David Ainscough, product owner at Fasthosts, explores the difference between VPS hosting and dedicated server hosting, helping you choose which is right for you.
Are you a bit of a control freak when it comes to your hosting? Do you also want the highest performance available? If you’re in the market for the best of the best in hosting options, with the most control and configuration, you essentially have two options: dedicated server hosting or virtual private servers (VPS).
But how do these two premier hosting options compare, and how do you choose between them?
What is a virtual private server?
To create a VPS, virtualisation technology is used to package up hardware resources, often from across multiple physical servers. This enables VPS hosting to provide performance comparable to a dedicated server, but at a much lower price.
While a VPS still uses shared hardware, it’s a step above traditional shared hosting because virtualised resources are dedicated to you. Often equipped with SSD storage, more RAM and increased processing power, virtual private servers generally offer more powerful configurations than shared hosting, too.
What is VPS hosting used for?
With full root access, you have total control over how you configure your virtual private server, so you can use it for whatever you want. Common uses for VPS hosting include as a web or mail server. A VPS is also a good option for creating a testing or staging environment, since it can be fired up quickly whenever needed.
What is dedicated server hosting?
A dedicated server is a completely different proposition compared to shared hosting or even a VPS. As the name suggests, an entire server is set up for the sole use of the customer.
100% of the CPU, RAM and storage is reserved for that one user all of the time, never to be shared with an unauthorised website or application. Having a server dedicated to your own applications offers several significant benefits.
- Improved application performance
The shared use of physical resources can create significant performance problems for your applications. If your website experiences a sudden surge in demand, for example, it may quickly run out of available resources, causing browser sessions to hang or time out.
In situations of peak demand (such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or any other seasonal event), several customers may experience peaks in demand simultaneously.
In a shared environment this results in what is sometimes referred to as a “noisy neighbour” scenario – where too much demand creates a bottleneck for all users of the shared server.
- Greater control of your infrastructure
Your server, your way. With dedicated server hosting you have greater control over the hardware and the configuration of software.
Despite being remotely accessed, you have full root access to the server, allowing you to modify any file, install server-wide applications, perform reboots, and configure your own environment according to your exact needs.
- Improved support
Dedicated servers usually come with a higher level of support in recognition of the added complexity of your hosted infrastructure. The right provider will offer 24/7 support coverage too – without bouncing you around the world to speak to an agent.
- Data sovereignty control
Depending on the hosting provider, packages can be hosted anywhere in the world. This boosts resilience and lowers costs – but it also creates a problem in terms of data sovereignty.
As data protection legislation strengthens globally, the physical location of data is increasingly important. Dedicated servers help resolve these issues because you know exactly where the physical machine is located, which also helps you to meet your GDPR obligations to secure EU citizens’ personal data.
What are dedicated servers used for?
Whenever you need top performance, a dedicated server is the solution. Good examples are:
Backup and storage servers: Choosing a dedicated server for backup and storage ensures you have sufficient resources available to operate as normally as possible, with minimal effect on productivity, in the event of a localised disaster. A lesser hosting package may work, but the performance is unlikely to meet your needs in an emergency.
Game servers: Notoriously resource-intensive, games can seriously impact internal network resources. Using a high-performance dedicated server, gamers benefit greatly from more power and bandwidth. Here dedicated servers – with their ECC RAM and NVMe SSD storage – have no equal. Ask any esports player, and they’ll tell you that low latency is the most important factor for gaming.
Proxy servers: Using the power and connectivity of a dedicated server, you can avoid many of the bandwidth bottlenecks and security risks associated with running an on-site proxy. And the dedicated internet connection helps to ensure a smooth flow of network traffic without interference from other tenants.
Not all hosting is created equal
Dedicated servers shoulddeliver the best performance, but then again, a good quality VPS could outperform many dedicated servers. Many factors go into building a server which may not be immediately obvious when glancing at a spec sheet.
For example, even though it shares hardware with multiple users, a good VPS can deliver levels of performance that in many scenarios are indistinguishable from a dedicated server.
A bad VPS, however, might have no redundancy at all, low bandwidth, and low-end hardware (e.g. slow hard drives instead of SSDs), while also using untested or poor-quality virtualisation technology and overly complicated management portals. When all these factors are combined, you’re left with a pretty poor experience.
Likewise, a dedicated server with poor components can deliver a worse experience than a VPS based on high-end hardware and market-leading virtualisation technology.
Unfortunately, when comparing one hosting solution with another, it’s rarely as straightforward at first glance. You need to delve a little deeper to see the difference in the underlying technology.
Time to choose
VPS and dedicated servers both give you complete control over server configuration, but because a VPS uses virtualised resources across multiple physical servers, the price is much lower for similar levels of performance.
On the flip side, if it’s sheer power that you need, then dedicated server hosting is the only way to go. The choice is up to you.