hosting. Even large-scale eCommerce solutions and web-based applications can run smoothly on good VPS hosting.

Final verdict: VPS wins the VPS vs Dedicated server comparison.

3. Cloud Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

Cloud hosting involves using multiple cloud servers to host a single website. Each cloud server has an up-to-date version of the website. When a visitor accesses the website, the provider automatically directs the visitor to a server with minor use. The website loads faster, and the visitor gets a great user experience.

The VPS vs Cloud hosting comparison can be somewhat murky as they are not mutually exclusive. Some providers offer VPS hosting on a cloud infrastructure. With this combination, your website relies on a cluster of multiple virtual servers.

This approach combines the benefits of VPS hosting with the advantages of cloud hosting. However, you should expect to pay more than you would for traditional VPS hosting.

Cloud VPS hosting allows you to access extra resources when needed and offers improved website performance and reliability. However, it is more expensive and it works on a pay-as-you-use basis. Sudden spikes in web traffic or required resources can cause you to spend more than you would on a VPS.

With a traditional VPS, your resources for the month are pre-allocated based on your plan. However, you cannot increase your hosting resources on demand. You must contact your provider and pay the set fee for the additional resources. With cloud hosting, the system automatically detects the need for increased resources and makes the necessary adjustment.

The clear winner of the VPS vs Cloud hosting debate is the Cloud VPS hosting option due to its better reliability, performance, and scalability.

4. VDS Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

As we said earlier, a VPS is a compartmentalized partition on a physical hardware server. The VPS has its own assigned resource limits and offers flexibility.

A VDS – virtual dedicated server – is a virtual server that comprises the entire server. You are getting the server’s complete resources along with a virtualized layer.

The main benefit is zero lag in performance as you get the server’s dedicated resources for your needs. It is just like getting a dedicated server managed by the provider. It is the top choice for companies and individuals who want to host large-scale apps and heavy-traffic websites.

Like dedicated servers, the biggest drawback of VDS hosting is the cost. Since the provider cannot create another virtual server on the server, they will transfer their entire maintenance cost to your plan.

If you want a dedicated server without managing it, VDS hosting is your ideal plan. However, a VDS might offer more cost than benefits unless you require enormous hosting resources.

Upon comparing vps vs vds, we still believe VPS is the better choice. VDS is still a great option, but most businesses can get by with VPS hosting.

5. VPS vs WordPress hosting

A WordPress hosting plan is any plan that focuses on hosting WordPress websites. These plans typically feature one-click installations, support for WordPress plugins, and WP command-line interface. WordPress site owners prefer them since they are already pre-configured to work with WordPress environments.

A virtual private server runs as an open environment so that you can use a VPS for your WordPress website. All you need to do is modify the specifications of your server environment to your website’s needs. Then follow the instructions step by step of How to Install WordPress on a VPS.

You should check shared hosting plans if you are looking for hosting places configured for WordPress websites. However, these plans might not provide ample resources to run large eCommerce stores, applications, and high-traffic websites.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Private Servers


  • Dedicated resources within a shared environment
  • Consistent performance and better speeds than shared hosting
  • Cheaper than dedicated servers
  • Excellent value for money
  • Security and data protection in an isolated environment
  • High control over the server (root access)
  • Lots of customization options
  • Easy-to-scale service


  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • Unmanaged VPS requires extensive technical knowledge
  • It might impose vulnerabilities if you don’t configure the server correctly.

When Should You Switch to VPS?

