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A Guide to VPS vs Cloud Hosting: Understanding Five Key Differences

  • Apr 14, 2021
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  • by A2 Support Team

If you have a website, you need hosting. However, considering how much it influences your site’s performance and security, the type of hosting you use isn’t a decision you should make lightly.

Two of the most popular options are Virtual Private Server (VPS) and cloud hosting. While there are benefits to both, there are some important differences to understand before you choose between them. Fortunately, the more you learn about each option, the easier it will be to decide which is suitable for your specific site.

In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of choosing the appropriate web host and introduce you to both VPS and cloud hosting, explaining the pros and cons of each. Then we’ll break down the key differences between the two, to help you better understand which is the best option for your needs. Let’s get started!

The Importance of Choosing the Right Type of Website Hosting

When creating a website for the first time, many people opt for shared hosting plans, and with good reason. Shared hosting is an inexpensive option, and is usually sufficient for a blog or a small startup site.

However, as your site traffic grows, so will the need for more resources and features. When this happens, it makes sense to switch to your own server. Not only does this mean you won’t have to worry as much about spikes in traffic, but there will also be less security risk.

Once you’ve made the decision to upgrade from shared hosting, you’ll have to decide what kind of plan is best for your website. While dedicated hosting will definitely give you a high-performance experience, it comes with a larger price tag, and as such may not be a practical option at this point.

Finding the appropriate hosting plan is incredibly important. You don’t want to overpay for resources you don’t need or aren’t going to use. However, you also want to ensure that you have enough privacy and space to keep your site protected and running optimally. When you’re on a shared server, if one site becomes infected or takes up a high volume of resources, it can jeopardize your own site and its performance.

Fortunately, if your needs to land somewhere between shared and dedicated hosting, you have a couple of options: VPS or cloud hosting. We’ll take a closer look at both in the following sections.

An Overview of VPS Hosting

VPS hosting provides you with your own virtually-partitioned server, meaning that you don’t have to share resources with other sites as you would with shared hosting. In a nutshell, VPS hosting packages leverage virtualization technology to separate your individual site from other sites hosted on the same physical server.

This is in contrast to shared plans, where you share resources with other websites on the same physical server. You’ll also see dedicated options, where you get your own physical server, and cloud hosting (which we’ll discuss in a moment).

In addition to root access to your server, VPS hosting plans offer your own resources, including:

  • Disk space
    Operating System (OS)
    Server software and web applications (WordPress, Magento, Drupal, Joomla, etc.)
    Random-Access Memory (RAM)
    Central Processing Unit (CPU)

While you don’t get as much control or resources as with dedicated hosting, a VPS setup does offer you more than a shared plan. Some of the benefits of VPS hosting include:

  • Full access to and control over your server configuration, which can be particularly beneficial for business and e-commerce sites
    Decreased site loading times, due to not having to share resources
    The ability to handle traffic spikes better than shared plans, thanks to the larger allocation of resources
    Plenty of scalability for sites experiencing medium to high traffic growth

One of the drawbacks of VPS hosting is that it can be more technically challenging due to it’s advanced status. However, this also varies on based on whether you choose a managed or unmanaged plan, which we’ll discuss later. Overall, VPS hosting is a solid option if you’ve outgrown your shared plan but are not quite ready to upgrade to a dedicated server.

An Overview of Cloud Hosting

So, how does cloud hosting compare to a VPS? Cloud hosting is another popular type of web hosting that can be a step up from shared plans, but is more affordable than dedicated ones. However, the way it operates is quite different.

In a nutshell, most cloud hosting packages use what is referred to as ‘server clusters’ to power websites. This means that, instead of relying on a single server, they use multiple virtual computers to distribute the workload.

With cloud hosting, your website’s data is spread out across various physical servers in a handful of different locations. Together, these clusters connect through a remote space made up of Virtual Machines (VMs).

This approach offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • More scalability
    Minimized downtime
    The ability to customize the server cluster based on your specific needs
    The option to add more resources as required
    A highly-customizable hosting environment, usually with the freedom to choose how much storage, CPU, and RAM you use
    Multiple physical servers to leverage resources on

As with VPSs, cloud hosting will almost always provide you with better performance and security than shared plans. However, there are some key differences between VPS vs cloud hosting that you’ll need to be aware of.

VPS vs Cloud Hosting: Understanding Five Key Differences

Now that you have a basic understanding of both VPS and cloud hosting, especially how they compare to shared and dedicated hosting, it’s time to take a closer look at how they stack up against one another. Below, we’ll explore VPS vs cloud hosting in five key areas.

1. Pricing

As we mentioned earlier, both VPS and cloud hosting tend to be a bit more expensive than shared hosting, and more affordable than dedicated plans. However, when it comes to VPS vs cloud hosting, the former is typically cheaper, especially when you consider everything that’s included.

Costs for both types of hosting plans can vary widely. Initially, cloud hosting may seem like the less expensive option. However, pricing can quickly begin to add up as you decide to add more resources to your server cluster.

Additionally, cloud hosting plans often operate on a pay-as-you-go model. Most VPS hosting providers offer monthly or annual packages:

VPP pricing table

From a pricing standpoint, VPS hosting is also more predictable. You’re guaranteed a certain amount of server resources, which also provides reliable performance.

2. Security

The importance of website security cannot be understated. Without it, the chances of falling victim to a data breach or attack are extremely high.

Neither VPS nor cloud hosting are as secure as having your own dedicated server. However, they’re not nearly as susceptible to hackers, downtime, and other various issues, as shared hosting plans can sometimes be.

In fact, both VPS and cloud hosting offer relatively secure environments. Of course, the exact features and solutions you have access to will vary based on the specific provider you choose, as well as the type of plan you opt for.

