What is a VPS? Hosting Ultimate Guide in 2023

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Ultimate guide on what is VPS Hosting

Whether you want to create your own website or run a blog, you’ll need web hosting for it. Typically, beginners use shared hosting, which allows different websites to utilize the same servers.

However, if you’re a developer or have outgrown shared hosting, you might want to learn about VPS or virtual private sector hosting. In simple terms, VPS hosting splits a single server into multiple private servers for each user.

Thus, you don’t have to share your data or RAM with other users on the server as you would on shared hosting. While this is an overall gist of VPS, there’s a lot more to learn about it.

Below, we take a deeper look at how to use VPS, its types, pros, and cons.


What is a VPS Exactly?

VPS or virtual private server refers to a virtualization technology that gives you access to on-server private resources. It’s a step forward from shared servers where you don’t get a specific server space for your data.

Meanwhile, it’s also cheaper than getting a whole server for your website. Smaller sites can do well with shared hosting since they’re not getting a major influx of traffic and don’t need to scale at the time.

However, as your website grows in size and traffic inflow, you’ll need VPS since it allows scalability and doesn’t lag due to a traffic spike.

VPS vs Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the best solution for beginners and small-scale websites since they’re designed to cater to low traffic flows. In shared hosting, a single physical server is shared by multiple users.

Therefore, users do not have access to any dedicated resources since the operating system is shared by the entire server.

As a result, the computing power on one user’s site may be affected by a sudden change in another user’s website. For instance, if User A’s website on a shared server suddenly gets a huge traffic influx, the loading speed on User B’s and User C’s website will be affected.

Let’s put it this way. From a residential standpoint, shared hosting equates to you living in the same room with three other people. If one person is being too noisy or moves the furniture around, it will affect you. Plus, you have to use the same bed.

On the other hand, VPS is also synonymous with house-sharing, but everyone gets their own room.

VPS vs Cloud Hosting

In cloud hosting, there’s a cluster in the cloud where all the servers reside. Every server has a copy of the users’ websites. If one server is busy, your website will automatically be loaded from another less busy server.

Owing to this, there’s hardly ever a wait time or lag since multiple servers can load the same website.

In essence, cloud hosting isn’t exactly much different from VPS, and some companies offer VPS cloud hosting since the combination is thought to offer the best performance and speed.

VPS vs Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is more expensive, robust, and ideal for large websites getting a substantial amount of daily traffic. If VPS is renting a room in a house, dedicated hosting is renting the whole house.

With VPS, you can select your operating system and configure it according to your needs. Meanwhile, dedicated hosting is more feature-rich than VPS since it also lets you configure your hardware.

How Does VPS Hosting Work?

You might be wondering: how does VPS work since that’s a common question among beginners. Starting from the basics, a server refers to a computing system that stores all databases of your website.

So, when someone visits your website and clicks on a page, the web browser requests the server, which then sends the relevant files to be displayed on the visitor’s computer.

In VPS hosting, you get a virtual server simulating a physical one. Your VPS hosting provider leverages virtualization technology to create a virtual layer on the server’s operating system.

The layer then partitions the server, giving each user the liberty to install their desired software, applications, and operating system.

Thus, a VPS allows you to keep your data separate from other users even though the server is being shared. Besides the operating system, you don’t have to share the disk space or memory with other users either.

What Are The Different Types of VPS Hosting You Should Consider?

When you ask yourself how to choose VPS hosting, you’ll notice the decision always comes down to two options: managed and unmanaged VPS. The hosting providers may have up to a dozen plans, but they all fall under these two categories.

Managed VPS

Managed VPS is a preference among inexperienced or beginner website owners since the responsibilities of managing and administrating the server is shared in this kind of VPS.

Basically, the hosting provider helps you optimize, administer, and manage the server if you need extra assistance for your online ventures. Along with helping you in setting up the operating system, the host will also configure the basic security.

Moreover, the hosting provider may also offer plugin installation, server upgrades, maintenance, and much more. Also, when you’re faced with a technical problem, the hosting provider is there to offer help and solutions.

Here are some benefits of managed VPS:

  • Easy to Learn: Since the hosting provider is by your side, the learning curve for operating the server gets lower.
  • Account Management: Moreso, account management becomes easier since the provider is there to assist you in different aspects of administration.
  • Security: Keeping your server secure is an important part of running a website. Newbies and inexperienced users might struggle with this. But a managed VPS takes away this worry.
  • Support Assistance: More importantly, your technical woes are answered by the experts at the hosting providers.

