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

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.

Graphic illustrating types of hosting

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.

Graphic illustrating types of hosting

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.

Image of technical support staff working in a datacenter

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.


InterServer review

Monthly Starting Price $6.00

  • FREE migrations and instant provisioning
  • Latest versions of PHP, MySQL, Perl, Python, and Ruby
  • 7 operating system options for Linux or Windows users
  • NO contracts and your price is guaranteed for life
  • Full root access and choice of datacenter included
  • Get started on InterServer now.



InterServer: Our Expert's Review

Setup time: 6 minutes
Laura Bernheim (HostingAdvice.com): InterServer's on-site datacenter and hands-on involvement with configuring and provisioning virtual private servers give customers a level of flexibility not seen with many other hosting providers. InterServer rations VPS and cloud resources through slices.... Go to full review »
Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name VPS Hosting Plans
N/A 30 GB SSD - 480 GB SSD New or Transfer www.interserver.net/vps


Hostwinds review

Monthly Starting Price $5.17

  • Managed or unmanaged virtual servers available in Windows or Linux
  • Cloud hosting instances with hourly or monthly billing
  • Instant upgrades without downtime
  • FREE around-the-clock monitoring
  • Automatic nightly backups available
  • Get started on Hostwinds now.



Hostwinds: Our Expert's Review

Setup time: 6 minutes
Laura Bernheim (HostingAdvice.com): Does any hosting provider have more virtual private server packages than Hostwinds? The company offers 10 configurations — and that's just for managed Linux server partitions. Hostwinds provides 10 additional plans each for managed Windows VPS and unmanaged... Go to full review »
Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name VPS Hosting Plans
N/A 30 GB - 750 GB SSD New or Transfer www.hostwinds.com/vps


Liquid Web review

Monthly Starting Price $19.99

  • High-speed hosting that's faster than AWS, Rackspace, and Digital Ocean
  • FREE backups, CDN, root access, and DDoS protection
  • Up to 16 processors with all-SSD storage
  • Choice between cPanel or Plesk Onyx control panel
  • Real-time monitoring and 100% uptime guarantee
  • Get started on Liquid Web now.



Liquid Web: Our Expert's Review

Setup time: 7 minutes
Alexandra Leslie (HostingAdvice.com): It's no secret by now that Liquid Web is known for best-in-class technology and reliability that exceeds expectations. The company's cloud VPS environments embody that reputation to its fullest — including managed WordPress and WooCommerce products.Liquid... Go to full review »
Money Back Guarantee Disk Space Domain Name VPS Hosting Plans
N/A 30 GB SSD - 150 GB SSD New or Transfer www.liquidweb.com/vps

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.

Laura Bernheim

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