Bare Metal vs Virtual Server Hosting: A Comparison

Posted on by David Richards | Updated:
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When choosing a server hosting solution, you have lots of options. Two of the most common types include bare metal (dedicated) server hosting and virtual private server (VPS) hosting. But understanding which option is best for your needs can be overwhelming, as each one comes with its unique advantages and disadvantages. 

At its core, a bare metal server typically provides more power, control, security, and consistent performance than virtualization. However, virtualized servers are more agile, dynamic, and allow IT to quickly spin up or down new test environments or other temporary workloads.

This guide will break down the fundamental differences between a bare metal server vs a virtual server, allowing you to make a more informed decision on which solution will provide adequate infrastructure for your needs.

What is a Bare Metal Server?

A traditional bare metal server is a physical computer that is dedicated to a single client known as a tenant. With this type of single-tenant server hosting solution, the tenant can customize the server’s performance, security, and configuration at any time without sharing its resources with other tenants. All of the server's resources, including network resources, are dedicated to the single tenant.

Traditional bare metal servers feature an operating system (OS such as Ubuntu VM host) that is installed directly onto the bare metal or hard disk of the computer’s hardware. Alternatively, using software called hypervisor virtualization, the hosting company implements a virtual layer on top of the host server to manage a virtual server on the host. A bare metal hypervisor provides a similar level of security and performance while also providing the benefits of a cloud computing solution.

what is vps hosting

What is a Virtual Private Server (VPS)?

A cloud virtual private server (VPS) is a virtual operating system that resides within a primary server designed to provide and designate resources to virtual servers. A VPS operates similarly to a physical server, with similar processes and functionality. 

Typically used for smaller workloads that need consistent performance, a VPS uses a parent server to host multiple virtual servers that are separated from each other. While the virtual servers are completely isolated from each other, they may share networking resources and can cause noisy neighbor issues if one of the VPS tenants is undergoing unusual problems.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Bare Metal vs Virtual Private Server Hosting?

Traditional bare metal servers are physical servers with only one operating system installed directly on the server’s hardware and are dedicated to a single client. Virtual private servers function similarly to physical servers, but multiple VPSs can be hosted on a single physical server. 

To understand a VPS, it’s important to know the role a hypervisor plays in virtualization. A hypervisor—also known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM)—is one of the different types of virtualization. In this case, a software layer creates and runs virtual machines (also known as VMs, guest machines, or virtual instances) by separating a bare metal server’s software from its hardware.

With virtual private servers, each dedicated VPS on a server is leased out to different customers, making it a multi-tenant server solution. 

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Bare Metal vs Virtual Server Hosting?

Advantages of Bare Metal Server Hosting

Because bare metal server hosting offers a fully customizable single-tenant framework, it provides many advantages over virtualization, including:

  • Isolated Environments: A bare metal server allows a single tenant to take advantage of 100 percent of its resources at any given time, which increases performance and minimizes server downtime. Because a bare metal server is completely private, data, applications, and resources remain isolated from other tenants.
  • Enhanced Processing Power: Many bare metal server hosting providers allow tenants to choose from the most advanced processing components, such as the latest CPUs, RAM, and SSDs.
  • Full Customization:With a bare metal server, the configuration is completely customizable. This includes choosing hardware resources, an OS, a control panel, and software based on your needs. 
  • Compatibility with Security Add-Ons: Bare metal servers are compatible with advanced security measures, such as traditional hardware firewalls. This allows a higher level of security than shared or VPS hosting models. 
  • Predictable Costs: Bare metal server hosting providers offer predictable monthly costs based on your needs and the configuration of your server. 

Disadvantages of Bare Metal Server Hosting

While traditional bare metal server hosting offers many unique advantages, it also has a few considerations that may not be ideal for everyone. A few of the most common include:

  • Server Configuration Knowledge: Setting up a bare metal server requires server configuration knowledge, meticulous planning and managing, and an understanding of what resources you require. While some bare metal server hosting providers offer full-scale management and maintenance services, others only provide the server, Internet connection, on-site security, and minimal support. 
  • High Costs: Because there is no cost sharing, a bare metal server is generally more expensive than virtualization. This means a single client bears the full cost of server operation, which is why bare metal servers—especially those with advanced processing components— are often used for database hosting, hosting multiple sites, or cloud private networking.
  • Time-Consuming Provisioning: Provisioning and deployment of a bare metal server is more time-consuming than deploying a VPS. 
  • Limited Scalability: If you find that you need more processing power than what your original bare metal server offers, migration to a more advanced server may be required, which will result in downtime during the migration.

