Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
The Basics Between VPS and Cloud Hosting
Determining whether cloud hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting suits your needs depends largely on what type of services you need, how quickly you expect your business to grow and the amount of resources you need to run your website. While there are some similarities between a cloud based server and a VPS, ultimately, each type of server presents various strengths and weaknesses that makes choosing the correct server largely a matter of whether you need a quickly scalable resource or the ability to completely control your server environment for security purposes. Since an IT administrator doesn’t control how cloud servers are set up and connected, this provides less control over advanced firewall and security configurations.
VPS servers offer quick scaling to take advantage of additional resources, provided the hosted machine has the resources available. If the resources exist, the VPS server has the ability to upgrade memory, disk space and processor speed instantly. If the requested resources are not available, the entire website must move to a new computer. This could result in server downtime of several hours while the transfer completes. While both types of servers allow you to control the applications installed, a VPS gives you additional flexibility to control each aspect of memory, processor usage and how your disk space is used.
Cloud servers provide the functionality to quickly scale to a virtually unlimited degree. If the server needs additional resources, there is no downtime. The server can be instantly upgraded to access additional bandwidth, memory and processor speed as necessary. Cloud hosting companies charge based on the amount of time the server stays online. For companies that need a high level of service during specific periods of time, a cloud server can significantly reduce costs. Companies that provide courses, IT professionals that need servers for testing purposes, and organizations that need to quickly disable servers on a moments notice find cloud servers adequately fit their needs.
VPS servers are similar to dedicated servers since the user can completely control all the resources of the server. Cloud services may store data across any number of redundant servers. It also isn’t possible to know where any single piece of data will be stored at any given time. This means that security is largely out of the control of the user. VPS servers allow the configuration of firewalls, antivirus programs and data is centralized within a specific partition of a hard drive. This provides greater control over the information available on the server. If you want complete control of your server, then a VPS provides the better option. Although, you still won’t be able to configure any settings that are shared among all users on the machine. Only a dedicated server provides complete, unhampered control of system resources. However, if security and control are not the primary concerns, then a cloud server provides a highly scalable solution that appeals to companies with quickly changing needs.
Most cloud services utilize 5 or more disks to store your information. VPS servers only store information on two hard disks. If both disks go down on a VPS server, then your information will be lost unless you have a backup. The chances of 5 or more disks going down is virtually impossible. If you don’t make regular backups, choosing a cloud server decreases the likelihood of a total data disaster. The advantage to a VPS server is that you can more easily configure backup programs in the form of a chron job to make routine backups without worrying about using extra system resources. Cloud servers on the other hand provide as much space as necessary, making it possible to store several versions of backups on the host server without having to worry about running out of space.
Redundancy refers to a process that saves information across more than one disk. With a cloud server, there is full redundancy, so if one disk goes down the information almost instantaneously goes to a new server. The new host server restarts immediately, effectively eliminating the time that a website might be down. With a VPS, if the host server goes down, then all VPS accounts on the same server also goes down. Even if you have a backup, it can take several hours for the hosting service to get your accounts back online. For websites that need to be available without fail, the safest option is a cloud server. However, if your website can stand to be down for a few hours every couple of years, then a VPS might provide the better option if you need more control of your server.
While VPS servers slice up a machine to ensure that each user gets the resources they paid for, the performance of a VPS server may be affected during times of high use by other users on the same machine. Hard drives can only access information so fast, so if every partitioned account serves data at the same time, the server may serve pages and run applications more slowly. The possibility of a time out is also increased when using a VPS server. Since cloud servers don’t store data in a single physical machine, the possibility for slow response times are greatly reduced since the cloud server has the potential to scale immediately during times of peak use.
VPS servers restrict your total resources to what you pay for. However, many machines are overstocked causing the actual resources given to a user to be somewhat constrained. With a cloud server, you actually get what you pay for with the benefit of being able to increase usage as needed. If your server requires more CPU cycles and there are some available, the server can burst to allow full utilization of the resources. Cloud servers are never oversold. The very nature of a cloud server provides virtually unlimited resources to provide you with the best web hosting service possible. Even dedicated servers don’t provide the same level of resources that a cloud server does. For businesses and individuals that need large amounts of resources, or have unpredictable traffic and usage spikes, a cloud server provides the best option.
For companies that need to control costs and know exactly how much they will spend each month on hosting services, a VPS provides the better option. VPS accounts charge a set monthly fee based on how many resources the user purchases. Cloud server charges may surprise the user since the user gets charged bases on how many minutes or in some cases, seconds, the server stays online. The disadvantage of a VPS is that the server may exceed the purchased resources, where a cloud server does not. When traffic is predictable, a VPS server helps to ensure the same monthly fee. The advantage of a cloud servers billing system involves the potential to accommodate for unpredictable traffic and resource usage. However, since the cloud server only charges for resources that are actually used, the overall cost of a cloud server is often less expensive than a VPS hosting the same level of service.
In 2010, Google made an announcement that the speed of a website would directly influence the website ranking. Since website ranking can make or break a business, this is a concern that all website owners should concern themselves with. If you can’t afford to purchase a dedicated server, the cloud server approach is generally preferable to VPS plans. However, not all applications run on a server will see an increase in speed when switching to cloud hosting. Some specific applications, such as content management systems and learning management systems require specific resources to run most effectively. This sometimes requires manual configuration of components such as memory, processor speed and how the servers disks are utilized. Most often, a VPS server provides better customization for these types of applications. However, for a website that simply servers web pages, or uses applications with moderate system requirements, the cloud server may run faster.
In the end, the consumer has to make a choice based on budget, needs, server performance requirements and whether they need complete control of their security. Cloud servers are ideal for companies that don’t mind many of the security and backup processes to be controlled by their web host (read more about this on 15 Reasons To Fear Cloud Computing). For data firms, highly sensitive information and companies with their own security divisions, a VPS server provides the better option.
While cloud servers are secure, a VPS has the capability of completing shutting down specific types of connections through a firewall. Cloud servers only provide general security settings that are controlled by the hosting provider. Care must be taken when choosing a web hosting service to serve your web pages. One of the best ways to do this is to monitor your website for some time to determine how many system resources are actually needed.
If your website consistently serves pages quickly and never comes close to overcoming the system resources, a VPS may be right for you. If your server continually exceeds the system resources, experiences time outs or has other performance issues, a cloud server might provide the better option. For more about choosing the right web host, read Is this web host right for me.