A VPS hosting is a server, with its own copy of operating system and allocated server resources, within a bigger server.
A geeky term I like using to explain VPS:
VPS hosting = Shared Hosting + Server Root Access + Dedicated Resources + Isolated Environment
How VPS hosting works?
In VPS hosting, every website is hosted on a virtual private server on a more powerful hardware.
A physical machine is divided into several virtual compartments, and server software is setup on them separately, making each unit capable of functioning independently.
Though other websites may be hosted on the same physical system, yours would be the only website(s) hosted in the virtual compartment allocated – with independent server resources (CPU, RAM, disk space, etc) to you. Other websites on the machine won’t affect the performance of yours. That means you get exactly the same system resources you pay for.
It’s like each website resides in an isolated room with sufficient resources to live with.
You get complete root access to your server as if it were your dedicated server. But technically you are still on the same physical machine and sharing its CPU, RAM, disk storage, and bandwidth. VPS hosting gives you complete control over your server and almost the same benefits of the pricey dedicated server. This way, you can get a virtual dedicated server for a much cheaper price and get higher performance for your website than a shared server.
VPS vs other type of hosting services
VPS vs. Shared Hosting
Think of it like real estate. Hosting in a shared hosting environment is like renting an apartment; there is one landlord (the hosting company) who owns the full space and all assets.
That landlord leases out the space and communal assets such as a pool, workout facility, parking lots, etc. (or in hosting terms, CPU, RAM, disk space, etc.) – and all residents share those communal resources. VPS hosting is like the next step “up” – or a condo – in which you actually own your own space. You’ll still share communal assets – though you have actual claims to certain portions of them, but unlike the apartment (shared hosting), you are responsible for maintaining your own interior space and making your own repairs and modifications.
Additionally, there are significantly fewer residents and, as a bonus, assigned parking. More or less, you have rights to your space and a specific allocation of the resources – rather than pulling from a shared pool all of the time.
Pros vs cons: VPS compared to shared, dedicated, and cloud hosting.
All of this having been said, before you make the switch from shared server to VPS hosting, you need to know that there are some disadvantages.
For one, VPS hosting is generally more expensive than shared server hosting environments. Also, you’ll need some technical ability – especially if you are planning to use an unmanaged VPS host. Beyond that, VPS hosting can entail some extra time and effort to manage – for example, monitoring and maintaining the server to ensure that it remains secure and in reliable condition requires some time and know-how.
VPS vs. Dedicated Hosting
VPS is kind of like entry-level home ownership; you have the benefit of lower costs, but still enjoy shared community amenities – versus the next step up, dedicated hosting, which is like owning your first free-standing home.
In dedicated hosting, you have your very own space and are responsible for everything on the property – think interior cleaning and maintenance, as well as the exterior and landscaping. You’re on your own in this hosting scenario, and as such, need to have some technical experience and prowess.
The VPS hosting is the middle ground, providing a step up from the shared “apartment” hosting that comes with more assigned allocations and guaranteed resources – but still affords you the benefit of a “landlord” should you need repairs, maintenance, or support.
When is the right time to switch?
Is VPS the right answer for your site?
Most hosting users are on VPS hosting for more server resources (shared hosting offers limited CPU resources, even if it’s an “unlimited” plan) and better control over the hosting environment (safety). Also, some users who are wary of the technological know-how simply take VPS hosting as the stepping stone to dedicated hosting.
If you are on shared hosting, when is the right time to switch?
Most websites launch using a shared hosting plan. And that’s absolutely okay because shared hosting is the easiest option for starters – it’s cheap, easy to manage, and requires very little technical knowledge. However, as your site grows and demands more functions, VPS hosting becomes a necessity at some point.
In case you were confused, here are a few indications that (maybe) it’s time to switch over to VPS.
1. Heavy Traffics
You have a high amount of incoming traffic. Sometimes you will receive a notification from your shared hosting provider if you are pulling too many resources from the shared server – this is a tangible way to know that you need to upgrade your server capacity. If you don’t receive a notification from your provider, watch your load times and visitor traffic – your growth is an excellent indication.
2. Reliability and security
You need a stable stream of resources for better website reliability. Or, you need to implement better backups, advanced monitoring capabilities, and enhanced security features (such as SSH – or secure shell access)
3. Better control / Server root access
You have reached a point that you require complete control over your web host to perform more advanced actions, such as installing custom software or a custom server configuration.
Or, you need better control over your users. For example, if you are a developer who helps clients to design and host their own websites, you likely take on some of that hosting work and responsibility – VPS hosting will give you better control over user access, while also allowing you to give your clients access to the servers.