What Is a VPS? Beginner's Guide To VPS Hosting

What Is a VPS? A Beginner's Guide to Virtual Private Servers

VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is a hosting solution that strikes a balance between the affordability of shared hosting and the extensive resources of a dedicated server. In VPS hosting, a single physical server contains several independent virtual servers. It gives medium-sized organizations and high-traffic websites the power and flexibility of a dedicated server at a reduced cost.

Consider upgrading to a VPS when you start:

  • Experiencing traffic surges beyond the capacity of shared hosting
  • Seeking advanced customization and tighter security controls
  • Preparing your website for scalable growth and wish to ensure consistent performance

From emerging businesses and passionate bloggers to demanding e-commerce sites and data-heavy platforms, a VPS provides the infrastructure and dedicated resources to guarantee seamless operations for every digital endeavor.

Ready to Experience VPS Benefits? Start with our recommended VPS Hosting Plans and elevate your website’s performance today! UltaHost is currently our top recommended VPS provider.

VPS Plans with Ultahost
UltaHost offers four VPS hosting plans starting at $5.50 per month, designed for businesses of varying sizes. Their plans range from the VPS Basic, ideal for beginners, to the VPS Enterprise for handling multiple high-traffic sites. The plans come with SSD & NVMe storage, built-in security updates, and a free SSL certificate. They also offer a choice of control panels including Hestia, CyberPanel, Plesk, and cPanel
Visit Ultahost
Takeaways
  • Switching to VPS hosting is advisable when you experience high traffic or need to host multiple websites, as it offers fast speeds, scalable resources, and enhanced security.
  • When choosing a VPS plan, critical factors include understanding managed vs. unmanaged hosting, considering server performance parameters (CPU, memory, bandwidth), and verifying reliability through uptime guarantees.
  • Consider reviewing services, resources, capabilities, security, backup features, customer support quality, and the cost of the plan.
  • VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is a midway solution between shared and dedicated hosting, offering greater resources and control at a more affordable cost.
  • VPS hosting allows private compartments on one server, enabling customization and scalability as your needs grow.

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.

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.

Using a VPS is like renting a suite in a large building. While the entire structure (the physical server) houses multiple suites (virtual servers), each suite is independent, giving its tenant (the website) privacy, dedicated resources, and the freedom to decorate (customize) as they see fit.

  • A VPS 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 offering unique features that appeal to different segments of VPS users.
  • Users can request more resources from the VPS provider if they outgrow their allocated virtual server resources.
  • Upgrading to a dedicated server is an option if needs outgrow a compartmentalized virtual server and the budget permits.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Private Servers

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

VPS vs. Other Web Hosting Types (Compared)

 VPSSharedDedicatedCloudVDS
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.

Pros
  • Most affordable and easiest to manage
  • Perfect hosting for beginners
  • Websites require minimal resources and no server customization
Cons
  • Offers the least flexibility and the most risk
  • Drain on server resources
  • Cannot configure your server environment or install your preferred applications

A VPS hosting plan eliminates those risks

  • 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

Dedicated Servers are the the top-of-the-line of web hosting solutions, providing exceptional performance and security as one user enjoys all benefits of a single physical server. They come at a premium, often costing companies hundreds to thousands of dollars monthly.

While some businesses might consider moving to dedicated servers, many VPS hosting plans now offer substantial resources, including: ample storage, customization options, and powerful CPU cores at a lower cost.

Dedicated servers offer unrivaled security and freedom, but for most businesses and individuals, VPS hosting provides sufficient flexibility. Even large-scale eCommerce platforms and web-based applications can operate efficiently on quality VPS hosting.

VPS wins the VPS vs Dedicated server comparison. If your only concern is getting more resources, rather than paying for costly dedicated hosting, you are better off with a Premium VPS Hosting.

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 comparison between VPS and Cloud hosting can be complex as they’re not always distinct. In fact, some providers offer VPS hosting on a cloud infrastructure, where your website is powered by a cluster of virtual servers.

Cloud VPS hosting: This option allows for on-demand resource allocation, leading to improved website performance and reliability. It operates on a pay-as-you-use basis, which could lead to increased costs during traffic spikes or heightened resource needs.

Traditional VPS: Here, your monthly resources are pre-allocated based on your chosen plan. For additional resources, you’d need to contact your provider and pay an additional fee.

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.

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.

When Should You Switch to VPS?

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 include:

  • 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 balance 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.

What to Look for When Choosing a VPS Plan

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 (also called self-managed VPS hosting) is a cost effective option where you’re responsible for managing and monitoring your virtual server space. While this can be cheaper upfront, dealing with significant security threats may be costly. So unless you have both the technical expertise and the time, we recommend against opting for 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.

For example: 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.

Remember that 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.

If the downtime for the month exceeds the specified downtime period in their uptime guarantee, some providers offer credits or a refund of your monthly fee . 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.

Tip

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 both expert reviews and user reviews regarding their uptime guarantee.

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.

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.

  • Understand whether backups are automatic or manual.
  • Consider the location of backups. Some providers offer remote backups, which can provide additional security.
  • If using a self-managed VPS hosting plan, ascertain if there are additional costs for backups and evaluate the ease of performing and restoring backups.

For more on securing data on a VPS, check out our guide, VPS Security: How to Keep your Data Secure

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 that will help you determine if a VPS hosting plan is worth the price or not. These include:

  • Renewal price
  • Features in each plan
  • Cost of downgrading or upgrading your plan
  • Cost of essential add-ons

Price vs 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.

It’s advisable to seek hosting providers or plans that cater to your specific needs and offer convenient scalability. After identifying these, you can then compare their prices to choose the most suitable option for your requirements.

Check out our useful tool for Web Hosting Company side by side comparison

Warning
  • 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. If you are on a shoestring budget, check our recommended best cheap VPS hosting.

What is a VPS Used For?

Virtual Private Servers occupy the sweet spot between basic shared hosting and premium dedicated servers. Beyond hosting websites, VPS has a myriad of additional applications.

The following are the top VPS use cases, but if you want to dig deeper, check out our in depth article on What Is A VPS Used For? Top 10 VPS Use Cases.

  1. Hosting a High-Traffic Website
  2. VPS Gaming Server
  3. Developing and Testing Code & Applications
  4. The Flexibility of an API
  5. Access to many Domains and IPs
  6. Encrypting a Wireless Connection
  7. Image Server
  8. Ethical Hacking Tool
  9. VPS Seedbox
  10. Offshore VPS

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.

Next Steps:

Further Reading & Useful Resources

 

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.

Rafi Salber
Edited By:
Rafi Salber
Content Editor
Rafi is the editor of HostAdvice.com, an online publication that covers the latest developments in the web hosting industry. With a background in content development and a passion for all things tech-related, Rafi has a keen eye for spotting trends and a talent for researching and explaining complex ideas in a way that is accessible to readers.

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