You may be here because you’ve heard the term VPS thrown around a lot, and you’re wondering what this acronym actually means.

VPS stands for Virtual Private Server, and the term is usually used when referring to VPS hosting. It’s also often confused with VPN, although VPS and VPN are two different things.

Of course, there’s a lot more you can do with a VPS server than just host a website, but we’ll get into that below.

VPS hosting is typically a natural next step after you’ve run into the limitations of a traditional shared hosting plan.

Below we’ll answer the questions what does VPS stand for, and what is VPS used for in depth. By the end of this post, you’ll know if a VPS is going to be right for your needs.

What Does VPS Stand For?

As you learned in the introduction, VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This kind of server environment operates similarly to a dedicated server. However, instead of a single physical server, you’re sharing multiple physical servers, which are linked together through virtualization technologies.

You can think of VPS like a cross between a shared server and a dedicated server. You’re sharing a physical server with other website owners, but it’s divided up in a way so there are multiple virtual dedicated servers present, hence the “virtual” aspect of VPS.

What is VPS Hosting?

If you have asked yourself “What is VPS hosting?”, this section will provide you with an in-depth look at this hosting service. VPS hosting is a step up from basic shared hosting. When you’re just getting started online, shared hosting will probably be the form of hosting you start with. With shared hosting, you have a single physical server which is then divided up between multiple different user accounts. In this scenario, you’re splitting physical server resources, which helps to keep costs low.

On a basic level, VPS hosting has a similar setup. When you sign up for VPS hosting you have a guaranteed amount of server resources allocated to you, but you’re still sharing space on a physical server with other users.

There are many differences between VPS hosting and shared hosting due to the virtualization technologies employed in VPS hosting. Even though you might be sharing the same physical server there won’t be any overlap in resource use, and the other VPS accounts won’t affect your site in any way.

Think of it as a single dedicated server that’s split over multiple physical server environments.

VPS hosting is a great choice for website owners who have outgrown shared hosting, yet aren’t quite ready for the price tag or features offered by a dedicated server. You can easily migrate from shared hosting to VPS hosting while still staying within a reasonable price point.

Pros of VPS Hosting

For some website owners, VPS hosting will be a godsend. Acting as the intermediary between shared and dedicated hosting, VPS can provide you with a lot of benefits.

Here are the most common reasons website owners decide to upgrade to VPS hosting.

1. High Level of Performance

If you currently have a slow loading website, then you’re doing a disservice to your visitors and your website as a whole. If you’ve been utilizing shared hosting and have been noticing a drop in performance, then one of the first things you’ll notice is an improvement in your loading speeds and overall site performance.

VPS hosting is equipped to handle higher traffic levels right out of the gate. Plus, you have the ability to scale your server resources if your needs expand over time.

2. Improved Overall Security

When your site starts to grow in popularity there’s a chance you’ll start to experience more security threats. Even if you’ve done everything in your power to harden your site’s security you could still be experiencing issues. In this case, it’s time to upgrade your hosting.

VPS hosting offers you very high levels of security. You’re not only completely protected from other sites using the same physical server, but you’ll be able to implement other security hardening protocols as well.

3. Great Value Pricing

VPS hosting might not be in everyone’s budget, but it offers a great value for the resources you have access to. Essentially, you’re getting access to a dedicated server at the fraction of the cost.

Plus, with VPS hosting you’ll be enabling higher levels of performance and elevating the security protocols surrounding your site. When compared to shared hosting you’re getting a serious upgrade in hosting quality without a massive jump in price.

4. Greater Server Access and Customization

VPS web hosting will generally provide you with a greater level of server access, along with the ability to customize your server environment as you see fit. Some, like WordPress VPS hosting, will have certain restrictions for plugin use and overall configuration. However, others will operate more or less like a clean slate, allowing you to choose your operating system and build whatever configuration will supercharge your site the most.

Keep in mind that some hosts will also offer managed VPS web hosting, which means that the majority of the technical tasks required to manage your server will be taken care of by their teams. This option will help to free up your time and ensure your server is always fully optimized according to your website’s specifications.

Cons of VPS Hosting

Even though VPS hosting seems pretty great it’s not the perfect fit for every kind of website owner.

Here are some of the most common reasons people decide not to go with VPS hosting:

1. Prohibitive Pricing

Even though VPS hosting is quite cost-effective, especially with all of the features, the pricing can still be steep for some website owners. If a basic shared hosting plan is stretching your budget, then VPS might not be the right option for you.

VPS hosting does seem cheap when compared to the more expensive dedicated hosting plans. However, it’s still a pretty sizable step up from shared hosting.

