A virtual private server or VPS is often considered an intermediate step between shared hosting – what is most commonly used by web service providers – and dedicated servers, where a company owns an entire server and all of its resources.
Shared hosting is limited in that many users tend to be using the same servers, and there can be significant bottlenecks and slow downs depending on how many people are accessing resources at the same time. Dedicated servers tend to have all the power a large company could need, but are expensive, and may offer more resources than a small or medium sized business can use.
Virtual private servers are usually dedicated servers that have a certain number of smaller “containers” partitioned into the server itself. A company rents a container that is sized for their needs. This allows them to get many of the benefits of a dedicated server, such as granular control of the system and flexibility in resource use, without paying the higher cost of a dedicated server.
So when should a company switch to using a VPS?
When shared hosting starts to limit your functionality
There are many applications for a virtual private server. They are commonly thought of as a solution for website hosting, but they can also be used to make SaaS, a kind of cloud software, available to all users within a company. If you have one or two users accessing your company’s SaaS, then using shared hosting is probably fine, but as you start to see expansion within your company, moving the software to a VPS may be a more effective way to make sure your company has the resources you need.
Either way, the purpose of the VPS is to bridge that gap; if shared hosting is limiting your business, consider VPS.
Before you move to a dedicated server
Even if you’re considering moving to a dedicated server, using a VPS to try out different setups and experiment with how things are going to work may be a good idea. After all, one of the benefits of a virtual machine is that it is essentially a sandbox environment; one button push, and everything is back to defaults and you can begin again. With a dedicated server, if you begin to experiment and make serious mistakes, fixing those mistakes can be complicated – and occasionally impossible.
Using a virtual environment for testing and experimentation is usually a good idea. By sharing that environment, you can get feedback and additional ideas before moving forward with implementation.
Dollar for gigabyte, using a VPS as a backup utility would generally not be cost-effective; there are plenty of solid cloud backup focused options that are cheaper when you consider the price you’re paying for storage. But if you already have a VPS and find that you have extra space you’re paying for but not using, using this space as an additional backup for crucial files can be a reasonable way to use that space.
By the time a company has a dedicated server, it often needs a full IT team to manage the server, its implementation, and its maintenance. Even if a company can afford the physical cost of a dedicated server, having the IT team available to manage the server itself may be more than the company can handle.
Again, a VPS offers a middle of the road solution. The company offering the VPS can generally provide tech support on their side, while the company often just needs a single IT person, or perhaps a contracted IT company, to manage the server implementation in house on their end.
If you know that a big event is coming up and that you’re going to need a serious increase in RAM to handle traffic, you can add that to your container with the click of a button. To upgrade your dedicated server, someone generally needs to physically replace the RAM, which creates downtime on the server overall. This interrupts service and can create frustration in both your employees and your customers.
Overall, a VPS gives you great flexibility, whether you’re looking at web hosting, cloud computing, or something else entirely. It lets your company begin to expand and provide better customer service without needing to worry about the serious resources required by a fully dedicated server.
When you are running a small to medium sized enterprise that is running out of digital space, whether that’s through the number of users who can access shared software, the amount of traffic a website can handle, or the ability to access a system and get the customizations that you need, it may be time to consider a virtual private server. More cost effective than a dedicated server and with more flexibility than shared hosting, this makes a great stepping off point for businesses that are ready to expand without overextending their resources.