Unmanaged VPS

Unmanaged VPS is an ideal option for experienced users who can manage a server and don’t need any assistance from the hosting provider. Such a VPS offers higher user control and lower technical assistance.

The hosting provider assists with initial VPS operations and setup. But after that, you’re on your own. Since the provider does not co-manage the server, the user is responsible for administrating and optimizing everything from the space and CPU to the RAM and bandwidth.

Additionally, if you ever need to install a new component, you have to buy it and set it up on your own. Here are some benefits of unmanaged VPS:

  • Complete Control: The user has full control over the server’s management and administration.
  • Affordability: Since you don’t have to pay for support assistance, the rates are lower for unmanaged VPS hosting.
  • Scalability: The scalability on unmanaged VPS is enhanced due to the user having more control.

9 Amazing Ways VPS Can Be Used

multiple ways VPS can be used

Since there are many VPS uses, you can use your virtual server for everything from running a website to application testing. Here are some VPS uses for beginners and experienced users alike.

Web-Server Hosting

The most common of the VPS uses is web hosting. Since shared hosting has its limitations, as websites grow, they find VPS to be more ideal.

Besides providing more resources, VPS also leaves room for scalability and offers a reliable intermediary between dedicated and shared hosting.

Self-Hosting Apps

If you don’t wish to spend money on the offerings of SaaS companies, you can use VPS to self-host your apps or other online projects.

Although you need to be technically skilled to do this, VPS helps you save a chunk of money from your operational budget. For instance, you’ll have to pay a monthly or annual fee to use software like Slack and Dropbox.

But if you use self-hosted options, you’ll save money and might get better functionality in some cases. A free self-hosted Dropbox alternative is Nextcloud that offers the same features for no cost.

Running Game Servers

With 22% of the gamers spending up to 81% of their daily time playing games, it’s comfortable to say that gaming is a popular pastime today. You can use VPS to run a private server and play multiplayer games with your buddies.

Some popular private server-hosted games include Runescape, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft. Also, contrary to popular belief, hosting gaming sessions on VPS is pretty straightforward and takes up only a few resources.

Configure as a Mail Server

As a company, you might be paying for a hosted email. However, with VPS, you can cut out this cost and host your own email server. VPS hosting allows you to run email servers for all your workforce’s email addresses.

Setup Virtual Private Networks

If there’s any content that you want to access but has been blocked in your country, you can use a VPN to access it. Moreover, a VPN lets you access the web securely and safeguard your personal information.

However, getting the virtual private network from a VPN provider can be sketchy at times since some of them ever sell your data while others are involved in suspicious activities.

The good news is your VPS allows you to use the server as a VPN and keep your online information such as financial account, ID, and account numbers – safe.

Host VoIP or Personal Server

With a VPS, you can also set up a VoIP server and call people. A VoIP is your ‘online phone’ that you can use to call overseas clients, your friends, or simply communicate with your partners during gaming.

An example of open-source software for VoIP is Asterisk. It powers everything from VoIP gateways to IP PBX systems.

Backup and Storage Server

Backing up your data is immensely important when you work online since losing information can lead to monetary risk in many cases. Sure enough, you can backup your data on hard drives and USB sticks.

But VPS allows you to create an online backup for your data. It consumes less physical space and gives you peace of mind. More importantly, you can access your files even if you are away from home or office.

Plus, a VPS can be used to back up a whole website. So, if you make any unwanted changes to the website, you can restore it to an older version.

Application Testing and Development

If your company develops apps for different platforms, a VPS can be your testing field where you install the apps and test them in live settings before rolling them out for public use.

Even better, if things don’t go according to plan, you can simply reinstall the VPS operating system. It’s as simple as that.

Plus, a VPS allows you to collaborate with other coders and developers online. For instance, if multiple people are working on a code, you can make a Git server, allowing the coders to collaborate privately.

Internet of Things (IoT)

A VPS also allows you to control everything in your Internet of Things from a single place. For example, if you install sensors for everything at home, you can control your garage door openers, switch on the lights, turn on the TV, and do much more.

cPanel or Plesk Hosting

VPS hosting is also useful for people who want a web hosting control panel to run their sites efficiently without having advanced technical skills.

