For those webmasters whom desire more control over their website hosting environment, virtual private server, or VPS web hosting is a viable alternative. The extremely low cost web hosting service provided by shared hosting has it’s limitations. Because a single server is home to possibly several hundred websites, some of their resources such as CPU, disk space, and bandwidth have to be shared by all of the individual hosting account customers. These shared resources normally are not necessarily an issue for small to medium sized sites.
The major limitation is the restraint of control over system level software such as http servers, mail servers etc. You don’t have options such as being able to select a different operating system and you cannot compose programs or do administrative functions like putting Spam filters or firewalls in place. For most of you this isn’t a problem because you either don’t know how or don’t want to do that stuff anyway! The majority of website owners don’t have any interest or the skills to deal with this sort of work and are content to leave it to the hosting company. Those who want or need more control over their server situation or desire to try out new software, however, can attain this level of management with a Virtual Private Server.
A virtual private server (VPS) is a physical server that has been split into several virtual machines by software. Each of these divisions acts as an autonomous dedicated server. The physical resources such as RAM, CPU and disk space are still shared, but each VPS acts independently of the others. Each VPS can even have a different operating system and can be configured any way you want. The central asset of VPS is that it lets each VPS administrator have access to the root level of his virtual server. This accessibility allows the web master to install and remove software, set permissions, and create accounts. You have the same control as if it were a “real” server.
In addition to allowing you a greater degree of control over your hosting environment, a VPS is more secure than shared hosting. If a hacker were to gain access to the root of a shared server he could wreak havoc on any or all of the websites on that server. A VPS is sub-divided in such a way that even if a hacker were to obtain entry through one account, he could not get to the others. Each VPS is invisible to the others and there is no way to set up root level access from one VPS to another.
The most common configuration of virtual private servers (VPS) is to evenly divide all of the physical resources by the number of accounts. So if there are 10 virtual servers, each would be allocated 10% of the total bandwidth, CPU, memory and disk space. The control that a VPS account provides can get you into a real mess if you don’t understand what you are doing. You are capable of deleting files, setting permissions improperly, allowing virus-laden software on the system and, in general, really putting your website in jeopardy. If you don’t have the skills necessary to administer a server, or are not able to get assistance, VPS is not a wise choice for you.
If your website has grown beyond the capabilities of shared hosting, then, VPS may offer an affordable option to dedicated hosting. Be certain to ascertain how system resources are divvied up, how many VPS accounts are on each physical server, how you upgrade if needed, and what the choices of operating systems are.