Generally speaking, you should switch to VPS hosting when your server needs outgrow the resources available on a shared hosting plan. Aside from resources, there are other benefits you can only get with a VPS hosting plan. Some of these benefits are:

  • Fast loading speeds: If your website slows down during periods of high traffic, then you need more resources than your current plan provides.
  • Scalable hosting resources: When you add features and functionality to your website, it will use more resources. VPS hosting allows you to seamlessly scale your website memory, storage space, processing power, and bandwidth so you don’t experience performance lags.
  • Host more websites: If you want to host multiple websites on a single hosting plan, then VPS hosting is the “smallest” hosting plan you should consider .
  • Security: The most significant security threat for shared hosting comes from other users sharing the server with you. If they inadvertently download malicious software on their server, the software can also affect your website. You become vulnerable to hacks, viruses, data breaches, and other harmful events. A VPS eliminates all of these threats. A managed VPS plan also integrates enhanced security features to forestall more powerful, sophisticated attacks.
  • Customization: To configure your hosting environment to unique specifications, you should use a VPS. It gives you the freedom and access to make full-scale customization within your server environment.
  • Eliminate server errors: If you run into server errors on a shared hosting plan, it means someone on the server is overusing the server resources. They could run too many background processes or use a highly specialized antivirus program. You could even be the one overdrawing on the server’s resources. A VPS provides enough resources to run all your applications and security software while insulating you from the effects of other users’ activities.
  • Cost-effectiveness: A dedicated server can provide significant benefits in all the above instances, but it can be too costly. A VPS is a cost-effective option that allows for all these benefits without the expensive price tag.

What to Look for When Choosing a VPS Plan

The quality of your VPS hosting will significantly influence your website’s performance, customization, security, and user experience. You want to ensure that your hosting provider offers all the necessary features.

While you might be looking for specific qualities such as ease of use, server performance, or reliability, we recommend looking for a provider with a bevy of all the right qualities.

To help you look in the right direction, we’ve listed some critical factors when shopping for a VPS hosting provider.

1. Managed VPS vs. Unmanaged VPS

You first have to decide whether you want VPS managed vs unmanaged VPS hosting.

Managed VPS hosting handles all server management and maintenance on your behalf. All you need to do is install your website/application, and focus on your business. Although this plan costs more than other alternatives, it provides peace of mind. It is also our recommendation for anyone looking for a VPS hosting solution.

Unmanaged VPS hosting is also called self-managed VPS hosting. The provider rents the virtual server space to you and you are responsible for monitoring and managing it.

Self-managed hosting is the cheapest option when it comes to pricing. However, if you encounter a large-scale security threat, you might spend more on dealing with the threat than you would with a managed server. So unless you have both the technical expertise and the time, we recommend you stay away from self-managed VPS hosting plans.

Semi-managed VPS hosting is the middle ground.. The provider handles some server management tasks and leaves the rest to you. As you can expect, it costs less than a managed VPS hosting plan while taking some of the responsibility off your shoulders. Techie users can go for this plan, provided they have the time and tools to handle the server. We wholeheartedly recommend managed VPS solutions for beginners and busy business owners.

2. Performance

The second crucial factor is server performance. Your VPS performance depends on a few factors, with the three most essential being CPU, memory, and bandwidth capacity.

  • CPU: When choosing a processor, do not get distracted by its speed. Instead, go for processors that offer more cores. The more cores a processor has, the more processes you run simultaneously.
  • Memory: When it comes to RAM, there is no upper limit. However, if you are scaling back due to costs, you should ensure the memory allocation is enough to support your workload requirements.
  • Bandwidth Capacity: Your bandwidth capacity determines how often your web visitors can access your site. For a medium to large website, you should aim for around 5 GB bandwidth if you expect to receive about 100,000 page hits monthly. Large eCommerce websites and web-based applications should not settle for less than 1 TB of bandwidth capacity.

3. Reliability

You need to know that your servers will always be up and running. Most VPS providers provide uptime guarantees. The uptime guarantee tells you how often you expect your server to be operational within a calendar year. So, for instance, with a 99.5% uptime, the server will be down a maximum of 3.65 hours in a month. This figure translates to a total of 1.83 days in one year.

Of course, the uptime guarantee is only an estimate. Some servers can stay up and running for a long time without expecting downtimes. However, there are times when the provider has to carry out scheduled maintenance or upgrade their servers to forestall threats.

