In our increasingly connected world, we’re always in search of more power and more control – while maintaining a reasonable price. Dedicated servers, at costs exceeding $100 a month, can be daunting to some of us. Are Virtual Private Servers, or VPS, the solution? They may be.

This article will teach you what a VPS is and how it differs from both generic shared hosting and dedicated hosting. When you are done reading, you should be able to make an informed, intelligent decision about if a VPS is right for you.

By the way, Virtual Private Servers are also known as Virtual Dedicated Servers. And don’t let the term frighten you if you are unfamiliar with the technology. It is very straight-forward.

What is a VPS?

In order to understand what a VPS is, it is prudent to first understand shared server and dedicated server technology. If you are already familiar with the differences, please bear with us for a little while.

In a shared server environment, a hosting company places multiple clients (a client is you) on a single machine. This means that the server is sharing its resources, including hard drive space, memory allocations and CPU usage, between all the clients on the machine. It is possible, under this configuration, for one client to take up enough resources that it slows down other clients on that same machine. Clients on these machines generally do not have access to the web server itself; rather, a control panel, like CPANEL or Plesk, is provided for some “administration” duties. Shared servers are generally inexpensive, from $3/month and up.

A dedicated server, in contrast, is an entire computer devoted to a single customer. That means the client receives ALL resources that the system provides. A dedicated server client usually has access to the machine through SSH (secure shell) with root access. For those unfamiliar with the term, “root” access means you have full and complete control over the system, by command line. Here, clients can add and remove software, view logs and configure processes more directly. Dedicated servers are usually expensive, from $100/month and up, but provides the best solution for large web sites and deeper wallets.

Now we get to what a Virtual Private Server is. A VPS has similar traits to both a shared server and dedicated server. On a VPS capable system, each client receives their own operating system and resources. Although more than one client physically resides on a single computer system, the resources are not shared. Instead, resources are isolated and guaranteed for each client. You will find that VPS hosting companies provide a quota on resources, like 512Mbs of RAM, for example. While more than 512Mbs of RAM exist on the server, each client is guaranteed that much, but is “burstable”, which means more is available if required. Shared servers cannot guarantee resources.

In addition to guaranteed resources, VPS clients often enjoy “root” access to their own space on the system. That means each client can have complete control over their portion, which includes their operating system, files and applications. Like with dedicated servers, VPS clients can usually install software of their own and configure them to their liking. Because web hosting companies do place more than one client on a single computer, they can offer these servers at significantly lower costs than dedicated servers. In essense, VPS can be thought of as “shared dedicated” hosting. As you might expect, VPS hosting prices greatly vary, but can cost as little as $15/month and as much as $100/month.

Do I need a VPS?

This is the $64 dollar question. You need a Virtual Private Server if you require the flexibility that root access provides, but don’t want to spend the money to purchase an entire dedicated box. You may also need a VPS if your web site is popular and you find yourself paying “overage” charges for excess data transfer at the end of the month.

If security is a main concern, a VPS might be up your alley. Especially with shared environments, it is possible for an infected web site to contaminate other web sites on the same server (or even a different server if the virus spreads). Remember, your VPS account is completely shut off from other VPS accounts, even on the same system.

Okay, so what’s the bottom line?

Here it is. If you are looking for the flexibility that dedicated servers provide, like custom installation of databases or scripting languages – or even hosting other web sites, but with prices well below them, then Virtual Private Servers may be right up your alley.

VPS solution providers

If VPS technology is right for you, here are just a few providers. this site has no connection with any of these companies, and we get no “credit” for any click. All links open in a new window.

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