There are two options for web hosting clients who need more resources than a shared hosting account can offer: a Dedicated Server or a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Let’s start by taking a look at how Dedicated Servers and Virtual Private Servers are similar, before investigating the differences that will help you choose.
What is a Server?
Both Dedicated Servers, often called bare metal servers, and Virtual Private Servers offer a full server environment. A server is essentially a computer like your laptop, except that servers are specialized for tasks like hosting websites or web applications. Both Dedicated and Virtual Private Servers have a set of resources and an operating system. Both allow a user to install software of their choice.
You can think of these hosting options as self-contained hosting environments, in contrast to shared hosting, where lots of hosting accounts are served from one computer with a single operating system, each with a share of the resources of that computer. As you might expect, Dedicated Servers and VPS’s typically have more resources — RAM, storage, bandwidth — available to them than shared hosting accounts. They can support more websites and websites that have more visitors.
Differences Between VPS and Bare Metal Servers
Our data center is full of racks of computers. Each contains higher-quality (less prone to failure) and more powerful processors, memory, and storage than your computer at home. A Dedicated Server is one of these computers, which is why it’s also called a bare metal server. An operating system runs on the “bare metal” and your services and applications run on the operating system. Dedicated Servers can be as powerful as it’s possible for a single computer to be.
To create virtual servers, we take one of these very powerful Dedicated Servers and install an operating system and a piece of software called a hypervisor. Hypervisors are complex, but in a nutshell they simulate a server with software. Each simulated — or virtual — server has its own operating system and, from the perspective of the user, is identical to any other server.
Because the Dedicated Servers that run the virtual servers are so powerful, each of the virtual servers has access to a considerable chunk of resources. They can’t be as powerful as the most powerful Dedicated Servers, but they can be more than powerful enough to run relatively high-traffic websites and applications, with the added benefit that VPS’s are less expensive because they use the resources of a Dedicated Server more efficiently.
How to Choose Between a VPS and Dedicated Server
To choose between a Dedicated Server and a Virtual Private Server, you should think about the resources your application needs. If you want all the power that a bare metal server can deliver — to run a high-traffic eCommerce store or a publishing operation that depends on the lowest possible latencies — then choose a Dedicated Server.
If your needs are more modest but still substantial — you want to host several sites or stores, or a single popular site, for example — then a Virtual Private Server might be right for you.