Struggling to figure out the difference between a VPS vs dedicated server?
Unlike shared hosting, both a VPS, short for virtual private server, and a dedicated server give your site its own resources. However, they accomplish this in slightly different ways and at radically different price points, so you’ll want to make sure you choose the right solution for your needs.
In this post, we’ll compare VPS hosting vs dedicated hosting in detail to help you understand the key differences and pick the approach that’s right for your needs and budget.
What’s the difference between VPS vs dedicated hosting?
Before we can compare these two types of hosting, we first need to define them…
What is a VPS?
With a VPS, you still share a server’s resources with other users. However, unlike shared hosting, your site still gets dedicated resources in its share of the server.
For example, if the server has 8 GB of RAM, your VPS might get 1 GB of that 8 GB of RAM. The important thing, though, is that you never need to share that 1 GB of RAM with anyone else – it’s 100% yours.
To divide these resources, a VPS hosting provider uses something called a hypervisor to create virtual machines for each customer on that server. It’s not really important to understand the technology – you just need to know that each account on the VPS is completely isolated from the other accounts.
Let’s look at housing as an analogy. A VPS is kind of like a condominium building. If you own a condo in a building, that condo is 100% yours. Your neighbors can’t just commandeer your living room because they’re throwing a big house party (that’s how shared hosting works!).
However, you also don’t own the entire building – you’re still just one condo of many. This means you can’t, say, decorate the entire building. In server terms, this means you can’t customize the hardware according to your needs because you’re still just one tenant in the server.
What is a dedicated server?
As the name suggests, a dedicated server means that you get the entire physical server dedicated to your website(s). Instead of getting just a part of the server like you do with a VPS, you get the whole thing.
In addition to potentially getting you more resources, the big advantage of this approach is that you have full control over the actual physical hardware inside your server and the software that’s running on it.
For example, maybe you prefer AMD processors to Intel processors – you have that level of control with a dedicated server. You can also control every single piece of software on that physical hardware.
Let’s go back to the housing analogy. In this scenario, a dedicated server would be like buying your own house. You’re the only person who owns that building – it’s 100% yours. What’s more, you have full authority to customize the entire building as much as you want.
Explaining some other key terminology
Beyond the VPS vs dedicated server distinction, there are also two other important terms you need to understand to fully understand VPS and dedicated hosting.
Managed vs unmanaged VPS and dedicated servers
Both VPS and dedicated servers come in two forms:
With an unmanaged VPS or dedicated server, all you get is the basic hardware. You’re then responsible for setting everything up and maintaining your server. This doesn’t just mean installing WordPress – you’ll need to install the underlying technologies, too.
For example, if you want to use WordPress, you would need to install PHP, a web server (Apache, Nginx, or LiteSpeed), etc.
Needless to say, unmanaged providers are a lot more complex. They’re really only a good option for developers or technical users.
A managed VPS or dedicated server is the opposite. With this setup, you’re still getting the dedicated resources for your site(s) as we discussed above. However, your hosting provider will still handle configuring, managing, and maintaining the server for you.
Managed servers cost more than unmanaged servers for this reason. However, unless you’re an advanced technical user, it’s worth spending the money to get a managed server so that you don’t get overwhelmed by all the technical details.
VPS hosting vs cloud VPS hosting
Nowadays, there’s another term that can trip you up – cloud hosting, or cloud VPS hosting. Cloud hosting uses the same basic principle as a traditional VPS, with one key difference:
- Traditional VPS – your site gets its dedicated resources from part of a single physical server.
- Cloud VPS – your site gets its dedicated resources from multiple servers (the “cloud”).
Nowadays, many forward-thinking providers have completely moved to the cloud VPS approach as it’s a little more flexible. However, for the purposes of this post, it’s totally fine to think of a VPS and cloud VPS as exactly the same thing.
Should you use a VPS or dedicated server?
Most people will do much better with a VPS than a dedicated server, especially if you choose a cloud VPS provider.
A cloud VPS has many of the same benefits of a dedicated server, but in a more affordable package and with a lot more flexibility. This is why, in 2021 and beyond, most businesses are moving towards cloud hosting rather than their own dedicated hosting.
A dedicated server really only makes sense for high-traffic websites with very unique hosting needs. For most other sites, going with a cloud VPS is a better option!
Best VPS hosting providers
If you’ve decided that VPS hosting is the best option for your situation, here are some of the top hosts to get you started.
- Cloudways – an easy way to use cloud VPS hosting from various cloud providers. Plans start at $10 per month for the cheapest DigitalOcean VPS.
- Bluehost – a popular option with VPS plans from $18.99 per month.
- SiteGround – a well-regarded host with cloud VPS plans from $80 per month. A little pricier than other alternatives but quality service.
- A2 Hosting – an affordable option with managed VPS plans from $19.99 per month or unmanaged plans for as little as $4.99 per month.
- InMotion Hosting – another affordable option with managed VPS plans from $17.99 per month or unmanaged plans from just $5 per month.
However, if you specifically want unmanaged VPS hosting, your best bet is usually to go with one of the popular cloud VPS providers:
You could use a tool such as RunCloud or ServerPilot to more easily administer your unmanaged VPS hosting. Or, you could also install cPanel or Plesk on your own VPS.
Best dedicated hosting providers
If a dedicated server fits your needs better, here are some good options to get you started:
- Bluehost – a popular provider with managed dedicated servers from just $80 per month.
- A2 Hosting – a quality host with managed servers from $141 per month and unmanaged servers from $100 per month.
- Hetzner – a popular and affordable option for those in Europe with managed servers from €89 per month or unmanaged from just €34 per month. Not a great option for people outside of Europe, though.
- Liquid Web – a well-regarded host with dedicated servers in both the USA and Europe. Managed servers start from $169 per month.