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VPS or Dedicated? How To Know What Kind of Hosting Is Best For Your Site
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You’ve been writing for a while, and your blog is gaining traction. Each post takes a lot of time, and creating the images to support your written content is not a trivial task. You expect a fairly high number of unique visits every time you post something new, and you get even more traffic from search engines that have indexed your older content.
All of the things we just mentioned contribute to the increasingly large load placed on your server, and as time goes on, you (and your visitors) will likely notice its performance degrading.
What to do?
Is It Time to Upgrade Your Hosting Plan?
One of the first things you should consider is upgrading the type of hosting you are using. If you are still working with that shared hosting plan you got when you were just starting out, it is probably time to think about shifting to a VPS plan (or even a dedicated server).
In this article, we will take a closer look at both VPS hosting and dedicated server hosting. We will cover their similarities and differences so that you can decide which option is best for you when you upgrade.
Determine Your Baseline
Before we get into the differences between VPS hosting and dedicated servers, we wanted to mention the basics of selecting a plan. Generally speaking, you will be choosing based on:
- The number of CPU cores (more = faster)
- How much RAM you want
- How much storage/disk space you need (as well as whether you want a faster SSD or a cheaper traditional option)
However, the resource allocation on a server is just one aspect to consider. You will also need to consider how many websites and blogs are allowed to use the server’s resources.
Option 1: VPS Hosting Is Virtually Private
Like virtual reality, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting feels almost like having your own little world. VPS is similar to shared hosting in that multiple websites share the resources present on a single physical server. However, the difference between dedicated and VPS hosting are the restrictions placed on who can use the resources.
The web host uses a hypervisor, or software designed to create individual virtual machines on the server. This strict separation protects you from your neighbors, though all of you are still accessing a “shared” pool of resources (remember, though, that the server is likely to be more powerful and less “populated” than one used for shared hosting).
Furthermore, the resource allocation is divided evenly, and one website cannot take advantage of another’s resources (and vice versa). Think of it like owning a condo. Everyone can decorate their home to their own satisfaction — but they can’t knock down walls and take over their neighbor’s living room.
Option 2: Dedicated Servers Are All Yours
Dedicated servers are, as their name implies, servers that are wholly dedicated to serving your blog (and your blog alone). You are basically given an empty server, and you can put whatever you want on it.
Generally speaking, web hosts will offer several physical server configurations from which you can choose, though some will let you build a server that matches your specifications exactly.
A dedicated server contrasts sharply with a shared plan (where you have little to no control over your server environment) and a VPS option (where you have some control over your environment, but there are still limitations placed by your web hosting provider). Just as you choose the hardware you get, you have 100% control over the software that is installed onto your server.
Here’s a great video from GoDaddy that helps explain the differences between VPS and dedicated hosting.
How Does VPS Hosting Compare to Dedicated Servers?
There are a lot of similarities between VPS hosting options and dedicated servers.
Both options offer you increased control over your hosting environment, especially with regards to the software that is installed. Both options offer you the option of purchasing the specs that you need when it comes to hardware.
Though this analogy is overly simplistic, you can think of a VPS plan as a light version of a dedicated server. A VPS plan is set up like a shared plan but behaves like a dedicated server. A VPS plan offers you a chance to try out the most premium of hosting options, a dedicated server, without the cost.
It will be no surprise to you that VPS plans are cheaper than dedicated servers. When a web host can put multiple customers on a single server, they can charge less to each customer.
We’ve seen VPS hosting packages as low as a couple of dollars a month up to high-end options over $175 per month.
Extremely low-end dedicated servers might set you back about $30 or $40 per month, but a more realistic price for a quality offering is around $100/month (with the sky being the limit).
Managed vs. Unmanaged Options
One thing that we did not cover in the descriptions of VPS plans and dedicated servers above is the work that you need to put in to set up, configure, manage, and maintain your web hosting environment.
At one end of the spectrum are fully unmanaged plans, where you are responsible for most everything related to the server’s software (in the case of a VPS plan, the host will provision your virtual machine and leave the rest to you).
At the other end of the spectrum are fully managed plans, where the web host takes care of pretty much everything on your behalf — you decide what you need or want, and the web host’s staff is responsible for getting everything installed, configured, and maintained.
PRO TIP: Don’t confuse managed VPS or dedicated plans with “managed WordPress hosting.”
Most web hosts tend to fall somewhere in between these two extremes. You will need to speak with the web hosts you are interested in to see exactly what they offer (and what they do not). Not all managed hosts operate in the same way or offer the same services.
