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The advent of Virtual Private Servers revolutionized the shared website hosting
industry. Is a VPS right for any situation, and when does a fully dedicated
machine become a must have? This article examines the issues.
Virtual Private Servers remain the latest innovation in the fairly stagnant,
technologically speaking, sphere of website hosting. They represent a different
way to break up a dedicated server and separate user accounts, providing
higher levels of control and security that mimic what was previously available
only to fully dedicated servers. They can provide solutions for websites
regular shared hosting is not able to handle, but still cannot handle every
situation. This article looks at what a VPS can do, and when it may be prudent
to consider stepping up to a fully dedicated solution.
What is a Virtual Private dedicated server?
First a brief overview of what, exactly a VPS is and why it is able to simulate
a dedicated server environment when, in fact, multiple VPS hosting plans
can reside on the same dedicated server. VPS works because of the way it
partitions the user accounts on the dedicated server. If you think
about how your home computer stores files, most likely you have a single
hard drive which has "folders" or directories on it. Inside the
folders/directories are individual files. These files are managed by the
computer's operating system, which may be Windows or Mac OS. In a regular
shared hosting environment all the customer accounts are directories on the
same "hard drive", managed by the operating system and made available to
the internet via an installed web server, such as Apache. All files in all
accounts are managed by the same webserver, share the same applications,
and generally compete for the dedicated server's attention depending on the
popularity of the hosted site.
In a VPS, the accounts are not hosted only in individual directories, but
on individual disk drives. Think of a computer with multiple hard drives,
or, more commonly, a hard drive and a CD-ROM drive; each one of these drives
has its own system of folders/directories, completely separate from the other
drive. Via a process called "partitioning" a single hard drive can be divided
up into many smaller drives that the operating system sees as unique, separate
entities. On a VPS system, individual accounts reside completely within these
separate drives. Applications are installed to individual accounts and are
not shared between a single group of accounts on one big drive. This provides
not only additional security, but additional control, as users can be granted
"root access" to their unique drive to install and configure their own
environment without effecting the configuration of any other client.
This is how VPS mimics the functionality of dedicated server, by having each
account reside on is own "drive", which is roughly equivalent to the single
drive that would be found in a basic dedicated server. Software on the VPS
server manages the individual drives/accounts to assure the smooth functioning
and availability of all accounts on the dedicated server. This environment
is ideal for those looking for an environment that has root access but are
not able to afford a completely dedicated solution. Larger, modern VPS accounts
can handle sites that may have required a dedicated server only a few years
Fully Dedicated Server Solutions
A fully dedicated server is a single machine leased to a single individual
for exclusive use. Root access is generally a given in any dedicated environment,
allowing the sever to be customized with applications that suit the user's
needs. It is this root functionality that VPS hosting provides, but does
so on a server that is still "shared" by other users. A dedicated server
is completely at the disposal of a single users, to administer as they see
fit. Due to the exclusive nature of a dedicated server, they generally
require a larger capital investment than regular shared or VPS hosting plans.
Many companies will offer a managed dedicated server for an additional cost.
This is an important consideration, as most "budget" or low cost dedicated
servers are unmanaged, perhaps leaving out even rudimentary technical support.
Those unfamiliar with managing a server should strongly consider managed
solutions if shopping for dedicated servers.
Though large VPS accounts can take the place of some dedicated solutions,
they cannot completely replace them. There are a variety of activities and
applications that only a fully dedicated server can adequately handle, such
as very large, high traffic databases, large media hosting, and processor
intensive web applications. At a very basic level, even simple sites that
achieve massive amounts of traffic could outpace a VPS's ability to effectively
host them. Mostly though, the combination of high traffic and highly processor
intensive, scripted, database driven web applications remains the domain
of a fully dedicated server. Some of the largest, most popular websites are
hosted on more than one dedicated server in order to handle the load.
A good host will provide a smooth upgrade path between VPS and dedicated
solutions. There are a variety of management systems, such as HSP by SWsoft,
that can provision both VPS and dedicated servers, and move accounts
between these 2 different types of server. This would allow individuals with
growing websites to transition from a large VPS to a fully dedicated quickly
and easily, without any interruption of service.
Today, VPS hosting can handle some of the duties formerly solely the realm
of dedicated servers. They will never completely replace dedicated servers,
though, for very high traffic, processor intensive sites. Customers looking
for the economy of a VPS should ask their prospective hosting companies if
there is a smooth, automated upgrade path between VPS and dedicated hosting.
Ideally such a path will allow a successful website to grow and prosper without
any interruptions for server changes and site moves.
About the Author:
Mr. Lester has served for 4 years as the webmaster for ApolloHosting.com
and previously worked in the IT industry an additional 5 years, acquiring
knowledge of hosting, design, and search engine optimization. Apollo Hosting
hosting, and web design services to a wide range of customers.
Established in 1999, Apollo prides itself on the highest levels of customer
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