What Is a Virtual Server – A Breakdown for Beginners

One of our most commonly asked questions is, “What is a virtual server?” Until recently, you had two main types of hosting options: shared hosting (the cheapest and most common option); and, dedicated server hosting option that is completely yours (the most expensive option).

Luckily, hosting companies can now offer a middle-of-the-road option: the virtual private server. A virtual private server (or VPS), offers you all the power and customization options of a dedicated server without the high cost. At the same time, it allows you to upgrade or downgrade without the fees associated with shared hosting; you can do it as needed so that you’re never paying for more than what you need.

What Is A Virtual Server?

A virtual server is actually a physical server, which is divided into virtual compartments. Each virtual server has its own operating system, resource allocation, and storage just like a dedicated server.

When Do I Need To Upgrade To A Virtual Server?

Any of the following may be a reason to upgrade to a virtual server:

  • Your website load time is very slow – It’s a fact that the more content and media you add to a website, the slower it will run. This is especially true when you’ve reached your shared hosting limits. VPS hosting lets you decrease page loading times and use its dedicated resources to keep your site running at optimum speed.
  • You have a high amount of traffic – We all want our websites to become popular. With that popularity, though, comes the stress on your regular shared hosting plan. A virtual private server lets you handle higher levels of traffic, and you can upgrade your resources with just the click of a button.

Sometimes you can predict those spikes and increase as needed. A popular food blogger noticed that his site spiked in traffic from October through January due to his popular holiday recipes. Shared hosting couldn’t keep up with this demand.

  • You run an online store or other financial transactions on your site – When you process payments through your website’s store, you need a PCI compliance certificate. Most shared hosting plans will fail because of their higher security risks.
  • Your site contains data sensitive information – Payment processing, customer databases, custom requirements, and more contain sensitive data that you’re responsible for. Shared hosting doesn’t provide the security necessary to safeguard that information because of the shared use of an IP address. Hackers can use another site within your shared hosting group to attack your website.
  • You require custom software or application installation – Because a shared host uses multiple owners on the server, you get fewer customization options. File servers, streaming servers, game servers, radio stations, podcasts, and more require a VPS or dedicated server.
  • When you see server errors – If you often see the “Service Unavailable” or 503 error, this means that your server can’t fulfill web requests. This error is specific to the memory used in your hosting plan. If you’ve reached or exceeded that maximum, this error will be the most common to occur. To be honest, any “50X” (503, 504, 507, 508) error could mean your site has maxed out the resources allocated on your server. For every moment that your site is down, you’re losing business.
  • Are you paying for overages? – While InMotion Hosting doesn’t charge for going over your limits, other shared hosting companies might. VPS Hosting can provide the needed power and resources so you don’t need to pay for those extras when you get more traffic than expected.

What is a virtual server? It’s a server that you can customize as needed, upgrade when necessary, and adapt its resources to fit the demands of your company. It’s more secure and adaptable than shared hosting without the cost demands of a dedicated server. All told, it’s a perfect middle-of-the-road choice for growing companies, hobbyists, and entrepreneurs.

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