What is VPS Hosting? — 5 FAQs Answered (Definition, Cost, Top Hosts)

Everyone knows the housing analogy when talking about the different web hosting configurations: Shared hosting is renting an apartment, VPS is like owning a condo, and dedicated servers are equivalent to owning your own home. We’ve used the comparison plenty on HostingAdvice, but it’s time for something new.

Fresh off discovering and using Pizza-as-a-Service to describe cloud service models, I’m ready to compare all things web hosting to pizza. Quickly, VPS stands for virtual private server and resides between shared and dedicated plans on the hosting spectrum. When it comes to pizza (as all things inevitably do), VPS equates to splitting a pizza with a friend and choosing the specific toppings you want on each half.

I’ll go into the delicious, cheesy details below, or skip ahead to learn about the advantages of VPS hosting and which hosts and services we recommend.

1. What Does VPS Hosting Mean?

When it comes to the different types of hosting plans available, you can think of shared hosting as that already made, cheap pizza you get to share with seven or eight friends — there’s little say on the toppings and you’ll only get a slice or two.

With VPS hosting, you and another person can choose from higher quality ingredients and decide if the pineapple, for example, should only go on part of the pizza. Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, likens to skipping the delivery menu in favor of making your own and not sharing with anyone else. You have total control over how your pizza tastes, even though someone else might cook the pie in their oven.

VPS hosting offers customers more resources and flexibility without investing in a dedicated server.

In VPS hosting, a server has been divided into virtualized partitions or virtual machines. You have more control and computing resources than shared hosting packages but still share the hardware with other VPS customers while your traffic grows to the point where a dedicated server makes the most financial and performance sense.

A VPS runs its own operating system copy and acts as an independent dedicated server, even though the physical server might contain several virtual environments. Users have administrative rights to their VPS and can install their own instances of various applications, including Apache, PHP, or MySQL.

2. What is “Cloud” VPS Hosting?

As with all these hosting analogies, cloud hosting makes things a bit more hazy and difficult to explain. Returning to pizza, cloud VPS hosting is roughly akin to eating at a pizza buffet. You can take slices from several different types of pizzas and go back up to the buffet for more if or when you’re still hungry.

A cloud-based VPS still draws resources from a virtual machine, but the environment is made up of several different servers clustered or networked together. Each cloud server helps conduct a particular set of tasks, and other servers are ready to fill in in the event that something fails or crashes. This makes cloud VPS hosting extremely performant, scalable, and reliable.

Cloud VPS hosting pools resources from several virtual servers to produce your website or application.

For the pizza analogy to truly apply, however, we have to make a few strange tweaks. Most cloud VPS hosting plans adopt a pay-as-you-go model, billing customers for exactly the computing or storage resources used. So, cloud VPS is totally like eating at a pizza buffet — that charges you by the slice and lets you put the uneaten pizza back on the buffet.

3. What are the Advantages and How Much Does It Cost?

Jumping from a shared hosting plan into a VPS unlocks a bevy of new functionalities. Being able to configure your environment through full root access is a major perk of VPS hosting, along with the noticeable boosts in performance and stability because fewer customers share the computing resources.

If the added technical responsibility intimidates you, however, many hosting providers begin offering managed services at the VPS level. That means the company’s in-house experts and support staff will handle everything from server setups and software installation to platform optimization and enhanced security. Your host will take care of maintaining and updating the infrastructure so you can focus on your company, application, or website.

Many VPS hosting providers offer managed services such as security patches or operating system updates.

Because of the upgraded features, resources, and support, VPS hosting plans are understandably more expensive than shared hosting. However, that doesn’t mean VPS is cost-prohibitive or that you can’t find good services for great, affordable prices. Simple, bare-bones VPS plans from respected, reputable hosting providers typically start out around $30 per month — though many of our favorite VPS hosts allow us to give you a discount.

As you add computing resources and servers to your VPS cluster, however, expect those prices to grow. Another big benefit of VPS hosting, especially of the cloud flavor, is the ability to quickly scale your infrastructure to meet traffic demands. You can add or remove servers, often in an automated fashion, with a click or two of the mouse and only pay for what you use.

4. What is VPS Hosting Used For and Who Needs It?

VPS hosting seems to be the service of choice for small or medium businesses looking for more control, flexibility, and performance than shared hosting but without the investment required to move all the way up to a dedicated server. While everyone from baffled first-time website owners to seasoned individual developers populates the shared hosting customer ranks, VPS users typically have professional-level experience or critical business needs from their web hosting.