In addition to considering how much of these administrative tasks you want to tackle on your own (as well as what you are comfortable doing), you will need to consider your budget. No rule of thumb says how much managed services run, but they do have a cost (sometimes considerably so).
We have mentioned that one of the perks of upgrading from a shared hosting plan is to get full control over the software involved. One of the biggest decisions you will have to make is with regards to the operating system that is installed. Though you have choices, the number of choices you have are still somewhat limited — Linux and Windows options are common, while Macintosh is unheard of.
Generally speaking, opting for Windows hosting will result in higher hosting fees. That’s because Linux is open-source and free to use, while Windows needs to be licensed from Microsoft for use.
We’ve spent a lot of time in this article talking about the flexibility and performance offered by VPS and dedicated plans, but there’s another reason why you should consider these options: security.
In short, having your website hosted in its own space means that you do not have to worry about what your neighbors are doing (or what others are doing to your neighbors). For example, if you are on a shared hosting plan and your neighbors are the recipient of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, well, that attack will likely affect your site as well. With VPS or dedicated plans, there’s little likelihood that your neighbors will get you into any trouble.
However, if you have a heightened need for security, dedicated servers have the edge since they’re physically islands unto themselves.
VPS and dedicated plans are likely to come with dedicated IP addresses (one is standard, though some hosts offer more). This makes it less likely that your site is misidentified with another site, offers benefits for email marketing, and (in conjunction with an SSL certificate), offers security for payments handling if you launch an e-commerce site.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Thanks to the generally higher costs of both plan types, when it comes to VPS and dedicated hosting, you can expect to receive top-notch customer service and technical support (likely around-the-clock as well) for either plan type. The specifics will vary between hosts, but as a premium customer, you will not have a hard time finding a host who is willing to work with you on your questions, comments, or concerns.
Good customer service with this type of hosting is so prevalent that if you find a company that does not offer such services, we recommend that you move on and look elsewhere.
Don’t Be Confused By Other Hosting Types
You may find that some hosts offer alternative hosting types. Although they may seem similar to VPS or dedicated plans, they are quite different.
- Cloud hosting is the practice of hosting your website across a series of linked servers, rather than on a single server. While this is costly, the perks include multiple redundancies if something happens to a single server and easy scalability. These plans are mostly favored by large businesses and web applications rather than bloggers or e-commerce sites.
- Semi-dedicated hosting, contrary to what its name suggests, is likely to be a shared hosting plan that is located on a server that is much more powerful than the most inexpensive option. But don’t be confused, it is not a dedicated hosting option.
Which Option is Best For You?
Now that we’ve covered the similarities and differences between VPS and dedicated hosting plans, which option should you choose?
Since you’re probably already familiar with shared hosting plans, here’s a summary of how VPS and dedicated hosting plans compare to them.
|Shared Hosting||VPS Hosting||Dedicated Hosting|
(~a few dollars/month)
(~a few dollars to $175/month)
|Tech Knowledge Required||Lowest||Low (managed) to High (unmanaged)||Low (managed) to High (unmanaged)|
|Server Resources||Shared with other customers||Partitioned from other customers||Separate machine for each customer|
You Should Choose a VPS Hosting Plan If…
- Your blog is growing and you need better hosting, but the price is a major concern.
- You’re technically proficient, but not overly so (and managed services aren’t really in the budget).
- You need additional resources, but not to the extent of purchasing a full server.
Your Should Choose a Dedicated Server If…
- You need the best of the best for your website — you want to max out on RAM, support tons of visitors, server up a resource-heavy website (think lots of videos and high-resolution images).
- You need the most secure type of hosting possible.
- You have special needs that would be best met with a hosting environment that you configure — like app development or other (non-blogging) situations.
Conclusion: Most Bloggers Choose VPS
For most bloggers, we’d advise that VPS is probably the best value to upgrade from shared hosting. (Although, we’d also recommend that you take a look at managed WordPress plans too.)
VPS and dedicated hosting options are expensive, but for bloggers who have outgrown their shared hosting plans, they offer unparalleled value. You get what you pay for, and when opting for more expensive plans, you will see increases in performance and security.
Want to Find Out More?
- WordPress specialty hosting reviews
- Bluehost Review: Best in Class Hosting
- SiteGround Review: WordPress Recommended, but Right for You?
- Bluehost Review: How's This Famous Brand Stack Up for Bloggers?
- DreamHost Review: a Slice Simple WordPress Hosting Heaven
Editor's note: This review was updated September 2017 to reflect DreamHost updates. DreamHost is a…