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Do I need a VPS? (Shared vs. VPS Hosting)


We often hear the question, "do I need a VPS?" Whether you are looking to upgrade from Shared hosting, or find a cost-effective alternative to dedicated server hosting, a VPS will most likely be the perfect fit for your budget and needs.

Shared hosting, virtual private servers, and dedicated servers are often compared as three of the main web hosting solutions, occupying "tiers" one above the other. Shared hosting is the cheapest option, but also the least secure and lowest in quality. Conversely, dedicated servers are very secure and completely customizable, but often very expensive and difficult to maintain. VPS hosting is a solution that hybridizes the two: host servers are populated with multiple users, like Shared hosting, yet every VPS environment is completely private and customizable, like dedicated server hosting. Below is an in-depth look at the key differences between Shared and VPS hosting.


Platform Capabilities - VPS vs. Shared Hosting:

Shared hosting accounts are typically setup with a panel like cPanel or Plesk, where users have access only to the "user level." Aside from FTP, the control panel will be the user's only method of server administration, and server functions will be limited, in large extent, by those available in the control panel.

A virtual private server, by contrast, has essentially the same capabilities as a dedicated server. Though cPanel or another control panel can be installed on a VPS (this is how many Shared resellers setup their hosts), a VPS user will have complete control over the system via the "secure shell," or SSH. There are absolutely no limits imposed on a VPS beyond the limits of hardware; any VPS will allow you the ability to create "unlimited domains," "unlimited users," etc, up to the capacity of the CPU, RAM, and disk space allocated to your VPS.


Security - VPS vs. Shared Hosting:

Insecurity is a basic and innate flaw of Shared hosting environments. Since every user on a Shared hosting server will be running applications within the same filesystem and same operating system, there is relatively great opportunity for a single user to exploit the system and negatively affect all other users hosted on the same server.

A VPS, like a dedicated server, will remain almost completely isolated from other virtual servers. Every VPS runs its own independent operating system, and in some virtual servers, even its own kernel (see OpenVZ vs. Xen: What's the difference?). This allows VPS users to customize their own firewalls and security settings, totally independently of other virtual servers running on the same host.


Options and Extensibility - VPS vs. Shared Hosting:

Shared hosting providers have complete control over what will be available to you in your Shared hosting environment, and the options are usually very limited. A setup that is compatible with one host may be completely unusable with another host, because of limits on the ability of users to customize software like mailservers, webservers, and MySQL. You will also be out of luck if you require an operating system (OS) or software that your Shared host does not support.

However, since a VPS is just a server inside another server, or "virtual server," you will have complete control over your individual server's environment. With most VPS providers, you can choose from many different operating systems; with any VPS host, you will have the ability to install any software you need. VPS hosts will set absolutely no restrictions on what can be installed (excluding, of course, applications that are illegal or extremely resource-intensive).


Resource Allocation - VPS vs. Shared Hosting:

In a Shared hosting environment, all hardware resources are shared among all users, with virtual limits set for the amount of bandwidth, disk space, and other resources available to each user. The individual users' resources are not in any way separated, nor can server performance be effectively monitored on a per-user basis, hence the notorious overselling, "unlimited" resource allocations, and poor performance too-often associated with Shared hosting.

On a VPS node (host server), each virtual server is allocated a "hard" amount of disk space, RAM, and other server resources. Though different virtualization techniques handle this slightly differently (see OpenVZ vs. Xen: What's the difference, and which is better?), VPS resources are basically equivalent to actual "slices" of the physical hardware in a server: one slot of RAM reserved for one VPS, one CPU core reserved for one VPS, etc. These dedicated resources, combined with advanced per-user monitoring tools, make virtual private server hosting far more reliable than shared hosting.


Convenience - VPS vs. Shared Hosting:

Although Shared hosting offers the convenience of a straightforward and easy-to-use control panel for server management (which can also be installed on a VPS), virtual private server hosting offers an even greater convenience: the ability to setup a customized system that can be painlessly upgraded or downgraded at any time. Due to the virtual nature of VPS hosting, where multiple "containers" coexist on the same host server, administration of virtual servers is considerably more efficient than dedicated hosting, and has many more options available than Shared hosting. Where a Shared host may simply suspend a user for a traffic spike or sudden increase in resource usage, a VPS host can seamlessly expand a virtual server's resource allocation to accommodate higher demand.


To answer the original question, yes! Make the move to a VPS today, and see why virtual servers are the fastest-growing trend in web hosting.

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