Advantages of Virtual Private Server Hosting

VPS hosting is essentially renting a portion of a bare metal server, which means it offers many advantages, including:

  • Scalability and Agility: A VPS is extremely scalable, as it allows a tenant to easily add or remove server resources (e.g., CPU cores, memory, and disk space) as their needs evolve. A VPS is also highly agile and portable, as it may allow tenants to easily move across different host servers based on networking, memory, storage, or processing requirements—all with minimal downtime. 
  • Some Customization: A VPS hosting solution allows a tenant to enable, disable, install, or remove software, as well as adjust software configurations to their business specifications. In addition, this hosting model does not typically restrict tenants on the software they can use in their environment.
  • Reduced Costs: With a VPS hosting solution, tenants gain the ability to control their costs more closely, as providers only charge for the number of server resources used throughout each billing period.
  • Quick Provisioning: Unlike a bare metal server, a VPS offers quick provisioning that allows tenants to rapidly spin up or down new environments for testing scenarios or other temporary workloads. 

Disadvantages of Virtual Private Server Hosting

Due to its multi-tenant nature, VPS hosting offers some disadvantages to bare metal server hosting, including:

  • Hypervisor Tax: Because a hypervisor virtualization software layer is needed to create and run a VPS, it comes with a tax on server performance. This means that simply installing and running a hypervisor automatically reduces physical server resources and can cause latency, which is a delay between when a request is issued and processed. Additionally, hypervisor software does not allow a VPS to directly access physical server hardware, as the hypervisor layer is positioned between the VPS and the computer’s physical resources. This can also cause latency.  
  • Noisy Neighbor Effect: As multiple VPSs share the same physical computing resources, some tenants could experience a noisy neighbor effect. For example, if one tenant is running a resource-intensive application, other tenants could experience a drop in performance as server resources are redirected to the VPS running the intensive app.
  • Limited Hardware Options: Most hosting providers limit the optional configurations available for virtual private servers. These options are generally dictated by the platform running the VPS servers and may not match the exact needs of every customer.
man thinking about choosing between bare metal vs virtual server

Bare Metal Server vs Virtualization: How to Choose

When choosing between traditional bare metal vs virtual server hosting, it’s important to consider your needs closely. Many growing businesses that operate in the financial, healthcare, or retail sectors typically choose bare metal server hosting. 

Many companies opt for this hosting solution for its performance, as well as to meet strict privacy and security regulations. Smaller businesses that don’t require top-tier performance levels or stringent privacy and security regulations are typically a good fit for a virtual server hosting solution. 

Try Bare Metal Virtualization

If you are looking for the performance and security of a bare metal server but still want the flexibility of virtualization, you may want to consider bare metal virtualization. Bare metal virtualization allows for virtualization on an isolated hypervisor platform that provides you with your own virtual data center to manage your virtual machines (VMs). While there is more isolation and power available for dedicated bare metal servers, bare metal virtualization provides the flexibility of cloud-based computing with the performance and reliability of single-tenant solutions.

Partner with Liquid Web for Fully Managed Bare Metal or Virtual Server Hosting

Looking for a traditional bare metal server or VPS hosting solution you can trust? Liquid Web is here to help. For maximum performance and security, you can use our traditional dedicated servers.

With our fully managed VPS hosting solution, you gain access to an affordable and secure virtual server that is reliable, provides powerful root access, and comprehensive support. 

If you’re in need of a more powerful solution, our Cloud Dedicated and Bare Metal Cloud hosting provides a virtualized server that is the sole tenant of the host system, granting our highest level of computing power in VPS hosting.

Searching for even more scalability? Our Managed Private Cloud servers powered by VMware and NetApp bring together the processing power and resources of bare metal servers with the instant provisioning and flexibility of the cloud.

Contact our team today to find out which hosting solution is right for your unique needs. 

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About the Author

David Richards

David Richards has been an educator, a Technology Director, and now a Technical Writer for 20+ years. He’s an English major with a love for technology and helping others find ways to use technology more effectively. In his free time, Dave loves to read, play games, and spend time with his family.

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