Availability, security, and speed are all critically important to businesses. VPS hosting plans deliver that and more, often automating routine processes, including security monitoring and load balancing, and booting up additional servers and computing resources. Although setting up your VPS infrastructure and processes can be quite a bit more intense (or not, if you have a managed hosting plan), the automation and added services from VPS packages often make customers’ experiences resemble shared hosting’s “set it and forget it” routine.

5. What are the Best VPS Hosting Services? (Top 3)

When you’re ready to upgrade your hosting to a VPS plan, see if your current host offers the service. If you listened to us and signed up with one of our top shared hosting providers, chances are the company will migrate your websites, applications, and files to a VPS plan for free.

Otherwise, take a look at our three favorite VPS providers below. When shopping around, pay attention to which companies offer more powerful and speedy SSD storage, redundant and scalable cloud infrastructure, managed patches and updates, and instantaneous provisioning.

VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • 50% off the first month with added discounts the first year
  • Real-time redundancy powered by a cloud infrastructure
  • FREE cPanel/WHM licenses with enterprise-grade CentOS
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space 75 GB - 260 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
VPS Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/vps

Our Expert's InMotion Review

Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere. Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6,... read more +

Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere.

Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6, which is incredibly fast and secure. Each of their plans also come with an awesome amount of RAM for the server cost, so the speed-to-dollar ratio is high with this host.

InMotion’s VPS packages run on CentOS 6 Linux operating systems and all feature a license for cPanel. Each plan also comes with Web Hosting Management (WHM) software, making it super-easy to resell some unused server resources.

InMotion's reputation for uptime is second-to-none, with a solid track record as a large-scale VPS host and a large, friendly support team available at any time.

Lastly, InMotion has a 90-day money-back guarantee and offers a choice of datacenters, which are nice customer-centric features. Their support is top-notch and 24 hours. We highly recommend you check them out if you are looking for a VPS with great hardware and reseller options at a low price.

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VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • Only pay for resources you use with daily billing
  • 5TB of outgoing bandwidth and FREE incoming bandwidth
  • API access and cPanel available
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $29.50
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 50 GB - 1.6 TB SSD
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
VPS Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com/vps

Our Expert's Liquid Web Review

It's no secret by now that Liquid Web is known for best-in-class technology and reliability that exceeds expectations (from uptime to technical support). Their VPSs embody that reputation to its fullest — including a new... read more +

It's no secret by now that Liquid Web is known for best-in-class technology and reliability that exceeds expectations (from uptime to technical support). Their VPSs embody that reputation to its fullest — including a new Managed WordPress product (Hop one tab over to the WordPress Review for more info on this awesome addition.).

Perks of a Managed VPS: Support Meets Reliability

They offer a high-powered VPS solution as well as their in-house-built, cloud-based Storm® Servers, all of which are backed by their popular SLAs (service-level agreements) promising high uptime rates and highly reliable help from the Heroic Support® experts.

Better Performance with Liquid Web Virtual Servers

With high-powered SSDs and, of course, the Heroic Support® team, the VPS platform shines among the managed services offered at Liquid Web. You'll pay a bit of a premium for managed hosting, but there's a reason customers rave about the Heroic Support®, incredible SLAs, and excellent uptime rates.

SSD Power & Fully Managed Support

RAID-protected SSD storage comes standard for Liquid Web VPS users, which decreases latency and keeps your page loads fast and secure. They offer a range of management plans, as well as cPanel control and API access, so you get the perfect level of infrastructural management support for you and your site.

Cloud-Level Flexibility & Supreme Uptime

The Liquid Web VPS infrastructure was engineered with customer priorities in mind. These solutions are ideal for users that want cloud-like flexibility, such as billing by the day and custom configurations, but also seek the affordability of shared hosting. Customers can instantly provision and deploy their virtual server, easily upgrade, downgrade, clone, or resize, and only pay for the resources they use.

Award-Winning Heroic Support® & Sonar Monitoring™

Liquid Web's SLAs promise speedy response times and industry-leading performance. Their blazing fast and fault-resistant servers are backed by the round-the-clock attention of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.

