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What is VPS Hosting
Virtual Private Server Hosting is somewhat similar to shared hosting in that your account shares a single physical server with a number of other accounts. However, with VPS Hosting each account has its own "virtual server" the account owner controls. You may be aware of "virtual machine" software like VMWare Player, VirtualBox, or Virtal PC which will allow you to run another OS as a program under your main OS (for example, to run programs that only work under Windows XP on a Windows 7 system), Virtual Private Servers are based on similar software.
Unlike Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting usually comes with a guaranteed amount of RAM and processor time -- generally much higher than one would get with Shared Hosting. VPS Hosting also gives you much more control over your server environment. Generally, you start with a clean install of Linux or Windows Server which you can then configure as you need. This includes the ability to install whatever software you need on your virtual server.
Most VPS accounts are unmanaged, which means the account holder is responsible for managing the operating system and server programs (web server, database server, etc.) including managing security updates. This gives you a lot of control -- as much as you would have on your own machine in most cases, but it can become a nightmare if you aren't sure what you are doing. For a higher price, some providers offer a managed VPS where they handle the installation and maintenance of the operating system and a set of standard server software. This gives you slightly less control, but helps ensure your server's operating system and core server software is kept up to date and as secure as it can be.
VPS Hosting is not without a downside, however. While most Shared Hosting plans come with unlimited bandwidth and storage, VPS Hosting usually comes with a fixed amount of each. You will want to be sure that the plan you sign up for has enough bandwidth and storage for your web site(s) or that the charges for overage are reasonable. Unless you are already familiar with server administration, there is a much higher learning curve to use a VPS. With shared hosting, all you have to worry about is getting your web site to work. With a VPS, you not only have to worry about getting your web site to work, but getting your server to work. A VPS is usually more expensive than shared hosting -- as one might expect. Where good shared hosting easily be found for under $10 a month on an annual contract, VPS hosting usually starts at around $20 a month and goes up with more resources (processor time, RAM, disk storage, bandwidth, etc.).
However, if you have a busy, dynamic web site that has outgrown Shared Hosting, a VPS is the next logical step. They are faster and more reliable than Shared Hosting, and are able to handle more web site visitors and more complex, dynamic web sites. While you probably do not need to start with a VPS for a new web site, if it becomes popular enough to use too many resources for a Shared Host, moving to VPS Hosting is generally the best way to go. It is generally much cheaper than the only real alternative, a Dedicated Server.
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