Some providers offer credits or a refund of your monthly fee if the downtime for the month exceeds the specified downtime period in their uptime guarantee. You can use uptime tracking software to measure downtimes during the month to know if you qualify for a refund. You can also use the data to determine if you need to switch to a more reliable VPS provider.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid any VPS provider offering less than a 99.5% uptime guarantee. We also recommend that you check the expert reviews from HostAdvice and users. Reviews help you determine if the company is truthful with its uptime guarantee or if it is just a marketing gimmick.

4. Services, Resources & Capabilities

Once you’re satisfied with the hosting type, performance, and reliability, you can check what other resources the hosting provider offers. You should also look for the additional services that are in each plan. Some of the services are free, while others will be paid add-ons.

As a general rule of thumb, you should ensure the provider provides all the resources you need now and will need in the foreseeable future. While changing providers is possible, it is far easier to use a provider that can support your business in the long term.

On another note, you should ensure the hosting package works with your preferred operating system. You’ll be choosing between linux VPS vs windows VPS.

Linux-based VPS hosting packages are the most popular and are perfect for MySQL and PHP-based sites. But suppose your workload requires Microsoft SQL Server and ASP.Net. In that case, you are limited to only providers that offer Windows VPS hosting solutions.

5. Security and Backups

Website security isn’t something anyone should compromise for anything. The first step is to review the VPS hosting package for security features like Cloudflare CDN, regular backups, and DDoS Attack Protection.

Regarding backups, you need to find out if they are automatic or if you must back up your data manually.

The location of the backup also matters. Some providers provide remote backups, while others back up your data on their servers. Remote backups offer additional security. They offer a last resort if something happens to your provider’s servers.

If you are using a self-managed VPS hosting plan, you need to find out if you have to pay extra for the backups and how easy it is to perform and restore backups.

6. Customer Support

Customer support always comes in handy regardless of whether you are a total beginner or have an in-house expert team managing your servers. The goal is 24/7 support available through email, phone, ticketing, and live chat. However, some providers might only support two or three of these channels. Others might only offer human assistance on weekdays and within stipulated hours.

There are two ways to know how helpful and accessible a provider support channel is. One is to actively contact the support during your free trial or the usage period covered by the money-back guarantee. The other method is to read reviews by HostAdvice experts and users.

7. VPS Cost

When it comes to comparing VPS pricing, you should take note of a few elements. These include the renewal price, the features in each plan, the cost of downgrading or upgrading your plan, and the cost of essential add-ons. All of these will help you determine if a VPS hosting plan is worth the price or not.

When choosing between price and quality, we recommend going for quality. Many VPS providers use low prices to draw users in and provide poor performance. However, a higher price isn’t always a guarantee of good performance.

Looking for hosting providers/plans that meet your hosting requirement and provide easy scalability would be best. Then you can compare prices across these providers/plans to get the right one for your needs.

On a side note: you should be wary about plans that offer “unlimited” features as there is usually a limit.

Free VPS plans exist either as a taster for a paid plan or as a standalone plan. We don’t recommend them as they offer limited performance and can negatively affect your website’s SEO and user experience. You can check our website for the best cheap VPS hosting providers if you are on a shoestring budget.

Final Word

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) combines the affordability of a shared hosting plan with the benefits of a dedicated server. It is the best option for those who want reliable private resources without spending too much money.

Of course, choosing the right VPS provider is vital, as the wrong VPS hosting plan can erode all the benefits and leave you with a bitter aftertaste. When selecting a VPS host provider, you should focus on the type of VPS hosting, performance and reliability, features, and customer support. You should then choose the most cost-effective option when you have found three or four great choices.

A VPS might be what your website or application needs to perform better and attract more web traffic. Most providers offer a money-back guarantee or trial periods so you can test your top choices and settle for the one that aligns the most with your needs and skill level.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between VPS and Reseller hosting?

