As your business grows, your website’s hosting requirements change. While shared hosting may have been sufficient in the early days, high-growth businesses usually need to upgrade their hosting plans.
With shared hosting, server resources are at a premium, and when your business’s continued success depends on having a fast-loading website, sharing hardware resources with other companies can be risky.
So, what type of hosting solution do you upgrade to for your company’s protection?
The main options for hosting upgrades are virtual private servers (VPS) and dedicated servers. Although the words private and dedicated might indicate that these server types are quite similar, they have some key differences.
Let’s compare VPS vs dedicated servers and hosting and review their main differences.
Here’s what is discussed:
Why Not Stay With Shared Hosting?
Before diving into the different server types for your web hosting needs, let’s explore the risks of staying with shared hosting instead of upgrading to a VPS or dedicated server.
A lot of beginners and small businesses launch a website with shared hosting, and rightly so. It’s an economical option that will work well for many websites.
But as your company grows, your website traffic increases and your website becomes more complex, and there may come a point when you outgrow your shared hosting plan. Your website might reach the resource limits of a shared hosting plan, or you may experience performance deterioration, which is part and parcel of unmanaged or managed hosting on a shared server.
With shared hosting, server resources are limited and generally not equally distributed. When one website on a server pulls extra CPU power or RAM, other websites on the server can experience slow load times or even downtime. It’s like a big litter of puppies competing for food from one bowl: some puppies get to the food first and fill their bellies, while others fight over scraps or go hungry.
With shared hosting, you’ll need a keen eye to identify performance issues before your website visitors do. And while it has some advantages, shared hosting does not lend itself well to scalability.
By contrast, if you have a managed VPS Hosting plan with Liquid Web and server resources are tight, you can resize to a larger server instance, meaning your website can easily weather the storm during high-traffic periods.
When you need more resources than a shared plan can provide, consider leveling up to a new plan or server setup that fulfills your website’s potential. Let’s look at the basic setup of VPSs and dedicated servers to see how they benefit high-traffic websites.
Introduction to VPS vs Dedicated Server Hosting
A dedicated server is a physical machine used by you alone. A VPS acts like a physical server, but it’s actually a dedicated virtual machine that’s part of a larger physical server or cluster of servers.
If you’re planning on increasing your hosting budget to get a VPS or dedicated server, you’re certainly not alone — according to a Statista report, enterprise spending on cloud services in 2022 reached $225 billion, which is an increase of over 25% from 2021.
During your search for VPS and dedicated hosting plans, you might have come across different proprietary names for the various VPS and dedicated hosting plans available. Here’s how these different server configurations work in action:
For VPS plans, a hosting company divides an entire physical server into sections, and each section is rented out to different clients.
How does this work? A hypervisor software program partitions server resources into different virtual machines on a physical server. This process is known as virtualization.
When you upgrade to a VPS, the disadvantages of shared hosting go out the window. You’ll have specific server resources, such as bandwidth, completely dedicated to your website.
The virtualization layer in a VPS means that your website’s server space and resources are protected from other websites hosted in different areas of the server. So, if a website on the same server as your website is seeing increased traffic, such as during a holiday sale or viral marketing campaign, your website’s performance won’t be degraded.
In this respect, VPSs have a much more equitable division of resources than basic shared hosting servers.
Traditional VPS and Cloud VPS
Although various VPS hosting types are available, the two main options are traditional VPS and cloud VPS. The traditional VPS, dedicated virtual space on a larger physical server, is what was previously described.
If you have a cloud VPS plan, instead of renting space on a portion of a single server, you get access to space on a series of connected servers. Due to the substantial resources available on interconnected cloud servers, cloud VPS hosting is an attractive option for website owners who want to scale up rapidly when needed.
If shared hosting is like having multiple roommates and a VPS is your own apartment, then a dedicated server is like a standalone house. With an entire server to yourself, there is no shared space or unequal division — your website can use all your server’s resources.