One of the control panels is cPanel, which was released by Linux OS and allows the users to manage account files, install apps, add domains, monitor traffic and do much more.

Another option is Plesk, which offers multiple features, such as application catalog customization, file manager, database management, and adding domains.

Reasons Why You Should Switch to VPS

VPS might not be for everyone, but how would you know if it’s for you? Now that you know what is a VPS used for, the next step is to determine if it holds potential for your personal or business use.

You should switch to VPS if you require the following.

Stronger Security

Depending on your website, you might require better security for your and the visitors’ information. For instance, if you run an ecommerce site, you’d need a secure system in place to safeguard the buyers’ personal details.

It’s not entirely possible with shared hosting since there’s a risk of the financial information going into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, a VPS is a better and safer alternative.

Website Growth

As your website grows, it will attract more traffic and consume more resources from the server. On a shared server, this could lead to lagging and slow loading times. On the other hand, a VPS provides you dedicated resources to ensure optimal loading speed.

Resource Intensive E-commerce Sites

Shared hosting has too many limitations for e-commerce sites since these stores require more resources. Besides, e-commerce stores tend to be more demanding and need better security.

You should switch to VPS hosting to fulfill the administrative and security needs of your e-commerce store.

Website Performance Requirements

With your website growing, you won’t only see an influx in traffic but will also need more storage to keep your data. A VPS covers all requirements of a growing website, from ensuring faster speeds to lowering load times while providing ample, unshared storage.

Better Reliability

You don’t necessarily have to start with shared hosting and then switch to VPS as your site grows. If you require higher reliability and ease of scalability, you can kickstart your website with VPS hosting.

Require More Control

Shared hosting does not offer much control since most of the administrative power resides with the hosting provider. On the contrary, a VPS allows you to customize the server according to your needs.

You can install apps, advanced programs, software, and so much more. Therefore, if you need more control over the server, you should switch to VPS.

Website-Building Agency

If your company makes websites for other businesses, you need a VPS to ensure the provision of optimal control and other features for your clients.

Sandbox Requirements

A sandbox refers to a virtual environment used by businesses to deploy and test new software before it’s sent forward for production. If you need to test a software’s functioning or look for bugs, a sandbox is the place to do it.

A VPS acts as a sandbox, letting you simulate and test apps or software. Since you can restore the server back to default after testing, it’s a convenient way to test your new developments.

What VPS is Not For?

Although VPS is beneficial in most cases, you should go this extra mile if:

  • Your website does not get substantial traffic or is still relatively new
  • You’re a beginner and would rather start from basics, such as WordPress

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting: The Benefits and Downsides

Despite being helpful for streamlining online operations, VPS also has some cons. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before you choose to get VPS hosting.

Pros of VPS Hosting

Here are some benefits of VPS:

  • It’s more affordable than dedicated hosting.
  • A VPS offers reliable performance and value for money.
  • Since it provides root access control, VPS hosting can be customized as per your requirements.
  • It requires less technical knowledge as compared to a dedicated server where you’re practically on your own.
  • VPS is easily scalable and cost-effective since you don’t have to pay for resources you don’t need.
  • It offers higher security, especially for e-commerce sites.
  • It’s more flexible than shared hosting and offers higher control and storage.
  • VPS offers backups and data protection.
  • It can be used as a sandbox to test new software and apps before production.

Cons of VPS Hosting

The downsides of VPS:

  • It’s more expensive than shared hosting.
  • Unmanaged VPS requires a certain level of technical expertise since users have to keep up with OS updates.
  • Without regular updates, an unmanaged VPS’s security may be compromised.
  • Some unreliable VPS hosting providers oversell the server space, creating restrictions for resource usage.

Steps on How to Setup VPS and Get Started With It

steps on setting up VPS

After learning what is a VPS hosting and its uses, you need to know how to setup VPS. Here are the steps involved in setting up a VPS:

Step 1: Choose the Plan

First off, you have to select the appropriate plan from a VPS provider. It’s best to choose a plan with at least 0.48 GHz CPU and 2GB RAM. However, you can go with a lower RAM if your website only gets moderate traffic and you don’t need many apps.

Step 2: Register Domain Name

If you’re creating a new website, register your unique domain name. Existing website owners can transfer their domain names.