Reseller hosting refers to the process of renting web hosting resources from host providers and reselling them to third-party clients for a fee. You can essentially become a web host provider without having to own the hardware or software needed to host websites. Read more for a full comparison of Reseller hosting vs VPS hosting.

What is the difference between a VPS and a VPN?

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a type of web hosting that uses virtualization technology. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that allows you to remain anonymous and hidden when using the internet. However, you can set up a VPS as a VPN to keep your internet trail hidden.

What is root access in web hosting?

Root access refers to administrative control. Anyone with root access to a server has the authority to modify access for other users, read/write any files on the system, perform upgrades, and install or uninstall software. It is only available on the higher web hosting tiers such as VPS, VDS, and dedicated server hosting.

When is shared hosting better than VPS hosting?

The only area where shared hosting is better than VPS hosting is pricing. Generally speaking, shared hosting is a lot cheaper than VPS hosting. However, lower prices don’t always mean cost-effectiveness. There is a limit to how much resources, flexibility, and support you can get from a shared hosting plan. Once you outgrow a shared hosting package, you must upgrade regardless of the pricing.

When and how to migrate from Shared hosting to VPS hosting?

If you need root access to your server, more bandwidth and disk space or your websites are running slowly, it’s a good idea to consider migrating from a shared plan. Follow the steps outlined in how to migrate from shared hosting to VPS hosting.

What makes VPS hosting so flexible?

VPS hosting owes its flexibility to the way it operates. Unlike shared hosting plans, where users have no guarantee of the resources they can expect to use, VPS provides allocated hosting resources to each server partition. VPS users can use their allocated storage space, memory, and processing power to their unique tastes and preferences. They can also install their software, implement special configurations and security features and scale up their resources based on their growing needs.

Who is VPS hosting ideal for?

VPS hosting is ideal for any company or individual seeking reliable, cost-effective web hosting. Although it is not the cheapest web hosting type, it is the most cost-effective due to its great hosting features, flexibility, and affordability. It is an excellent choice for anyone who requires a cheap hosting plan that grows with their server needs.

However, a particular market segment would find VPS their only reasonable web hosting option. These segments include fast-growing web applications, hosting resellers, up-and-coming websites, small businesses, and emerging startups.

What’s the difference between VPS and RDP?

RDP stands for Remote Desktop Protocol and it allows users to connect from different locations to a remote computer. Its purpose is to improve security, data transfer and encryption. VPS allows users to run a number of virtual server operating systems on the same physical server. See our ultimate comparison on VPS vs RDP for a more in depth description.

What Is Analytics: A Guide to Website Analytics

Analytics is the practice of gathering and examining data to make better decisions. In website hosting, it involves analyzing information like...
8 min read
Erika Uy
Erika Uy
Hosting Expert

What Is an A Record? Exploring the Backbone of DNS

An A Record, or Address Record, makes it easier for your computer to find websites by linking a site's name to a unique number called an IP ad...
8 min read
Erika Uy
Erika Uy
Hosting Expert

What Is ASP? A Deep Dive Into Active Server Page Technology

ASP, or Active Server Pages, is a web development technology developed by Microsoft that lets web developers create interactive and dynamic we...
8 min read
Erika Uy
Erika Uy
Hosting Expert

Cloud Computing in Small Business: Unlocking Growth and Efficiency

Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way businesses operate and has opened the door for small businesses in particular to scale their operations...
12 min read
Delight Johnson
Delight Johnson
Hosting Expert
HostAdvice.com provides professional web hosting reviews fully independent of any other entity. Our reviews are unbiased, honest, and apply the same evaluation standards to all those reviewed. While monetary compensation is received from a few of the companies listed on this site, compensation of services and products have no influence on the direction or conclusions of our reviews. Nor does the compensation influence our rankings for certain host companies. This compensation covers account purchasing costs, testing costs and royalties paid to reviewers.