What is VPS hosting?

rows of servers within a data centre
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is VPS hosting?

Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is high-powered hosting that dedicates a specified amount of RAM, storage, bandwidth, and other server resources to you and your project. Among the best web hosting services, you will find various platforms offering excellent VPS hosting solutions.

A VPS is essentially like a mini dedicated server. It involves a specified amount of server resources being isolated from a physical server and dedicated to you, and you alone. It’s possible to host numerous VPSs on one single bare metal or dedicated server, which can be scaled up or down as required. This means you'll only ever have to pay for the resources you’re actually using.

All VPS web hosting can be split into managed and unmanaged hosting categories. Fully managed VPS hosting includes maintenance, management, and updates from IT professionals. Common management actions include initial configuration, security updates, and data backups.

Meanwhile, self-managed VPS doesn’t come with management support. You will be responsible for everything, which takes a high level of technical experience. Of course, the benefit of self-managed hosting is that it’s extremely configurable, which means you can customise it according to your exact needs.

Although you will share your hardware with other VPS users, you will have your own operating system and full control over the configuration of your server. The isolated nature of VPS web hosting makes it a good opinion for medium to large-sized websites with moderate traffic numbers.

What does VPS hosting do?

A photo of a person holding a bank card in one hand and their phone in the other, sitting at a laptop and making a purchase online

VPS hosting is a great option for running powerful online stores (Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Uses virtualisation technology to split one physical server into numerous smaller VPS servers with their own dedicated RAM, storage, bandwidth, and CPU processing power
  • Enables excellent configurability and flexible management options: most VPS hosting comes with root access, which means that they enable users to install and manage software in whatever ways you want
  • Provides a much higher level of security than shared hosting: through the virtualisation process, VPS web hosting effectively segments different people using the same physical server, which makes it much less likely that problems with one person’s hosting account will affect other users’ VPS
  • Offers an excellent level of uptime and performance: because users have a specified amount of server resources allocated to them and their subscription, they can rest assured that they will experience a high level of performance at all times
  • Enables users to scale rapidly and when required: most VPS hosts provide one-click scaling options, and some even use hourly billing to ensure that users are only ever paying for what they use

How businesses can use VPS hosting

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VPS hosting is versatile, and can be used for numerous different things (Image credit: Bigstock)

In simple terms, VPS hosting is an attractive option for businesses that require something a little more powerful than shared hosting, but can’t justify the cost of their own dedicated server. VPS hosting offers excellent versatility, the ability to scale as required, and an allocated amount of server resources that are accessible to you and you alone.

Many businesses will use VPS hosting to run their website or online store. High-end shared hosting can be a viable option for this, but it comes with a set of security and performance risks that many businesses just don’t want to take. With VPS, you can rest assured that your site and any associated information will be fully secure at all times.

Some businesses also use VPS for secure file storage. Cheap VPS servers with a large amount of storage present great options for securely storing server backups, important documents, and other files that you can’t afford to have lost or compromised.

Another popular use case is to test new web applications and other programs before making them available to the public. The combination of power and affordability makes VPS a popular option for this, particularly among smaller businesses that can’t justify the higher price of a dedicated server.

Last, but not least, a very small number of businesses use VPS hosting to host game servers. Multiplayer games, such as Minecraft and Rust, enable you to create your own multiplayer games that are hosted on specialised servers and available to hundreds of people at a time.

VPS vs other hosting types

In short, VPS hosting was developed to bridge the large gap between low-end shared hosting and high-end dedicated servers. It’s a great option for small to medium businesses because of its low complexity, speed, and affordability.

VPS vs shared hosting

Although shared hosting is much cheaper, it’s also slow, inflexible, and will struggle to handle traffic spikes during peak times. VPS is so much better here because of its scalability, which means you can add more resources where required.

VPS vs dedicated hosting

close-up picture of server units

VPS offers more scalability than shared hosting, and costs less than dedicated hosting (Image credit: Shutterstock)

In general, VPS hosting is also much cheaper than dedicated servers, offering increased flexibility and much better scalability. This is largely due to the fact that most VPS hosts let you move from one plan to another fast and efficiently according to your site’s resource demands.

VPS vs cloud VPS vs SSD VPS

In the past, VPS servers generally used hard disk drive (HDD) storage. But this is changing, with hosts like VPS.net switching to solid state drive (SSD) storage for improved reliability and performance.

Because of their ability to deal with a large number of input/output operations, SSD storage is better suited to large user numbers. Meanwhile, many of the best cloud hosting providers offer VPS cloud hosting, which uses multiple interlinked servers, improving redundancy. However, this tends to make cloud VPS hosting more expensive.

Those using traditional or SSD VPS web hosting are vulnerable to hardware failures because they are reliant on one machine. Using cloud hosting improves reliability by removing this vulnerability altogether—if one server from the cloud cluster goes down, resources will simply be drawn from another one.

In general, you should look for a high SLA for cloud VPS web hosting. In some cases, a 1,000% SLA is available.

Features and benefits of VPS hosting

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VPS hosting usually comes with full root access, enabling you to configure your server as required (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Full root access

A large percentage of VPS hosting plans come with root access, which is excellent for those who want to configure their servers in a specific manner. With root access, you will have full control over your server. You can add and remove software as required, install custom scripts, select your own control panel, and much, much more.

Dedicated server resources

One of the biggest problems with shared hosting is that your website can be affected by other sites hosted on the same physical server. If one site experiences a spike in traffic, it can use more than its fair share of resources, affecting the performance of other sites. With VPS hosting, you don’t have to worry about this. You will have a dedicated amount of server resources that are only available to you and your website, enabling you to maintain a high level of performance across the board.

