VPS and VPN are two commonly confused terms. Their acronyms are similar, so it’s common for the two to get mixed up. However, they each refer to two very different types of services.
Essentially, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a form of web hosting, while a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service and technology that allows you to remain completely private and anonymous when using the web.
Even though these are very different services, they’re commonly grouped together due to their names. Mixing up these two terms can be confusing, especially when you’re just starting your journey online.
Below we explore what a VPS is and how it works, along with how it differs from a VPN in our VPS vs VPN comparison.
What is a VPS?
Before we can do our comparison, it’s first important to identify what VPS hosting is and discuss how it is unique from other platforms. Like we mentioned in the introduction, VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. It’s a form of web hosting offered by hosting companies that provide you with a virtual server environment to host your website.
If that’s a bit confusing, we’ll break it down a bit further.
A server is a computer that’s used to store website files and data. When you type a domain name into a browser the browser communicates with the server and renders all of the stored site files.
VPS hosting uses virtualization technology to split a single physical server into multiple different virtual servers. This makes it so you have greater access to server resources, along with the ability to expand the virtual server when your needs arise.
Since it’s a virtual server you’re not tied to the limitations of a single physical server. Also, since it’s a private server environment you won’t be sharing server resources with any other users.
Now, you will be sharing actual physical servers, but with the employed virtualization technology there won’t be any overlap of server usage.
How Does VPS Hosting Work?
Let’s dig into what happens behind the scenes that allow VPS hosting to work. At the core, it operates similarly to software like VMware. This style of software enables you to run multiple virtualized operating systems from a single machine. So, if you currently have a MacBook running MacOS, you can quickly switch over to Windows 10 without having to restart your computer.
A VPS server uses similar technology to run a virtual server environment. Let’s say you have a standard dedicated server. On top of that dedicated server, you can create several virtual servers that act as their own dedicated server environments.
Typically a VPS server will pull from multiple different dedicated servers as well. That way if one goes offline, or is undergoing routine maintenance it won’t affect the performance of your site.
Each VPS server is completely isolated and private from any other virtual server that’s using the same physical server.
Pros of VPS Hosting
VPS hosting is a solid choice for users who need more than a shared server but aren’t quite ready for a dedicated server.
Here are some of the biggest advantages of using VPS hosting:
- It’s cost-effective. With VPS hosting you basically have access to a dedicated server, without the cost of a physical dedicated server.
- Greater server customization. Generally, you’ll pay for what you want and be able to only add features that you require to run your website.
- Easy to scale your server. With VPS hosting you can gradually expand the number of server resources you have access to, and won’t have to pay for server resources you don’t require.
- Greater server control. When you compare VPS vs. shared hosting, you’ll get a higher level of access to your server, plus root access, and the ability to run certain server scripts.
- Solid technical support. With VPS hosting you’ll generally have access to improved technical support staff and will have more hand-holding when compared to a standard dedicated server.
Cons of VPS Hosting
Still, VPS hosting isn’t perfect for every kind of website owner. In fact, you should probably only consider VPS hosting once you’ve “graduated” from a shared hosting plan.
When it’s time to migrate your shared hosting to VPS, you’ll be given more space and flexibility for managing your site. ,. Still, there are some disadvantages you’ll want to be aware of.
Here are the biggest drawbacks to VPS hosting:
- It’s comparatively more expensive. If you’re coming from shared hosting, then know that VPS will be more expensive than shared hosting. It’s not as expensive as dedicated hosting. But the price will depend on your overall resource requirements. Overall, it’s cost effective, but you will be paying a higher monthly rate.
- You can run into resource allocation issues. In some cases, you can run into resource allocation issues. This is when another site running a VPS uses too large a volume of physical server resources and your site’s performance will slow down. However, this typically only happens if you’re using a low-quality VPS host.
When Should I Use VPS Hosting?
VPS is a common next step after your site has outgrown the limits of a basic shared hosting plan. It’s a nice in-between for those who don’t want to upgrade to a fully dedicated server but can no longer use shared hosting.
So, what is VPS hosting used for? Take a look at the situations below:
- You need speed and performance. If your site is growing in size and you’re experiencing a higher volume of traffic, then you’ll need a hosting plan that can keep up. VPS hosting is scalable and can support large and high-traffic sites.
- You need a custom server setup. With a VPS server you get more control over your server environment. Not only do you get root server access but you’ll have the ability to choose your own operating system and make other customizations as well.
- You want flexible server resources. With VPS hosting you can more easily scale up your server resource needs as your site grows, or you’re experiencing a large volume of traffic. Since you’re not constrained to a single physical server it’s much easier to expand your resource requirements.
