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An Introduction to Virtual Private Servers (And 3 Reasons You Might Need One)

Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth considering for your next hosting upgrade. However, hosting solutions come in all shapes and sizes, so knowing how each one might benefit you is crucial when deciding whether or not you should make a switch.

While the term ‘private server’ can sound intimidating, with a better understanding of VPSs, you’ll be equipped to decide if they’re the right option for you. If you’re at the helm of a growing site, chances are their scalability and dedicated resources can help you provide a better experience for your users.

In this post, we’ll provide you with a clear-cut introduction to what VPSs are, how they compare to other hosting options, and why you might consider using one. That way, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision for your site’s future.

An Introduction to Virtual Private Servers and Their Benefits

In terms of the range of hosting options available, VPSs fall somewhere between dedicated servers and shared hosting. Unlike the latter, you don’t have to share resources with other users, and you usually get access to better customization options.

However, with a VPS you don’t get a physical server of your own. Instead, your web host allocates part of a server’s resources to a ‘virtual machine’. This enables you to enjoy most of the benefits of a dedicated server at more accessible prices.

An example of several VPS hosting plans.
VPSs offer better performance over shared hosting options at reasonable prices.

Let’s take a look at what some of those benefits are:

  1. You don’t have to share resources with other users. Each VPS has a specific set of resources allocated to it, even if there is more than one residing on the same server.
  2. You get more customization options. Compared with shared hosting, VPSs provides you with a greater degree of control over some settings.
  3. They’re easy to scale. Depending on your hosting provider, you may be able to scale your VPS as your site grows.
  4. They have uses beyond hosting websites. With a VPS, you aren’t limited to hosting sites. For example, you can use yours to set up a personal Virtual Private Network (VPN), or even as a cloud backup solution.

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to using a VPS, but there’s still an issue we need to address – complexity. A lot of users might be put off from upgrading to VPS because they think it might be more complicated than using a regular hosting account. However, that’s not entirely accurate. Many hosts offer the choice of a managed VPS, and can take care of most of the work for you.

Managed and Unmanaged Virtual Private Servers Compared

Most web hosts will provide you with two choices when it comes to VPSs – managed and unmanaged. The first is all about providing a simple hosting experience where you don’t have to tweak your server yourself or perform any tasks unrelated to managing your website. Think about it as a regular hosting plan, only more robust.

Unmanaged VPSs, on the other hand, are perfect for users with more experience when it comes to web development or server management. You get almost full access to what’s under the hood, so to speak.

Naturally, the choice of which flavor of VPS to pick is up to you, so the only question left is – do you really need one right now? Let’s try to answer it together.

3 Reasons You Might Need a Virtual Private Server

To put it simply, not everyone needs a VPS – at least not from the get-go. If you’re starting a new site from scratch, chances are you’ll be better off using a shared hosting option.

However, if you already have some experience under your belt and you feel like it’s time to make a change, here are three good reasons why you should consider opting for a VPS.

1. You’ve Outgrown Shared Hosting

As your site continues to grow, chances are you’ll need to consider moving on from shared hosting at some point. The next logical step in the chain is to think about switching to a VPS.

An example of multiple shared hosting plans.
Shared hosting plans are great for modest websites, but you may need to upgrade at some point.

If your site is starting to feel sluggish despite all your best attempts at optimization, or you’re constantly receiving enough traffic to hinder its performance, then it’s probably time to upgrade your hosting plan.

2. You Need More Control Over Your Hosting Environment

With a VPS, you get far more control over your entire setup than what shared hosting plans can offer you. For example, you can choose which operating system to use, as well as which control panel.

On top of that, some hosts enable you to choose specific amounts for each type of resource, such as storage and RAM, whereas others provide you with more traditional plans. Either way, you still get many more options out of the box.

3. You’re Not Ready for a Dedicated Server

As we mentioned earlier, VPSs are somewhere in the middle of the road between shared hosting and dedicated servers. While in most cases you can scale your VPS to accommodate more demanding sites, the chances are you won’t be able to match the performance of a dedicated alternative.

That’s not to say that VPSs are inherently worse than dedicated servers, though – it’s all a matter of hardware. After all, VPSs enable multiple users to enjoy the benefits of dedicated setups using a single server. On the other hand, a dedicated server – as its name implies – is all about satisfying the needs of a single customer.

To top things off, dedicated servers tend to be far more expensive than VPSs. This makes them better suited towards websites that are already well-established.

An example of multiple dedicated server plans.
Dedicated servers are one of the best hosting options available, but they also tend to be expensive.

If you can’t justify spending a significant amount of money over the long term on your site just yet, chances are you should stick with a VPS, at least for the time being.

Conclusion

Virtual private servers may not be the perfect solution for every website out there, but if you’re due for an upgrade, they’re well worth considering. While it’s true that they tend to be more expensive than regular shared hosting options, they also provide you with better performance and more customization options (which is always a plus).

If you’re still on the fence about upgrading to a VPS, let’s recap the three top reasons why you should consider doing so:

  1. You’ve outgrown shared hosting.
  2. You need more control over your hosting environment.
  3. You’re not ready for a dedicated server yet.

Do you have any questions about what virtual private servers can offer you? Ask away in the comments section below!

Image credit: Pixabay.

About Ashley Maurer

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