Excellent security

In a similar manner, the separation and distance VPS hosting gives you from others sharing your physical server is great for security. Since you will have your own virtualised server that’s only available to those with the correct access permissions, there’s very little chance of your security being compromised due to issues with another website.

Scalability and configurability

VPS hosting is known for its excellent scalability, which basically means that most VPS packages enable you to add and remove server resources as required. Cloud VPS is particularly good for this, as it’s often billed hourly. This means that you can boost the power of your server temporarily, say during a busy weekend when you anticipate higher traffic than normal, then go back to regular resource use as required.

Reliable performance

One of the main benefits of using VPS hosting over shared hosting is its usually excellent performance. Once again, this comes back to the virtualisation process, which effectively distances your website from any other users sharing the same physical server.

How much does VPS hosting cost?

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Fully managed VPS hosting solutions can be more expensive (Image credit: Getty Images)

The price of a new VPS hosting subscription can vary from just a few dollars a month to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month. The amount you pay will depend on a number of factors, including the server resources you require, whether or not you need technical server management, and how many extra tools are included with your subscription.

For example, Hostinger offers eight different VPS plans. At the lower end of the spectrum sits the VPS 1 plan, which includes just 1GB RAM, 20GB SSD storage, and 1TB bandwidth, for £3.95 a month (renews at £9.91 a month). On the expensive side, a VPS 8 subscription starts at £57.99 a month (renews at £165.99 a month) for 16GB RAM, 250GB SSD, and 12TB bandwidth.

Another popular option is Hostwinds, which offers a selection of managed and unmanaged VPS in both Windows and Linux flavors. Its unmanaged Linux options range from £4.07 to £268.14 a month, and its managed Linux hosting costs between £6.72 and £322.13 a month. Windows VPS is a little more expensive, with unmanaged options costing between £8.96 and £307.26 a month and managed solutions ranging from £10.38 to $431.24 a month.

VPS hosting FAQs

A VPS represents a step up from basic shared hosting. It’s generally used by those who need an advanced web hosting solution that offers more power and security than budget shared hosting.

However, VPS hosting can be used for so much more than just web hosting. If you’re a developer, you might use your VPS to test new web apps and programs. Many people use VPS hosting to create gaming servers for games like Minecraft, while others use VPS for things like file storage or to back up their main server.

Do you really want a VPS?

Those who choose VPS hosting generally choose it because of its flexibility and resource availability. For ecommerce stores, this flexibility is a must, as it allows you to cope with traffic spikes and increased pressure caused by payment processing and other sensitive actions.

Note that you don’t have to start with a VPS. Instead, consider beginning with shared hosting and upgrading when your site outgrows your plan. This will ensure your site is configured for optimal performance without costing you a small fortune like dedicated hosting would.

How much RAM does my VPS need?

The amount of RAM your VPS needs will depend on the things that you’re planning to use it for. If you require a fast, high-performing server to complete difficult tasks, or deal with a large number of website visitors, you will need more RAM. Similarly, if you’re just using your VPS for something like file storage, you should be able to get away with a lower amount.

As an example, 1GB or 2GB should be enough if you’re running a single website or basic server. Larger ecommerce stores will benefit from a higher amount, such as 4GB. Small gaming servers can work with 1GB or 2GB, but we recommend going for an option with at least 4GB or 8GB.

Can you host a website on VPS?

Yes, you can host a website on VPS. In fact, website hosting is one of the most common uses for VPS servers. They offer more power and reliability than cheaper shared hosting options, making them a preferred choice among those creating large, high-traffic sites. In addition, you can rest assured that, when you use VPS hosting, your website and its performance won’t be affected by any other sites occupying the same physical server.

What is the difference between VPS and dedicated hosting?

Both VPS and dedicated server hosting will give you access to a specified amount of RAM, storage, bandwidth, and processing power. A dedicated server is, as the name suggests, a physical server that’s dedicated to you and your requirements. A VPS is a virtual server, and there can be multiple VPSs on the same physical server.

Can I use VPS for gaming?

A gaming monitor on a desk with speakers and a PC

VPS servers are a top option for gamers (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Yes, VPSs are an excellent option for gamers wanting to create their own servers. Platforms such as Hostinger offer specialised game hosting, including Minecraft hosting. There are also numerous companies that specialise in game hosting, including Shockbyte, ScalaCube, and MCProHosting.

Main takeaways

  • VPS hosting is more powerful than shared hosting, but much more affordable than high-end dedicated servers, making it a popular option among SMBs
  • One of the standout features of VPS hosting is the server virtualisation process, which effectively eliminates any possible interactions between your sites and those of other users sharing the same physical server
  • With VPS hosting, you can do everything from creating a new website to testing web apps, and securely storing important files and data
  • The price of VPS hosting can vary considerably, with factors like the amount of server resources, management level, and operating system you require all impacting cost
  • The scalability and configurability offered by VPS servers is excellent, ensuring you always have access to the server resources you require

Further reading on web hosting and website builders

Check out our guide to managed vs unmanaged hosting to find out which is best suited to your needs, and discover the best VPS hosting or best cloud hosting services. If you're looking to create a new website, make sure you look over the best website builders before making your choice.

Daniel Blechynden

Daniel is a freelance technology and finance writer, whose scientific background in the natural sciences lends rigour and nuance to his informative, accessible articles. His reviews on website builders, web hosting and business web development grace the virtual pages of TechRadar Pro, WebsiteHostingRating.com, and HostingReview.com, as well as IT Pro Portal. Well-versed in blockchain, cloud computing and cybersecurity, Daniel takes a keen interest in all aspects of B2B and B2C tech.