Generally, a dedicated hosting plan gives you complete control of your server’s hardware and unrestricted access to your server’s storage space. That said, no server has unlimited capacity.
But you can upgrade to a server cluster if you reach your dedicated server’s resource limits. A server cluster is a group of servers operating as one entity under a single IP address to allow nearly unlimited scaling.
ALT: Enterprise hosting at Liquid Web.
Under these hosting options, your website gets a 100% uptime guarantee, Acronis cyber backups, and available PCI compliance, among other add-ons.
Managed or Unmanaged Hosting?
Whether you opt for VPS hosting or dedicated server hosting, the choice between managed and unmanaged hosting is essential. Before you settle on a managed plan or an unmanaged plan, consider your:
- Technical skills.
- Business goals.
In general, unmanaged hosting plans leave server management, performance optimization, and monitoring up to you. If you have strong technical skills, a dedicated IT team, and the confidence to manage your own VPS or dedicated server, then unmanaged hosting could do the trick.
But if you don’t have an in-house staff with strong technical skills, unmanaged hosting can mean you miss out on many benefits of dedicated or VPS hosting. Likewise, if your IT team is used to shared hosting and you level up to an unmanaged dedicated server cluster, there could be a steep learning curve before everything runs smoothly.
Even for seasoned WordPress or Magento pros, managing your own server operations is no walk in the park. In-house server management may not be the best use of your staff’s time.
For budget-conscious business owners or bloggers, unmanaged hosting is undoubtedly an attractive option on the surface. That said, as your hosting needs become more complex, the additional time spent focusing on your hosting setup could outweigh the financial benefits of unmanaged hosting. And for enterprise-level businesses, managed hosting plans bring savings that can offset costs.
If you’ve already decided to extend your budget to dedicated or VPS hosting, going for a managed hosting plan could make financial sense in the long term. For example, in addition to reducing demands on your IT staff, managed hosts like Liquid Web often have key perks you won’t find with unmanaged offerings, such as premium migration assistance and around-the-clock support.
Because unmanaged hosting is a no-frills option, you could find that as your business grows, you end up needing to pay more for extras to ensure your website’s performance doesn’t slip. This shouldn't be an issue if you have a simple blog with little traffic.
However, if you run a successful ecommerce company or need to set up new websites and apps frequently, your web hosting plan needs to keep up. With a managed plan from a respected host like Liquid Web, you’ll get scalability as a standard.
Pros and Cons of VPS Hosting
When it feels like you’ve outgrown that shared hosting plan, a VPS might seem like the next logical choice. Here’s how it sizes up when comparing VPS hosting vs shared hosting:
- Price — Overall, VPS is cheaper than dedicated hosting with most service providers. A VPS might be a good alternative if your budget can’t stretch to a dedicated server plan.
- Customization and control — VPS is more customizable than shared hosting. For example, many hosts give you root access for heightened control, and you can generally choose your server’s operating system, such as Linux or Windows.
- Variety — VPS hosting plans offer many options for different price points and resource requirements such as disk space and memory.
- Scalability — VPS hosting is generally highly scalable, which is good for growing businesses and those needing to scale down during quiet periods. If you have a dedicated server, you can’t make the server you rent smaller or bigger.
- Speed — VPS plans offer vastly better performance than shared hosting. With strict resource allocation, greedy server neighbors can’t throttle your website’s speed.
- Control — You don’t have full control over your server setup, especially in terms of hardware configuration.
- Security — While the virtualization layer gives you fairly robust protection compared with shared hosting, you’re still sharing the same physical hardware as other websites.
- Skills — Head to head, a VPS requires more technical know-how than shared hosting. That said, if you choose a managed hosting provider like Liquid Web, you’ll get full server management and access to high-level support from web hosting experts.
Pros and Cons of Dedicated Hosting
In your comparison of dedicated server vs VPS hosting options, it’s important to be careful of the details as we explore the advantages and disadvantages of this server type.
