Last updated: February 11, 2018
VPS stands for virtual private server. A VPS is dedicated to hosting a single user within a wider server environment. A web hosting server, which you need to make your website available online, is made of hardware resources that can be virtually divided among several users.
With VPS hosting you get guaranteed computing, storage, and bandwidth resources on a dedicated server. This server is part of a broader physical infrastructure, but you virtually own a certain percentage of its RAM memory, storage space, and other VPS resources.
Virtual Yet Dedicated Server Resources
A VPS typically hosts fewer websites than a shared hosting solution. It is the same as purchasing a physical web hosting server that has certain built-in parameters like memory, storage space, and computing speed. You will share the overall resources with a few other customers, but the VPS resources allocated to you will be used solely by your website. If the web hosting server features 100 GB of memory, a certain amount, say, 10GB will be allocated to process only requests by and to your website. The VPS resources depend on the particular web hosting plan, but in any case, your website is isolated from other sites on the same physical server.
A VPS hosting solution can be offered as a managed or an unmanaged hosting plan. This is a huge difference since with VPS you are in charge of a virtual server that should be administered, updated, secured, and to which you have root access, unlike shared hosting where your server access is restricted. VPS hosting is a step beyond shared hosting not only regarding available resources but also regarding required technical knowledge if you opt for the unmanaged hosting plan.
Managed or Unmanaged VPS Hosting?
Unmanaged VPS is not a virtual private server that is not managed, but one that you manage yourself (i.e. not managed by the hosting service provider). It requires advanced technical skills to administer web server environment and would force you to hire expert support for server maintenance. Many hosting providers offer managed VPS hosting where they take care of the server configuration, maintenance, and updates.
Since the virtual private server is, in fact, an individual server within a larger one, it features an individual operating system and other software required to host and run your website. Within a VPS service, it is up to you what software to run and deploy, which server services to launch and stop, to whom to grant access to the server, and which users will be restricted. This has obvious benefits if you are running a web-based commercial service or a site that requires extended administration capabilities, but if you are still a beginner in the field of server administration, you’d better opt for a managed VPS hosting.
Switching to VPS Hosting
Given that VPS hosting provides dedicated resources to your website, the price goes up accordingly. The cost of VPS hosting has dropped markedly in the past years and is completely affordable for individuals and small businesses alike. Depending on the offered resources a VPS hosting plan might start as low as $15 per month although such an inexpensive plan would be quite limited in terms of allocated VPS resources.
The VPS resources available under a defined plan are closely related to the eventual growth of your website. Unlike shared hosting where you share server resources with other websites, with VPS you lease dedicated resources, which are still limited. Thus, if your website reaches a point where the allocated server memory is insufficient to process the requests to your service, it may go down temporarily or slow down to the extent where you will witness greater bounce rates. This is the moment you should upgrade to a more advanced VPS hosting or to a dedicated hosting service where you will lease not a virtual but a physical web hosting server.
Overall, the VPS hosting is the middle ground between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, providing many of the benefits of the dedicated server environment at a price that is slightly above the average cost of the shared hosting.