What is a VPS (Virtual Private Server)?

VPS stands for virtual private server, a popular web hosting model that belongs to the classic IaaS services (Infrastructure as a Service) offered by numerous internet service providers. A virtual private server can be defined as a virtual machine (VM) that draws on the resources of a physical server and offers users diverse server functionality that is similar to that offered by a dedicated server. As a result, a VPS is also sometimes referred to as a virtual dedicated server (VDS).

In the commercial web hosting field, a high performance physical machine normally houses several virtual private servers, all of which have their own operating system (OS) and offer users full root access to the internet. This means that every server administrator operates independently of other users on the same hardware basis. The hardware is managed by what’s known as a hypervisor (also known as a virtual machine monitor). Simply put, this is a software component that creates and operates virtual machines. A hypervisor defines the virtual environment and offers every VPS a share of its physical resources like CPU, RAM, or disk space. Root privileges make it possible for the user of a VPS to install all applications that are supported by the chosen OS – this could include web server software, an e-mail server, or other special applications like e-commerce solutions or blogging systems.

What are the pros and cons of a VPS?

The virtual private server positions itself as a compromise between a cheap, shared hosting solution and the typically more expensive option of renting a dedicated server setup. The idea behind this hosting model is to be able to offer users as big a functions spectrum as possible at a manageable price. Creating virtual reproductions of individual computer systems on a communal hosting platform is a significantly easier process for web hosting companies than preparing separate hardware components for every one of their customers. And individual guest systems can achieve an even higher degree of independence through encapsulation. Every VPS on the shared hardware setup can operate in safety, shielded from other systems operating in parallel.

The share of hardware resources that each VPS receives from the central hypervisor is usually defined in advance. This way, every user is guaranteed a minimum level of performance from their server. But the actual performance of a virtual private server can be considerably higher than the guaranteed minimum, particularly in periods when the other systems operating on the shared hardware are on standby or out of use. This is because the hypervisor reallocates unused resources to the other systems sharing the hardware.

Every VPS uses its own operating system, meaning that configuration errors or malware attacks are restricted to an individual OS; other virtual private servers operating on the same hardware setup won’t be affected by any security breaches or failures. But because a VPS gives each user full root access, administration of these servers is considerably more expensive than in shared hosting, in which basic configurations and update management is handled by the web hosting company.

Other disadvantages of a virtual private server compared to a dedicated server include restrictions in hardware usage as well as the obvious sharing of network resources. All virtual servers on a host system are controlled by a specific number of network adapters and LAN connections that don’t usually correspond to the number of virtual private servers in use.

A technically similar hosting model to the VPS model is Cloud hosting, which charges per use rather than as a flat-rate contract.

Is a virtual private server suitable for me?

The web hosting model VPS is aimed primarily at experienced users who are looking for a customised hosting solution for their online project, but who don’t necessarily have the budget for their own dedicated server. As a result of the impressive range of functions offered, virtual private servers are only recommended for companies operating in public networks if they already have a basic knowledge of server administration.

Many small business pages, blogs, or simple, informational pages with a manageable number of site visitors operate their pages successfully using a shared hosting model. But employing a virtual server is particularly useful for sophisticated web projects like community sites with a high number of visitors, medium-sized online shops, or company websites, where sudden peaks in high traffic need to be supported by a solid hardware solution with guaranteed high performance. A virtual private server also offers access to the console, allowing you to install software that wouldn’t normally be available in a typical shared hosting package (e.g. Ruby on Rails, Node.js, NoSQL databases, or Windows).

Thanks to the manageable monthly costs and a good scalability, a VPS is an ideal solution for medium-sized businesses. Virtual private servers are usually quick and easy to upgrade, and if a project requires more or less performance than was assumed at first, users can simply switch to the right tariff to suit their needs. Unlike with dedicated server technology, upgrading a virtual private server doesn’t require any data migration, as additional resources can simply be released by the hypervisor.

Tip

With 1&1, you can rent your own virtual server at favorable conditions for a variety of projects (web server, mail server or your very own individual application).