- Performance — As you’d expect, a server whose only purpose is to host your website does a stand-up job at optimizing speed. At Nexess, your dedicated server has custom architecture, and the Enterprise Support Group can assist with optimization for high performance.
- Control and customization — Because you’re the sole occupant of a dedicated server, you can paint the rooms whichever color you like. Liquid Web provides highly customizable software and hardware options for beginners and premiere customers, such as bare metal servers and headless nodes.
- Reliability — Dedicated servers often have built-in redundancy to protect uptime. At Liquid Web, data redundancy is ensured, and customers have a 100% network uptime guarantee.
- Security — With managed dedicated hosting, you don’t have to worry about security breaches from other websites on your hosting server.
- Relatively expensive — Dedicated hosting has a higher initial price point. That said, for many high-growth businesses, it returns an abundance of benefits to offset costs.
- Lead time — A dedicated server may require a longer setup time because of the level of customization involved.
- Flexibility and suitability — While the resources of dedicated servers can be scaled through clustering, you can’t really scale down a dedicated server. Also, a dedicated server is only essential for high-traffic, resource-intense websites. All that computing power may not be needed for a relatively simple blog.
Factors to Consider When Comparing VPS vs Dedicated Servers
Whether you should purchase a plan with managed VPS or a dedicated single server for your business depends on your specific needs.
To help you decide between these two attractive options, consider the following:
- Your website’s setup.
- Level of expertise.
- Business growth potential.
- Support requirements.
Your Website’s Setup
Some website configurations will suit dedicated servers better. For example, blog owners often have vastly different needs to ecommerce store operators, so it’s no surprise that their server needs differ too.
If you own a popular WordPress blog or group of websites, you should choose a dedicated server that’s optimized for WordPress. If you operate an ecommerce website, you may want a server optimized for WooCommerce or Magento.
For complex websites with customized web apps, you’ll have more control to optimize their performance if you use a dedicated server.
Also, if you operate a website with sensitive customer data, a dedicated server might be the best option for safeguarding it against security threats.
While dedicated hosting may be a top choice for resource-hungry websites, it won’t fit into every website owner’s hosting budget. But if you can shoulder the initial cost, a dedicated server plan could serve you well in the long run.
Level of Expertise
Generally, the more advanced your server option, the higher the expertise needed to reap the benefits. If your company employs a team to optimize your hosting setup, then a dedicated server could be your best choice.
You can also overcome many expertise barriers by opting for fully managed hosting.
Business Growth Potential
In most cases, a VPS offers plenty of scalability for websites with moderate traffic levels. But while a dedicated server may not seem as easily scalable, it offers the highest growth potential for websites expecting substantial resource needs.
Suppose your company outgrows a single dedicated server. In that case, you can use a server cluster to maximize your website's performance and continue adding servers to the cluster as needed to meet future growth.
If you consistently rely on top-tier support for your managed shared hosting plan, you may not stand to benefit much from an unmanaged VPS plan with weaker support.
For example, if your VPS isn’t functioning as expected and there’s a long wait for support, a VPS might seem like a downgrade as problems cascade during the wait for support. Choose a managed web host with always-on, tier-free support like Liquid Web to ensure your website stays in good shape.
Choosing the best server plan for your company’s online presence depends on your specific needs. When comparing VPS vs dedicated server hosting, your needs should always be front and center.
Liquid Web understands that clients have different hosting needs. That’s why managed hosting plans offer unparalleled customizability, scalability, robust compliance, proactive monitoring, and 24/7/365 expert support.
Jake Fellows is the Sophisticated Hosting Product Manager for Liquid Web's Managed Hosting products and services. He has over 10 years experience involving several fields of the technology industry, including hosting, healthcare, and IT-system architecture. On his time off, he can be found in front of some form of screen enjoying movies, video games, or researching into one of his many technical side projects.
Keep up to date with the latest Hosting news.