Virtual Private Server (VPS)

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What is a Virtual Private Server (VPS)?

A virtual private server (VPS) is a virtual server that the user perceives as a dedicated server, even though it is installed on a physical computer running multiple operating systems (OS). VPSs are created using virtualization technology, partitioning a physical server into multiple virtual servers, each isolated from the others.

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A VPS mimics a dedicated server within its shared server environment, providing the user with dedicated resources such as central processing unit (CPU), Random Access Memory (RAM), and storage. It allows users to have root access to the operating system to install and run custom software, just like on a private or dedicated server. Common uses include media streaming, website or email hosting, and gaming servers.

VPS features include:

  • Cost-effectiveness, compared to dedicated servers
  • Customizable configurations
  • Dedicated resources
  • Root access
  • Security protocols

A virtual private server is also known as a virtual dedicated server (VDS).

Virtual Private Server (VPS) meaning explained

Key Takeaways

  • Virtual private servers use virtualization technology to partition a physical server into multiple virtual servers.
  • Virtual private servers are commonly used for media streaming, gaming servers, file storage, website or email hosting.
  • A VPS provides the same functionality and privacy as a physical computer and runs its own operating system.
  • VPSs are cost-effective compared to dedicated servers.
  • VPSs are isolated environments providing enhanced security, root access, and high control.

How VPS Works

A chart explaining how a VPS works

A VPS is created using virtualization technology to partition a physical server into multiple virtual servers, each isolated from the others. It acts like a virtual machine dedicated to individual user needs, similar to a separate physical computer. Each VPS provides the same functionality and privacy as a physical computer and runs its own operating system.

Performance isolation, meaning the separation of performance resources like CPU, RAM, and storage, ensures activities on one VPS do not impact the others. Many VPS providers offer features such as automated backups, enhanced security, and access to control panels for easier management.

Advancements in virtualization technology have made VPS hosting cost-effective compared to dedicated servers. Common hosting options include unmanaged, where the user manages the server, or unmetered, allowing unlimited data transfer on a fixed bandwidth line.

VPS Uses

Knowing when to use VPS can help you choose the right hosting solution. Virtual private servers are versatile and often used when more control and resources are needed than shared hosting options provide.

Examples of VPS uses include:

VPS vs. Shared Hosting & Dedicated Hosting

A chart showing the different types of web hosting

Think of VPS as the middle ground – balancing performance, control, and costs – between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.

Shared Hosting Dedicated Hosting VPS
Shares resources among multiple users Provides an entire physical server Dedicated resources, shared physical server
Varied performance, but can be slow Offers maximum performance, no sharing Isolation offers stable performance
Higher security risk due to shared vulnerabilities Highest security, no sharing Isolated environments provide enhanced security
Limited control, access, and customization Full control, maximum access and customization Root access, high control
Cheapest option Most expensive option Moderate cost

Virtual Private Server Pros and Cons

Pros pros

  • Cost-effective compared to dedicated hosting
  • Dedicated resources for better performance
  • Root access for customization
  • Suitable for hosting multiple applications

Cons cons

  • Can be affected by physical server issues
  • Limited resources compared to dedicated servers
  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • Requires more technical knowledge to manage

VPS Security Concerns

VPS security concerns stem from the shared nature of the physical server, which can expose vulnerabilities if not properly managed. The virtual private server definition involves multiple users sharing the same hardware, raising the risk of cross-contamination despite each virtual server being isolated. Choosing a reputable VPS provider with strong security protocols is crucial to mitigate these risks.

VPS Alternatives

Colocation

Rent data center space for your own physical servers.

Content delivery network (CDN)

Distributes content globally to improve load times.

Cloud hosting

Scalable hosting using a network of virtual servers.

Dedicated hosting

Full control with an entire server for one user.

Managed hosting
Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Develop and manage applications without infrastructure concerns.

The Bottom Line

The virtual private server meaning is a hosting solution offering dedicated resources on a shared physical server. VPS provides more control and resources than shared hosting but without the high cost and performance capabilities of a dedicated server.

A key benefit of using a VPS is the ability to install software with root access, though it’s important to choose a reputable VPS hosting provider with strong security protocols.

FAQs

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Vangie Beal
Technology Expert
Vangie Beal
Technology Expert

Vangie Beal is a digital literacy instructor based in Nova Scotia, Canada, who has recently joined Techopedia. She’s an award-winning business and technology writer with 20 years of experience in the technology and web publishing industry.  Since the late ’90s, her byline has appeared in dozens of publications, including CIO, Webopedia, Computerworld, InternetNews, Small Business Computing, and many other tech and business publications.  She is an avid gamer with deep roots in the female gaming community and a former Internet TV gaming host and games journalist.