Whether you choose VPS or cloud hosting, it will be essential to take both active and passive measures to secure your site. Part of this might involve implementing third-party tools, applications, and services. At the same time, a lot of it will consist of choosing a quality hosting provider that prioritizes security features, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.

3. Flexibility and Ease of Use

On the whole, cloud hosting is a bit more flexible than a VPS. This is largely due to the à la carte nature of building server clusters and configurations.

However, this same flexibility can also sometimes mean a steeper learning curve. Cloud hosting can be complicated to configure, even if you’re somewhat technically inclined. While it’s certainly possible to do it on your own, it likely won’t be a positive experience if you’re a completely new site owner and don’t have any development know-how.

Also, the flexibility you get with cloud hosting often depends on the provider and plan. For example, if you use a managed cloud host, it can make the setup process easier. However, you’ll typically be more limited in terms of the software and tools at your disposal than you would be with a VPS host.

Additionally, cloud hosting providers may not grant access to the same features that make VPS hosting such an appealing option for so many users, such as root access to your server and site’s files. This isn’t to say that it’s not possible to get those tools with cloud hosting, but it is less common.

4. Performance and Scalability

One of the main reasons to upgrade from shared to VPS or cloud hosting is for better performance. Regardless of which option you choose, you can expect an improvement in site speed and loading times, thanks to the increase in allocated resources that are available and used by your site only.

When it comes to cloud vs VPS hosting, there is a difference in scale. Most importantly, with cloud hosting, if one of the servers goes down you won’t have to worry about your site going offline, because its data is distributed across multiple servers.

For example, let’s say that one of the servers in your cluster reaches maximum traffic. By default, it will begin automatically routing queries to another available server. In this sense, cloud hosting is incredibly reliable and scalable.

Comparatively, the resources you’ll get with VPS hosting are finite. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – especially if you don’t expect a major spike in traffic in the short term. In addition, you’ll usually be able to upgrade your plan and resources as needed.

5. Setup and Support

As we mentioned earlier, both VPS and cloud hosting may require some technical know-how. However, the server configuration experience you have will vary depending on whether you choose a managed or unmanaged plan. The support you’ll receive will also be determined by the specific provider you use.

An unmanaged VPS plan will provide you with total freedom and control. This might be a benefit if you’re technically savvy. However, it also means that you assume responsibility for nearly every aspect of setting up, configuring, and maintaining your virtual server.

On the other hand, a managed plan will take some of the work off your plate so you can focus on other critical areas of business. You’ll also likely get access to a control panel such as cPanel, as well as server security and management services.

The type of plans you’re offered depends on the host you choose. For example, at A2 Hosting we provide a variety of options, including both unmanaged VPS and managed VPS solutions:

Unmanaged VPS description

Whatever you chose, our servers are fast and reliable. Many of our packages include development software to help you meet your needs.

A Quick Recap of VPS vs Cloud Hosting

At this point, you should have a better idea of whether VPS vs cloud hosting is the better option for you. Before we move on let’s quickly recap some of the primary benefits, in order to help you make a clearer choice.

A VPS hosting plan is when you pay a provider to store your site’s files and database on a physical server. While the server itself is shared with other users, you’ll get a separate virtual space.

VPS hosting is a solid option if you have a relatively complex or demanding site, and aren’t overly concerned about it scaling up significantly in the immediate future. It’s also a recommended choice if you are ready to take the next step up from shared hosting, but don’t want to deal with overly complex or costly solutions.

As for cloud hosting, it offers a remote server environment for your websites.  However, with this type of plan, the resources are spread out across multiple locations. These plans essentially provide you with infinite server resources, and are designed to help you scale up quickly as needed. They’re worth considering if you have a large website or network of sites that regularly receive high traffic levels.

Tips for Choosing a Hosting Provider

Once you decide on the type of hosting you want for your website, the next step will be to select a provider. As we’ve touched on throughout this article, the host you choose will influence not only the cost of your plan, but also what features and functionality are included.

There are a lot of quality options to choose from. To make your decision easier, we recommend considering the following points:

  • Decide whether you want a managed or unmanaged plan. If you’re a technically-savvy person and prefer to handle server configuration yourself, you’ll likely want to opt for an unmanaged plan – especially since that tends to be the cheaper option. However, if you want your provider to deal with the majority of mundane setup and maintenance tasks, a managed solution makes more sense. Some providers offer both types of plans (including us!).
  • Consider what security features (if any) are included. Security is of the utmost importance when you’re running a website. Therefore, it’s essential to look into the features, tools, and services a hosting provider offers to help protect your website’s environment on both the site and server level.
  • Look for a money-back guarantee. Budget is probably a major factor in your decision-making process. However, it’s also essential to make sure you don’t get locked into a contract that you’re unhappy with. Most quality web hosts will provide a refund policy or a money-back guarantee. This indicates that they are confident in their services, and you should be too.

The hosting providers you look at may vary depending on whether you want VPS vs cloud hosting. However, many offer both types of plans. Either way, we recommend spending some time researching and comparing hosts to ensure that you’re getting the best solution for your specific needs.


Choosing the type of hosting to use for your website is no easy task. There are a lot of factors to consider. They include, but are not limited to, your budget, site traffic, and plans for future growth. If you’ve graduated beyond shared hosting, the next step will likely be to choose between VPS vs cloud hosting.

As we’ve seen, there are advantages and drawbacks to both types of hosting. Although they are similar in functionality, the methods they use for powering and running sites differ. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, for most medium to large business websites where you need both flexibility and control at an affordable price, we recommend VPS hosting.

With VPS hosting, you get your own virtually-partitioned server that you can configure to meet your specific needs. If you’re interested in switching to reliable VPS hosting, check out our plans today!

Image credit: Pexels.