If you’re looking for a proper webhost, you must have seen the term VPS especially if things grow more serious. But what is a VPS actually?

So, what is a VPS?

VPS is the abbreviation for Virtual private server. Let’s take one of the official definitions as coined by IBM:

“A VPS, or virtual private server, is a form of multi-tenant cloud hosting in which virtualized server resources are made available to an end-user over the internet via a cloud or hosting provider”.

IBM Cloud Education

Well, that is a mouth-full of technology. But what does that mean? Let’s start by exploring the key terms:

  • A server is a computer that is connected to the internet and can store programs and websites
  • A virtual server is an isolated, virtual server running on a real, dedicated computer. Often, multiple virtual servers run on a single, real computer.
  • Multi-tenant means that multiple people can access their accounts on the same, real computer we talked about. In this case, in the form of a virtual server. However, these accounts are all isolated and or not connected; it’s the same principle that you can have an account at the same bank account as your father, but you can’t access his money.
  • I guess you know what the internet is.
  • A cloud or hosting provider is a company that basically sells web hosting. Web hosting is like renting a computer that is connected to the internet. And thus, VPS hosting is renting a virtual private server.

Funny enough, the VPS abbreviation is also used for Fort Walton Beach Airport. Sounds like a good holiday destination.

What is a VPS?
Would these guys be inspecting your VPS?

Characteristics of a VPS

A VPS has certain characteristics (not entirely unique). Can you spot one in the wild?

  • It has a certain amount of storage, which can be used for storing websites and files
  • It has a certain amount of monthly bandwidth; which is best explained as the data-bundle of your VPS. Each time a website that runs on your VPS is loaded, a small amount of bandwidth is consumed.
  • It also as a specific amount of RAM (in GB) and number of CPU cores. This reflects how many calculations the VPS can do, and as a consequence how many visitors it could handle.
  • Finally, pricing is often per month or even hourly.

What is a VPS used for?

A VPS is very versatile in its use but is often used for webhosting.

Besides hosting websites, a VPS can also have the following uses (this list is not exhaustive, there are probably other uses as well):

  • Calculations and processing of data
  • Hosting of Rest and GraphQL APIs; technologies that are used to run applications
  • Storage of files and data
  • Act as a load-balancer, directing traffic to other servers
  • Run as a database server, only serving data that is stored on a so called database
  • Run as a search server, providing fast search for applications

A VPS compared to shared, cloud and dedicated hosting

A VPS is usually a step up from shared hosting, where many websites or applications reside on a single server. Funny enough, a VPS still shares its resources (such as CPU and RAM) with other virtual machines on the same, real server. That means that in some cases, a VPS is having fewer resources than advertised. With a dedicated server, these resources are guaranteed.

In the end, a VPS also has a fixed amount of resources (for a fixed price) which you often can scale manually. Cloud hosting, on the other hand, has a scalable amount of resources which can handle peaks of visitors more easily. With cloud hosting, you only need to pay for the resources you use.

Managed vs Unmanaged VPS

Do you need to choose a managed or unmanaged VPS? The choice is simply:

  • If you’re coming from shared hosting and don’t have system administration knowledge, opt for a managed VPS
  • If you like to learn a lot of new stuff, or are experienced with system administration, opt for unmanaged.
  • If you need your website to run faster, opt for a VPS anyways.
  • If you need to run multiple kinds of applications, a VPS is great

WordPress on a VPS

If you are savvy, you can run WordPress on your own VPS but it requires substantial technical knowledge and effort. There are a couple of great courses on Udemy for setting up WordPress at your VPS and WP Intense also has a great article on it.

The easiest way for running WordPress on a VPS is however by using a control panel.

And many companies, such as Siteground, also offer to managed VPSes.

VPS Providers

There are thousands of VPS providers worldwide, which makes it very hard to choose. The following providers are some of the most famous, well-known, providers of unmanaged VPSes:

And to some extent, AWS and Google Cloud also offers VPSes.

In this article (Linode vs DigitalOcean vs Vultr vs Upcloud), I explain which VPS providers are the best and fastest for WordPress including elaborate performance details.