In the realm of website server options, there are a number of different price points and feature sets, each with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. For professional applications, a dedicated server is typically the best option, as it gives you the most control and best performance. But the downside of a dedicated server is that they are much more costly than a shared hosting plan.
The middleground between a dedicated server and a shared server is a virtual private server. Virtual private servers are designed to give you the functional benefits of a dedicated server along with the cost-effectiveness of a shared host.
How Virtual Private Servers Work
If you’ve ever run a virtualized machine or emulator on your desktop computer, then you should be familiar with how virtual private servers work. Within a physical server, there can be numerous virtual machines running. Each instance acts like a distinct server, with its own IP address, operating system, memory partitions, etc. This is where the functional benefit comes from. However, each of these virtual machines shares a set of hardware, such as RAM, CPU and physical hard disk space.
What Can You Do With a Virtual Private Server
A virtual private server gives you the run of the place without affecting the experience or service of other users on the same physical machine. So, if you wanted to run Apache and PHP with MySQL, it wouldn’t matter if the other “tenants” on the physical server wanted to run IIS and ASP.net. Likewise, you could have your own FTP servers and mail servers without crossing wires with others on the same physical website server. Most importantly, you can get your own dedicated IP address, which allows you to obtain a security certificate for your website, which is absolutely essential for e-commerce.
Disadvantages of a Virtual Private Server
As a middle of the road option between dedicated hosting and shared hosting, virtual private servers have drawbacks from both sides of the fence. For one, it’s more expensive than shared hosting and more technically demanding. You’ll be given root access to your virtual private server, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could ruin things for yourself fairly quickly. For these reasons, a shared hosting plan may be more appropriate for users with limited budgets and technical know-how.
On the other hand, virtual private servers won’t likely match the processing power and bandwidth of a dedicated server, since you’ll be sharing with other websites. For most users, this isn’t a problem—but if you need the utmost in bandwidth, storage space and server-side processing power, go with the dedicated server.
As server virtualization software improves, virtual private servers will become an increasingly attractive option. It’s not infeasible that virtual private servers will someday replace shared hosting plans and overtake a large share of the dedicated server market (though improvements in hardware are also required for the latter). If you are looking for more control over your webspace, but don’t have the money or need for a dedicated server, a virtual private server is an excellent place to start.