What is virtual private server (VPS) hosting ?
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is often described as a hybrid of shared and dedicated server hosting. It offers the benefits of effectively having a dedicated server (that is not shared with other accounts on the same machine) without the prohibitive costs of dedicating hosting plans.
A VPS is a virtual machine as it is not a physical computer but functions like a separate web server within the actual physical web server (called a host server). This means that a web host can host multiple virtual servers on one physical host server.
VPS hosting offers the combined benefits of shared and dedicated server hosting in a powerful and affordable web hosting solution for high-growth websites.
In this way, VPS hosting shares similarities with shared hosting since there can be a number of virtual servers on a host server much like how there can be many websites or accounts hosted on a shared hosting server.
Also like shared hosting, the operating costs of the host server is shared between the hosted virtual servers making it considerably cheaper than operating a dedicated server. However unlike shared hosting where problems with one website may potentially crash the server and cause all other hosted websites to go down with it, a faulty virtual server will not affect other virtual servers on the same host server as each is itself a contained system.
The partitioning of a physical host server into multiple virtual servers is done with virtualization software likeSolusVMandXen. These software allow a host server's operating system to create a simulation of the server's hardware so that other operating systems are able run concurrently on it.
This ability allows a virtual server to function pretty much like a dedicated server as it is a self-contained system with its own predetermined access to the host server's resources. Just like how virtual reality is a simulation of reality, a virtual server is a simulation of a web server within a physical machine itself. Each virtual server is free to run its own operating system and can also be independently rebooted without affecting other virtual servers on the host server.
Benefits of VPS web hosting
There are numerous benefits that VPS hosting offers over shared hosting solutions :
When a website has outgrown the advantages offered by conventional shared hosting solutions, the next practical step would be to upgrade to a VPS hosting plan.
Very few websites really require dedicated hosting unless they are extremely high-traffic sites requiring the use of large databases. A VPS can offer the three important resources that a moderately high-traffic site would need - additional RAM, increased bandwidth and hard disk space - at a fraction of the costs of dedicated servers.
As the costs of operating the host server is shared among numerous virtual servers, the monthly hosting fee for a VPS plan is still relatively affordable considering the greater performance provided.
For small to medium-sized businesses running e-commerce websites, VPS hosting offers a cost-effective alternative to dedicated hosting. These businesses often require the solid uptime of dedicated hosting even if their sites do not anticipate very high traffic.
Before VPS hosting came along, the only option for businesses was to switch to a dedicated server which is a costly solution for the intended purpose of reliable uptime. Using VPS hosting allows businesses to enjoy the performance of a dedicated server with a cost more comparable to shared hosting.
With the increased popularity of VPS plans and a decrease in the cost of technology required to operate and maintain a virtual server, finding an affordable and reliable VPS hosting provider is no longer the daunting undertaking it used to be. While many web hosts offer this service, it is important to look beyond the price of a plan to ensure you are receiving a quality service.
Performance & Access to Dedicated Resources
In this day and age, the general disposition of web users seems to be of impatience, so the faster a website loads, the better it is for the site owner.
Arecent articleby the New York Times describes the evolving attention span of web users :
NYT: Impatient Web Users Flee Slow Loading Sites
Remember when you were willing to wait a few seconds for a computer to respond to a click on a Web site or a tap on a keyboard? These days, even 400 milliseconds - literally the blink of an eye - is too long, as Google engineers have discovered. That barely perceptible delay causes people to search less.
Subconsciously, you don't like to wait,” said Arvind Jain, a Google engineer who is the company's resident speed maestro. Every millisecond matters. "
New York Times
We are not even talking about temporary downtime here. It appears that if your website does not load quickly enough - by mere miliseconds seconds, your potential customers may not wait your site to load at all and are likely move on to another. Your targeted audience may probably also not return if your competitors' sites offer the information they were looking for even if your site is has better content.
