VPS hosting is ideal for businesses that grow too large for shared web hosting, but aren't quite large enough yet to justify moving into dedicated server hosting. A large number of the best web hosting (opens in new tab) services that offer shared and dedicated hosting also offer the best VPS hosting (opens in new tab) packages, and this feature explains everything that you need to know about this type of web hosting.
What is a VPS?
A virtual private server (VPS) works by carving out a dedicated space on an existing server, via a process called virtualization. It offers advantages including your own, standalone computing resources, which you get without being forced to purchase a server's CPUs and RAM, which can be very expensive.
A VPS hosting provider can host several VPSs on a single server at once, which they can often provide at a slight mark-up relative to selling a whole server. You only pay for the resources you use, and all VPS hosting is split between managed and unmanaged hosting (opens in new tab), with managed VPS hosting seeing IT professionals maintain, manage, and update your hosting for you, via configurations, security updates, and data backups.
On the other hand, self-managed VPS hosting means you're responsible for everything, which requires a high level of technical experience, though it's extremely configurable and customizable if you have that knowledge. While you do share hardware with other users, you've got your own operating system and complete control of the configuration of your particular server.
Flexibility as the end game
One of the main advantages of VPS hosting is its high levels of flexibility. Because your server space is fully isolated, you can install whatever operating system you want. In fact, multiple businesses operating independent VPSs on a single server can each run different operating systems and different software.
Your VPS space can be fully managed, or you can be left on your own to develop apps and build your own cybersecurity system. On top of that, since your computing space is a virtual carve-out from a larger server, you can easily scale up or down as needed. That’s a big advantage if you need to quickly adapt to spikes in web traffic or add resources for a short-term development project.
VPS vs shared hosting
Shared hosting is what most businesses use when they first start out. It’s inexpensive and simple to manage. But ultimately, shared hosting isn’t flexible enough for many growing businesses. You’re always competing with other users for server resources, which can be an issue as your web traffic grows or your IT team begins to develop internal software.
When your business outgrows shared hosting, VPS hosting is the next step up. It’s cheaper than a dedicated server, but you can get as many resources as you need and scale as your bandwidth needs continue to grow
In addition, VPS hosting gives you the freedom to treat your hosting space as a sandbox for development. You won’t be able to modify your operating system on a shared hosting plan, for example, but you can with VPS hosting.
VPS vs dedicated server
When it comes to comparing a dedicated server vs VPS (opens in new tab) hosting, purchasing a dedicated server may be great for enterprise-scale businesses, but it’s overkill for most small- and medium-sized companies. Why pay for computational resources you don’t need?
VPS hosting can save you quite a bit of money compared to a dedicated server, and you have the ability to scale up your CPUs, RAM, and bandwidth if you find that you need more computing power.
Traditional VPS vs cloud VPS vs SSD VPS
When choosing a VPS hosting service, you have a couple of different options. First is the type of disk your data will be stored on. Traditional VPS hosting uses hard disk drives (HDDs) because they’re inexpensive. But, a number of VPS hosts are turning to solid-state disks (SSDs) since they’re much more reliable than HDDs.
Another benefit to SSDs for VPS hosting is that they can handle more simultaneous input and output operations than HDDs. This means that you won’t be slowed down when other VPS users on the same server go to access data.
Cloud VPS is VPS hosting spread across multiple servers. That means that your data can live in multiple data centers around the world, giving you faster loading times in different markets. Importantly, cloud VPS is also more resilient than traditional VPS—since you have access to servers around the world, your web services won’t be knocked offline by a regional disaster or a single malfunctioning server.
Do you really want or need a VPS?
Businesses and individuals choosing VPS hosting usually do so because it's flexible, and provides your site with availability of resources. When it comes to certain types of sites, like ecommerce websites (opens in new tab), a VPS helps deal with increased pressure put on your site by elements like payment processing, or any particular spikes in traffic.
There's no need to start with a VPS, either: it's best to consider beginning with a shared hosting plan, and then upgrading to a VPS once your site outgrows any limitations or restrictions of the lower-level plan. You can then make sure that your website is performing at an optimal level, and offering performance that you're looking for without spending as much as you would on dedicated servers.
Further reading on web hosting and website builders
Make sure to read our buying guide for the best cloud hosting (opens in new tab) to see which providers of VPS hosting overlap with cloud products. We've also got a number of other features advising you on what web hosting is (opens in new tab), and how to choose a web hosting service (opens in new tab). We also compared bare metal vs dedicated servers (opens in new tab), and outlined the best website builders (opens in new tab) for those looking to create a new site.