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The Difference Between Virtual Private Servers, Dedicated Servers, And Cloud Servers

So, you’re looking into hosting for your business? That’s great! Just make sure you understand the different paths available to you. If you don’t know what your choices are, there’s a fairly good chance you’re going to end up making the wrong one.

That isn’t likely to kill your business, mind you – but it will end up costing you a tidy sum to correct your mistake.  Let’s see if we can help you avoid having to do so.  Today, we’re going to talk about three of the most widely-used hosting options on the web: virtual private servers, dedicated servers, and cloud servers.

What differentiates the three? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? More importantly, how can you decide which one is the best choice for your business?

Dedicated Hosting

A dedicated server is essentially exactly what it sounds like – a physical server that’s devoted entirely to a single client. With dedicated hosting, you have complete control over every aspect of your hosting solution, ranging from what hardware you’re running to the apps that hardware powers. Although somewhat more expensive than VPS hosting and cloud hosting, dedicated hosting is also significantly more powerful – after all, you have the resources of an entire server at your disposal.

There’s one more trade-off to consider as well: compared to virtual private servers and cloud platforms, it tends to be more difficult to deploy dedicated servers – and to provision more resources for them. The reason for that is simple: the former aren’t directly tied to the physical realm, so provisioning and deployment simply requires a few keystrokes. Contrast that to dedicated servers, where you actually have to set up the hardware you’re using.

By and large, dedicated hosting is the ideal choice for resource-intensive applications such as online games or streaming media. It’s also a great choice where scaling and growth aren’t immediate, pressing concerns.

VPS Hosting

A virtual private server provides as much control as a dedicated server, with one caveat – you can’t do anything with your physical hardware.

Let me explain. A virtual private server ‘virtualizes’ an operating environment for a client – meaning that environment exists independently of the physical servers that are running it. Usually (but not always), that hardware is shared between a few clients.

There are a number of advantages to running a virtual private server. They cost considerably less than a dedicated server, for one. They also offer a great deal of independence, flexibility, and scalability – provisioning of new resources generally requires only a few clicks. Of course, you’re not going to be getting as much power from a virtual server as you would from a dedicated server – but unless you’re using an incredible volume of resources, that shouldn’t be a problem.

VPS hosting is great for running a DNS, web, or FTP server; it also works for running a small-scale game server or a typical website.

Cloud Hosting

Here’s where things get a little confusing. See, on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a gulf between a virtual private server and a cloud server. And in a way, there isn’t – virtualization technology is the backbone on which the cloud is built, after all. So…what’s the difference, then?

There are several, actually. Firstly, with a cloud service model, you only pay for the resources you use – nothing more, and nothing less. It makes scaling resources virtually effortless – even more so than with a VPS – and relies on a network of servers for its resources rather than a single server (hence the term “cloud”).  It offers the most freedom and flexibility out of all three options; aside from that, it comes packaged with many of the same benefits as VPS hosting.

At the same time, the payment model typically attached to cloud hosting means that, for intensive applications, it’s not necessarily cost-effective. If your server’s using a ton of resources, you’re probably better off sticking with VPS hosting or dedicated hosting.

Choose Wisely

The hosting plan you select for your business will determine everything about how you operate. If you don’t understand the options that are available to you – as well as your own unique hosting needs – then there’s a very good chance you’ll make the wrong choice. While that’s not likely to sink your business, it will end up costing you money which could be better put towards helping your business to grow.

Image credit: Torkild Retvedt

Jay Caissie

Jay Caissie

Jay Caissie is the Director of IT at ServerMania.

  • All types of servers (dedicated, VPS and cloud) have their pros and cons. And it’s up to each website owner to decide which hosting solution will work best for them. The great thing about purchasing a dedicated server is that you have full control over it. Private Servers are ideal for businesses or advanced users who run high traffic websites.

  • Yes, dedicated servers are great for everyone who has websites with higher traffic. I used to have KVM VPS but, as my website grew bigger I decided that the best option is to have my won dedicated server. I’ve been using BGOcloud for about a month and everything seems perfect.