Heroic Support® Team Helps Consistently Earn High Net Promoter Scores

Not only does the Heroic Promise ensure a Heroic Support® technician will get to you quickly, but their policy of Best Effort Support guarantees that they will attempt to help with any problem you encounter. That kind of customer support translates into customer loyalty, and it's a commitment that's rare and wonderful in this industry.

Sonar Monitoring™ Team Helps Yield Virtually No Downtime

In 2014 Liquid Web yielded an incredible uptime rate of 99.995%. With their wholly owned hardware being watched over and maintained by highly trained technicians, there's no reason to doubt their promise of virtually nonexistent downtime in the future.

All server statuses are watched around the clock by the Sonar Monitoring™ team, which is trained to detect system issues quickly, and ideally have problems resolved before a hiccup even shows up on your radar.

Storm® Platform, Private Cloud, & Add-Ons

In addition to a heroic army of support, Liquid Web has 50+ developers dedicated to the build-out and up-keep of custom solutions. A great example would be their Storm® Platform: an in-house innovation based on their top-of-the-line VPS infrastructure.

With automatic migrations and provisioning and easy scaling options, the Storm® Cloud Server offers all the SSD speed and custom functionality you want in an affordable, shared cloud environment. To give users even more options, Liquid Web developers are constantly working on new projects, including the latest Storm® Private Cloud functionality and their Block Storage, Object Storage, and VPN Storm® Add-Ons.

Liquid Web VPS in a Nutshell

If you want easy scaling, screaming fast speed, custom functionalities, and unparalleled support, look no further than Liquid Web for your VPS. They own all the hardware and have a rather large development team in their corner, so the technological possibilities are pretty much limitless. We'd recommend going with their custom Storm® Servers, which offer all the power, flexibility, and scaling options you'd require of a virtual or dedicated server with the affordability and ease of use of a shared hosting solution.

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VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.8/5.0
  • 2-4 cores and 4-16GB of RAM
  • Endorsed by the WordPress team
  • Redundant storage and optional SiteLock security
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space 30 GB - 240 GB SSD
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
VPS Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/vps

Our Expert's Bluehost Review

When comparing the performance versus price of VPS plans, Bluehost brings supreme value to the table. In addition to competitive pricing, they offer premium support and excellent uptime compared to other VPS options in the... read more +

When comparing the performance versus price of VPS plans, Bluehost brings supreme value to the table. In addition to competitive pricing, they offer premium support and excellent uptime compared to other VPS options in the industry. If you’ve outgrown shared hosting, or need the flexibility and security of a VPS, Bluehost is a great choice for you.

Bluehost’s virtual servers boast several benefits compared to standard shared hosting and other VPS offerings. The first is speed; Bluehost offers your choice of two or four cores and 4GB to 16GB of RAM with guaranteed resources, so you have the power you need when you need it. The second perk is security; Bluehost offers redundant storage and optional SiteLock protection to secure your data.

For those new to VPS hosting who may not know exactly what is needed, Bluehost makes it incredibly easy and seamless to switch between their plans to find the perfect package for you. If you have questions or need some advice, their wonderful support staff is standing by to assist 24/7.

Formed in 2003, Bluehost has long since been a hosting innovator and leader. Today, the company powers more than two million websites and carries the official seal of approval given by the WordPress.org team for their managed WordPress services hosted on their VPS platform. With years of experience, competitive pricing, and excellent support, Bluehost is a pick you can take to the bank in the VPS hosting space.

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See more top VPS hosts »

So, How Can a Virtual Server Help Scale Your Business?

Just as pizza chefs toss the dough in the air to extend it, VPS hosting plans can elevate your business to new heights. As you move forward (hopefully with one of our recommended hosts), we hope your VPS hosting adventures will be as exciting and delicious as stumbling upon a late-night pizza joint serving hot, fresh slices of buffalo chicken pizza. Top-notch ingredients, such as scalability, redundant cloud infrastructure, ultimate flexibility, and pay-as-you-go billing, give you a taste of the benefits a VPS host can deliver.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Stamey

Laura Stamey is a multi-talented communicator with a master's degree in web design and online communication and extensive experience creating web, print, and multimedia products. As a Contributing Editor for HostingAdvice.com, she combines her communication skills with web design experience, a passionate love for WordPress, and a strong desire to continue learning. When she's not addressing user questions via helpful how-to guides, you'll find her connecting with the folks behind companies that are powering the Web — covering their innovative technologies and the teams that engineer them.