Essentially, a VPS offers you offers you the same benefits that a private server will give you, all while sharing the cost of hosting services.
What is a VPN and How Does it Work?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Essentially, a VPN creates a private and secure network, which then extends across your entire network connection. It offers you a way to remain anonymous online, while securing any data that passes over the connection.
Once you fire up your VPN software of choice your VPN client will automatically encrypt any data that are sent over a network connection. Before any data passes over a network connection first it’ll pass through the VPN. The VPN will then encrypt the traffic and pass it on.
Any online portal you end up on will see the transmitted data as originating from the VPN server, not your home (or coffee shop) network.
When you connect to the internet without a VPN enabled, any data you’re transmitting is essentially open to anyone with the right tools. For most situations, this will be perfectly fine, but if you’re sharing sensitive information, like your banking details, emails, or anything else, then you might want another layer of protection.
When you’re using a VPN any data that you transmit over the internet goes directly from your ISP to the VPN server, then the VPN connects to the internet for you. This helps to diminish or completely reduce a lot of the most common security risks you’ll run into online.
For example, when you’re using a VPN it’s very difficult to connect your computer back to any data that you’re transmitting. Plus, all of your data will be encrypted, so if your information is intercepted no one will be able to interpret your data.
Pros of Using a VPN
When you use a VPN you’ll help to keep yourself more secure while using the web. But, beyond achieving a higher level of security there’s a myriad of other benefits you’ll receive when using a VPN too.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of using a VPN:
- Access georestricted content. A VPN allows you to get around certain content restrictions. For example, you might want to watch a Netflix show that isn’t available in your country. You can bypass this with a VPN.
- Protects your data. Since VPNs encrypt your data before sending it over the network, your data will always be safe and secure from prying eyes.
- Keeps you safe online. If you routinely access wi-fi networks that are unsecured, you can use a VPN to bolster your security and ensure you stay safe online.
Not only will using a VPN give you all of those advantages above. But, it’s also surprisingly affordable. The monthly cost of a VPN is usually on par with a cheap shared hosting plan.
Cons of Using a VPN
Even though using a VPN is a great step to take towards protecting yourself online it isn’t without its drawbacks.
Here are some of the most common drawbacks you’ll experience when using a VPN:
- Slower internet connection. Since a VPN adds layers of encryption to your data this will slow down your internet connection. If you already have a slow internet connection, this could make your internet connection virtually unusable.
- Security issues can still arise. VPNs aren’t perfect. Often achieving a high level of security will rely upon configuring your VPN properly. There have also been circumstances where DNS and IP leaks occur, exposing your once secured data.
- Your VPN connection can drop. If your VPN connection drops you lose any existing anonymity. Although some VPNs employ a kill switch feature which will disconnect you from the internet if a drop occurs.
When Should I Use a VPN?
Most people can benefit from using a VPN, especially if you’re concerned about your online privacy. You can use a VPN whenever you connect to the internet. Since it runs in the background it won’t impede any existing online activities, however, it might impact your internet speeds depending on your connection, and the VPN software you’re using.
Basically, if any of the following circumstances sound like you, then consider using a quality VPN:
- You want to get around content blocks. Some countries censor their internet content. To access this content you’ll need a way to get around country-specific blocks while remaining anonymous online. Beyond a censored internet, you can use a VPN to get around country geo-restrictions on streaming content like Netflix.
- You want secure data and network connections. With a VPN behind you, your internet connection will be incredibly secure. Any private data you share over the internet will be encrypted and safe.
- You want to remain anonymous online. Since you’re using the VPN IP address, your IP and other personal information will be fully anonymous.
- You’re using unsecured wi-fi networks. Accessing public wi-fi networks can put your information at risk. If you regularly access wifi from outside of your home, a VPN will keep your information safe.
VPS vs. VPN
VPS hosting is a service that allows you to host your website on a virtual server environment, while a VPN is a user-oriented tool that lets you browse the web safely and securely.
Probably the only thing that a VPS and VPN have in common (beyond a closely-related acronym) is the virtualization aspect of each of the services.
They both serve completely different needs, although as a user you can rely upon both services. For example, if you have a large and high-traffic website you can use VPS hosting to host your site. Then, you can use VPN software while you’re accessing the internet to manage your site, to protect any data you’re sending over the internet.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how VPS hosting and VPNs work, along with the unique purposes they serve. Whether you want to learn how to build a website or register a domain name, our HostGator experts can help you with all your web hosting questions. Contact us today to learn how to build your dream website.