Step 3: Configure Your Server

Then, you need to configure your server with Secure Shell Access (SSH). For instance, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) lets you edit, download, and upload files on the server.

However, FTP lacks in the sense that you cannot send commands to the server. For that, you’ll need Secure Shell access. Plus, it also has better protocols for authentication and stronger encryption, ensuring better security.

Step 4: Use Command Line to Manage VPS

Now, in order to manage the VPS, you can use the command line. Depending on the OS, there are different commands. For instance, ‘Is’ is a common command that lists the directories and files.

The command shows output files in columns, alphabetically arranged, without any extra attributes. Here are some other essential commands:

  • Cd: It lets you change the directory.
  • Df: standing for ‘disk file system,’ the command tells you about the usage of disk space on your server.
  • Top: The command lets you view the memory usage on the server. You can see the process that’s making the server run slow, making the command useful for troubleshooting.
  • Cat: It lets you create one or many files and view file contents.
  • Yum update: The command updates the OS with security patches.
  • Ping: It allows verification of the IP-level connectivity among different hosts on one network.
  • Locate: It lets you find the file and directory location.
  • Find: It works like the ‘locate’ command except that it also finds the file system.

Step 5: Update Your Server Software and MySQL Version

Next, you need to update the server software and upgrade MySQL. You can either use Windows ZIP archive distribution or the MySQL installer. Here’s a guide on how to do this.

Step 6: Use a CDN

A content delivery network (CDN) offers quick asset transfer to ensure quicker loading of Internet content, such as stylesheets, HTML pages, videos, and images. Here are some benefits of using a CDN:

  • Improves load time on a website
  • Reduces the bandwidth cost
  • Increases the availability of content
  • Improves website security

Step 7: Create New User and Update Privileges

Initially, you set up the VPS with a root user. But it’s better to create a new user account and update its privileges. When using this account, you have to add sudo prefixes to run commands. Although it doesn’t seem like a huge change, it prevents mishaps.

Here’s the command to run if you want to create a new account:

adduser yournewusername

The ‘yournewusername’ part is where your new username goes. Finally, when you run this command, the account will get superuser privileges.

# usermod -aG sudo yournewusername

Step 8: Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Since two-factor authentication is safer than a password, you should enable it for your website. Use the PuTTygen app to do so.

Step 9: Setup Firewall

Finally, set up a firewall to add another layer of security to your VPS. use the iptables program to set up a firewall.

So, Should You Go For VPS Hosting?

Now that you know how does VPS work and what is a VPS used for, you can determine if you need this hosting or not. It all comes down to the needs of your website.

If you’re getting massive traffic on your website, need higher security and control, require performance optimization, and have the provision in your budget, you should opt for VPS hosting.

On the contrary, if you have a limited budget and small to moderate-sized traffic, you may want to go for a cheaper VPS hosting option.

To find out about the best VPS providers, you may read our VPS hosting reviews here.

FAQs on VPS Hosting

VPS stands for virtual private server and refers to a virtual OS present in a parent server that uses virtualization to offer dedicated resources to each user.

You can use a VPS to host a high-traffic website, a game server, sandbox, or a VPN. Additionally, it can be used to create a website for clients.

When searching how much does a VPS cost, most people are often surprised by the high prices, but you’re getting what you pay for. A VPS is more expensive than shared hosting because you get higher control, most storage, memory, and CPU.

VPS hosting is better for larger websites than shared hosting because it gives users more flexibility, has higher scalability and control, comes with more storage, and has better security features.

Since VPS and VPN are different things, there’s not much of a comparison. While VPS lets you host your website on a private server, VPN allows you to surf the net securely. But if you’re tech-savvy enough, you can use your VPS to make a VPN.

A VPS plan can cost anything from $20 to $100 per month, depending on the features.

If your website gets sufficient traffic and has high security needs, a VPS is worthwhile. However, you shouldn’t waste your money on it if your website is new and has limited needs.

You will most probably need VPS hosting if you have a large, high-traffic website and need to ensure smooth loading rates, robust performance, and better security.

To understand this, you need to know how does VPS work. With VPS, you get a single server that’s dedicated to your website. On the other hand, in cloud hosting, your website data is stored on multiple servers, and the information is loaded from the server that’s least busy.