Definition

A virtual private server (VPS) is a software-created emulation of a physical server within a powerful host server. A single physical host server can be configured to run several virtual private servers, each running its own operating system and applications, and having dedicated resources such as RAM, memory and storage.

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Overview

Today’s businesses, organizations, and some individuals require websites and web-based applications to promote their products and interact with customers. This requires huge investments in terms of hardware, software, infrastructure, and expertise which some startups and SMPs can’t afford.

Virtual private servers offer flexible and affordable solutions for entry and medium level web hosting that allow for upgrades as requirements grow. VPS solutions are flexible in terms of operating system, virtualization technology, resources, and the ability to migrate to different servers easily.

How Virtual Private Servers Work

Virtual private servers offer the functionalities of a dedicated server while running on a shared hosting platform. Several VPS’s are installed on one powerful server and all run independent of one another.

A powerful physical server running on either Windows, Linux or FreeBSD uses a virtualization technology tool known as Hypervisor. This creates the “virtual machines.” It also allocates and release resources such as the RAM and processor time to guest operating systems.

Virtualization Technology

Two common forms of virtualization technologies used in VPS are the hardware virtualization and the containers virtualization, both of which are available in commercial and open source options.

Hardware Virtualization

Hardware virtualization is when all hardware components in a computer are emulated. This includes the keyboard, mouse, video card, hard drive, network card, processor and memory. This virtualization offers the best performance and is sometimes referred to as virtual dedicated Server (VDS).

It allows one to install almost all Intel-compatible operating systems in addition to running different operating systems such as Windows and Linux on the same server. Examples include VirtualBox, Hyper-V, VMware, Xen and KVM.

Containers

The container runs on the same operating system as the host and uses special software to create an illusion that it is an independent server. It also shields one VPS from another VPS. Examples of containers include FreeBSD jails, Solaris zones, OpenVZ, Virtuozzo and LXC.

What to Consider When Choosing VPS

  • Hardware specifications of the host server (CPU, Storage, RAM, bandwidth, etc.)
  • Maximum number of VPS instances on the host server
  • Virtualization technology, host server OS and version
  • Procedure and costs of additional resources
  • Type of company, support offered, company experience, reputation, client retention rate, annual downtime, backup and/or redundancy measures

Managing a Virtual Private Server

Once a user signs up for the VPS, an account is created and the user is assigned root administrative access to have full control over the server.

The operating system can then be installed from scratch, but the majority of hosting providers have various disk images corresponding to the common operating systems. This allows one to simply specify the desired image and the default configuration will be done in a few minutes. From here, one can customize the server, install, update, or uninstall software.

Benefits of Virtual Private Servers

  • Highly customizable, feature rich, with dedicated server functionalities
  • Affordable, flexible, and easily scalable
  • Enterprises have full control over server including full root access, self-service reboots, IPs assignments and re-image
  • Wide range of operating systems and seamless switching between different operating systems
  • Dynamic VPS’s allow one to upgrade server resources in real time where memory, bandwidth, storage or processor is increased while the server is still running

Conclusion

Affordable and flexible options offered by VPS’s means that businesses and organizations can own and manage web servers and applications without spending on physical servers, infrastructure and personnel.

To ensure that the virtual private server meets business requirements and performs as promised by the hosting company, one needs to narrow down reliable providers that can meet the required level of performance and flexibility.