If you’re starting a business that isn’t in the tech space, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with web hosting. In recent years the industry has fragmented, with many new product categories coming to market — a process driven by the advent of the cloud.
There are true cloud solutions, cloud washing: presenting traditional hosting products as if they were cloud products, various sorts of virtualized servers, and of course good old fashioned shared hosting and dedicated servers.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with web hosting, it can be tricky to navigate the strengths and weaknesses of various products, separate the genuine benefits from the marketing hype, and make a choice that is right for your business.
No one wants to have to move to another hosting product if they discover that their initial choice does’t fit the bill.
To help you make a decision, I’m going to take a no-nonsense look at two product categories that are likely to be on your radar: cloud servers and virtual private servers (VPSs).
A VPS is one of many virtualized servers that run on a single physical server. Think of it as one powerful computer that is running a special piece of software called a hypervisor. The hypervisor then runs and manages lots of software-based virtual servers. Each virtual servers behaves like physical server from the perspective of the outside world.
A cloud server is more or less the same thing from a technological perspective. What differs is how they are priced. With a VPS, clients typically pay a month or year in advance and the expectation is that the server will be in operation for a long time.
Cloud servers are priced by the hour and sometimes by the minute. They can be quickly started, duplicated, and deleted. Clients are provided with control interfaces to make these procedures easily manageable.
Cloud servers sound great, right? They are very flexible and they provide a very scalable hosting platform.
But there’s a catch. Clients pay for the extra flexibility and the on-demand pricing. A virtual private server at a particular price point is going to offer significantly better performance than an equivalent cloud server.
Sometimes that pay-off is worth it. Some businesses need to be able to deploy lots of servers very quickly and delete them just as quickly. Netflix, for example, needs to have many more servers in prime time than it does in the early hours of the morning. If Netflix had to pay for its prime time servers throughout the day, it would be hugely expensive. Netflix requires massive scalability and is prepared to pay extra for it.
Very few businesses need anything like the level of scalability that Netflix does. In most cases, when businesses are hosting a website, the resource demands are fairly predictable. In that scenario, Virtual Private Servers are more cost efficient. And while they’re not as scalable as cloud servers, virtual private servers can be scaled up fairly easily by increasing RAM, processing, or storage allocations.
In a nutshell, for businesses that need rapid scaling, cloud servers are the optimal choice. For businesses that need consistent and reliable performance over time, a virtual private server will provide significantly more bang for the buck.