When website owners contemplate upgrading their hosting plans, a primary reason is because their present hosting solutions can no longer cope with traffic load effectively. A slow server causes slower load times and even time-outs.
For websites that are growing quickly but not so much that they require a dedicated server, VPS hosting is a practical and affordable solution. By essentially having your own private server, you will have access to a greater server resources in terms of additional RAM disk space and monthly bandwidth resulting in less downtime and faster load times.
An important feature of VPS hosting is the ability to easily scale up the performance of a virtual server by adding RAM, bandwidth or storage as and when you require without interrupting the uptime of your website.
This can typically be done through a web host's provided control panel and paying the corresponding upgrade fees. For example, you can add an additional gigabyte of RAM without taking the server offline by purchasing this option through the control panel with a click of the mouse. The web host will prormpty add another gigabyte of RAM to your virtual machine without needing to take down the host server.
In this way, you will never really need to change your plan or web host unless your site has really grown big enough to require its own dedicated server.
Stability is one of the most fundamental and understated consideration of any web hosting solution. An unstable web host can have undesirable effects on website performance. Whether you are running a small or medium-sized business, being accessible to your customers at all times is a major contributing factor to commercial success.
From the same New York Times article above,
In 2009, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load in two seconds or fewer; and at three seconds, a large share abandon the site. Only three years earlier a similar Forrester study found the average expectations for page load times were four seconds or fewer.
The two-second rule is still often cited as a standard for Web commerce sites. Yet experts in human-computer interaction say that rule is outdated. “The old two-second guideline has long been surpassed on the racetrack of Web expectations,” said Eric Horvitz, a scientist at Microsoft’s research labs.
New York Times
Imagine being able to access a popular website that's up only every other day because it's buckling under the constraints of heavy user load. It isn't likely to be popular in the near future as visitors get fed up with the persistent downtime.
With a shared hosting plan, the traffic and activities of other sites on the same server have the potential to adversely affect your website's performance if they consume excessive server resources. This problem is avoided with a virtual server as it is a contained and isolated environment.
Some web hosts may offer with its VPS plans, an addition form of RAM on top of the standard allocated RAM, called burstable memory. Burstable RAM is additional memory that is set aside for extraordinary events such a sudden and unexpected surge in web traffic.
If your website experiences a temporary spike in traffic that may affect loading times, this pool of reserved memory will be deployed to support the performance of your site and keep it running until the traffic has renormalized.
Having your own virtual server means that you have the freedom of choosing the operating system with which to use such as Linux or Windows as well as other server-optimizing customizations. A customer may want to tweak the server to improve a website's performance such as installingmemcachedorvarnish.
If a customer is not entirely tech-savvy, he or she can opt for a managed VPS plan where the configuration, administration and maintenance of the VPS is handled by the web host. An unmanaged VPS plan is the opposite in which a user is responsible for managing all aspects of the server. Managed plans are typically more costly since they involve the time and effort of the web host in administering its customers' servers.
Although VPS hosting offer dedicated resources for each virtual server, the qualitative features can still vary widely between different hosting providers.
Another point to keep in mind is that although RAM and hard disk are allocated to a virtual server, the processing power of the host server, that is, its CPU, is still shared among the virtual servers.
VPS hosting is also obviously more costly than shared hosting plans and may only be required if a website experiences constantly high traffic. More powerful VPS plans can cost as much a cheap dedicated server plan.
Do check ourreviewsto learn more about a web host's VPS plans that you may be contemplating and how it stacks against its competiton.
Our recommendations for good web hosts with solid VPS plans presently include :
DreamHost's VPS plans are the only ones in the market that offer an unlimited bandwidth and storage policy. That's right, unlimited! Read ourreview.
Site5 offers a wide selection of managed and unmanaged standard as well as cloud-based VPS plans. Read ourreview.
If you are running a business or e-commerce site, consider InMotion Hosting VPS plans which cater primarily to business websites that require reliable uptime at all times. Read ourreview.
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