What’s the difference between a dedicated server and a virtual private server?
A dedicated server and a virtual private server (VPS) are two types of website hosting solutions. In dedicated hosting, you can rent an entire physical server to host your website. The web hosting provider gives you exclusive access to the entire physical server. However, this solution is expensive and often unnecessary for most organizations. Because of hardware advancements, a physical server has the computing capacity to do much more than host a single website. Instead of overprovisioning resources, you can use a VPS that provides a dedicated environment more cost-effectively. It’s called virtual because it consumes only a portion of the server's underlying physical resources. The same physical server can have several VPSs that share underlying resources in a predetermined manner.
How they work: dedicated server vs. virtual private server
A server is a computer system that stores and processes data and runs applications on a network. Servers provide computing power, networking capabilities, and data storage. Both dedicated servers and VPSs are types of servers.
How a dedicated server works
A dedicated server is a physical server with RAM, storage, network connectivity configurations, and more, all dedicated to your applications and services. With dedicated servers, you can directly control all of the hardware configurations because you have exclusive access to the physical system.
How a virtual private server works
Virtual private servers, sometimes known as virtual private hosting, are virtualized servers. The hosting provider partitions physical servers into multiple virtual environments. Each of these environments has its own dedicated resources, such as RAM and CPU.
A software layer called a hypervisor creates, manages, and allocates resources for each virtual machine (VM). This allocation system ensures that you can have several VPSs on one physical server without any interference between them. Even though multiple VMs are stored on the same physical machine, they’re completely isolated from each another.
Key differences: dedicated server vs. virtual private server
VPS environments are partitioned physical servers, meaning that they have only a portion of the total resources that a physical server has. If you work with a dedicated server, you have access to all of its architecture and resources. Although a VPS is a more cost-effective way of accessing server infrastructure, dedicated servers provide more extensive hardware resources. The following are more differences between a dedicated server and a VPS.
Both dedicated servers and VPSs offer a high degree of customizability for accessing and altering the server and its resources. However, when you’re altering a physical dedicated server, you need much more technical knowledge so that you don’t accidentally damage the server itself. With a VPS, you have less customizability for changing the base server but more flexibility for reallocating resources.
If you want to scale the capacity of a dedicated server, you need to physically add additional drives to it. Although this is possible, it’s costly and might also cause some downtime depending on who’s managing your physical server and how they’re doing it.
Because VPSs are virtualized environments, you can access more resources by allocating more resources to your server. Typically, you can upgrade your server subscription or simply reallocate resources so that the VPS that you want to scale has more resources available. Scaling a VPS is faster and easier than scaling dedicated servers.
Dedicated hosting plans offer improved capacity but at increased cost. In contrast, a VPS provides a good balance between performance and affordability. Although resources are shared, the virtualization technology ensures that each VPS has allocated resources and operates independently. VPSs can scale resources to a certain extent but might have restrictions from the physical server’s underlying hardware limitations.
Because VPS hosting offers only a fraction of the total resources of a dedicated server, it’s cheaper for you to use. Depending on what you’re using the server resources for, you should balance cost with performance requirements.
Although both dedicated servers and VPSs are highly secure, dedicated servers are sometimes required for regulatory compliance. You can achieve high levels of security with dedicated servers because of their flexibility and fully owned environments.
When to choose a dedicated server vs. a virtual private server
If you’re an enterprise that needs resource-intensive workloads, such heavy data processing or management, a dedicated server might be a better choice. Dedicated servers can serve high-performance environments because they have complete access to all the computing power and resources. The security of dedicated servers might also be a requirement for certain regulations for very sensitive data.
A VPS is suitable for small and medium businesses to launch business applications, host a website, or create a test environment when they’re developing new software. VPS hosting offers a flexible, scalable, and cost-effective way to meet performance requirements.
Summary of differences: dedicated server vs. virtual private server
Virtual private server
Dedicated server hosting offers complete control over all of the resources, disk space, and system resources that a server has.
A VPS is a partitioned segment of a physical server with predetermined allocation of limited physical resources.
Dedicated hosting is scalable, but you must add additional servers and resources manually. These additions come with a cost and time commitment.
A VPS is highly scalable because you can reallocate more resources to it.
Dedicated hosting includes all of the system resources that a server has available, leading to maximum performance.
A VPS offers comparable performance for smaller use cases.
You control the entire server and can customize it however you would want.
Because there are multiple users on one server, there might be restrictions on what you can install.
Dedicated servers have physical hardware and all the resources available, leading to higher costs.
VPS cost is flexible because you can pay depending on the resources that you need.
You can use and install advanced security features on a dedicated server.
A VPS has effective security but might not always meet complex compliance requirements.
How can AWS help with your dedicated hosting and VPS requirements?
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers several cloud web hosting solutions that provide a low-cost way to deliver websites and web applications. For more information, read about web hosting on AWS. The following are two AWS web hosting solutions.
With Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts, you can use your eligible software licenses from vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). This means that you get the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of using your own licenses but with the resiliency, simplicity, and elasticity of AWS. AWS takes care of administrative tasks on your behalf, so you can seamlessly launch VMs (instances) on Dedicated Hosts just like you would launch an EC2 instance with AWS provided licenses. With Dedicated Hosts, you can:
- Control how you place your instances on a specific, physical server
- Offload undifferentiated heavy lifting of host maintenance onto AWS to reduce your operational burden
- Use your existing per-socket, per-core, or per-VM software licenses and benefit from your existing investments
Amazon Lightsail offers easy-to-use VPS instances, containers, storage, databases, and more at a cost-effective monthly price. Lightsail provides compute, storage, networking capacity, and capabilities so that you can deploy and manage websites and web applications in the cloud. With Lightsail, you can:
- Launch a simple operating system, a preconfigured application, or a development stack on your VPS instance
- Store your static content, such as images, videos, or HTML files, in object storage for data backup
- Manage web traffic across your VPS so that your websites and applications can accommodate variations in traffic and be better protected from outages
Get started with dedicated servers and virtual private servers on AWS by creating an account today.