2. Poor Resource Allocation With Low-Quality Hosts

VPS hosting relies upon proper resource allocation. If you’re using a low-quality host, another site that’s on the same physical server may impact your site, or your site otherwise won’t be able to perform at the level you’ve grown used to. However, using a high-quality host should help you easily avoid either of these issues.

What is VPS Used For?

Beyond hosting a website, VPS servers have a myriad of other uses. Even if you’re currently happy with your existing hosting plan, you might want to check out VPS hosting for the other types of scenarios it provides.

Here are the most common VPS use cases beyond your standard hosting plan:

1. Hosting Your Own Personal Server

There’s a multitude of reasons to run your own server environment, outside of simply hosting your website. A VPS server gives you your own virtual playground for additional online activities.

For example, maybe you want your own dedicated servers for games? For some people, the cost of a dedicated server might be prohibitive, but instead, you could run a VPS server to host smaller game matches or create your own custom game environment.

Not every hosting company will allow you to run a gaming server via VPS, so make sure you read the terms and conditions, or contact support, before you decide to go this route.  

2. Testing New Applications

If you regularly deploy web applications or test out custom server setups, you’ll need your own server environment to test these things out. But, an entire dedicated server might be too expensive to warrant simple testing.

In this case, a VPS will fit the bill perfectly. This will give you a playground to do whatever you wish without incurring high monthly costs.

3. Additional File Storage

Sometimes, you want to create another backup of your files, but using cloud storage accounts can become expensive. If you want to create secure and easily accessible backups, then consider using a VPS server. Overall, this might end up being cheaper than a cloud hosting account, depending on the overall volume of the files you need stored.

However, keep in mind that not every hosting provider will allow their VPS accounts to be used for pure file storage, so double check the terms and conditions before you move forward.

VPS Hosting Showdown

By now you understand what a VPS hosting solution is, and the other reasons you might want to deploy a Virtual Private Server.

Now it’s time to see how VPS hosting compares to the other forms of hosting out there. For those thinking about upgrading their current hosting package, this section is for you.

1. VPS vs Shared Hosting

We went into shared hosting a bit above, but it’s worth digging in a bit more detail. With shared hosting, you’re renting space on a physical server that’s being shared with multiple other users. The server is partitioned between users, but there is a chance that other sites on the same server could impact your site.

With a VPS hosting solution you’re still sharing a physical server with other users. But, the underlying technology is much different. A VPS utilizes what’s known as a hypervisor. This ensures that you always have access to the guaranteed level of server resources as specified in your hosting plan.

Shared hosting is a great place to start, but once you’ve run into its limits, VPS is a great next step. Plus, VPS hosting has the added benefit of being able to scale with your site.

2. VPS vs Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is pretty simple. You’re renting an entire physical server that’s yours to do whatever you want. It’s one of the more expensive forms of hosting available, but it’ll provide you with very high levels of performance and security while offering you the ability to customize your server however you see fit.

A VPS server vs. a dedicated server will behave differently, in that you have your own virtualized dedicated server to use how you see fit. However, you don’t have your own physical dedicated server, just a virtual one.

If you have a very high traffic website, or require very high levels of security, then a dedicated server might be a better fit. However, keep in mind that you’ll need a larger budget when compared to VPS hosting. But, if you don’t have the budget for a dedicated host, then VPS hosting will suit you fine until it’s possible to upgrade.

3. VPS vs Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is one of the newer forms of hosting on the block. Overall, cloud hosting is similar to VPS in that it uses virtualization technologies to create a server environment. However, when comparing cloud hosting vs. VPS hosting, there’s a network of servers that are grouped together to create a cloud server cluster.

This setup provides you with very high levels of reliability and scalability. So, if your traffic levels swing up and down from month to month, then this style of hosting could be advantageous.

VPS hosting operates in a similar fashion by creating a virtualized web server environment across a few physical servers (if your resource needs require it). However, with VPS hosting you should have a more stable volume of traffic per month, even if it’s rising on a consistent basis.

In Closing: Do You Need to Use VPS?

VPS hosting is a perfect fit for those who require the resources that a dedicated server can provide, but aren’t quite ready for a dedicated web server.

When it comes to your website, using VPS hosting will offer you higher levels of performance, storage, and scalability if the need arises.

However, you might also think about utilizing a VPS for deploying and testing projects, running your own personal server, or even for additional file storage or website backups.

Whether or not you need to upgrade to a VPS depends on if you’ve currently hit the limits of your existing hosting package, or want to test out a VPS for any of the reasons highlighted above.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a VPS is used for, even beyond the realm of hosting your website. If you’ve currently hit the limits of your shared hosting account, then upgrading to VPS hosting can be a great decision for the future of your website.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.