Choosing the right type of server, whether a physical or virtual server for your website, game or database is essential if you want to have the resources, security and control you need.

But with so many different types of servers to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Would your website benefit from a scalable and flexible virtual private server (VPS), or do you need the power and control that come with a dedicated server?

Keep reading to find out more about virtual server hosting (such as a VPS) and Bare Metal server hosting, the differences between the two, and their respective pros and cons.

What is a Bare Metal server?

A bare metal server is a physical server that’s dedicated to a single customer or ‘tenant’. These single-tenant physical servers are also known as dedicated servers because an entire server’s resources (including storage, bandwidth, disk space and memory) are dedicated to this single tenant. However, there are a few key differences - namely the fact that at Fasthosts, our Bare Metal Servers are supported by our CloudNX infrastructure, which opens up a plethora of sophisticated networking tools and features that are not available on our Dedicated Servers.

Learn more: Bare metal servers vs dedicated servers

Plus, since there are no other clients using the server, you can customise the server to fit your exact needs. You get complete control over the hardware and software with full root access, which means you can choose your own operating system (OS) and server configuration.

What is a VPS?

A VPS is a type of virtual server hosting, with a virtual machine hosted on a physical server with its own virtualised server resources. A hypervisor, which is a type of virtualisation software also known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM), is used to split the physical server into separate virtual machines (VMs) or compartments, with each compartment having its own tenant and allocated resources.

Although you’re technically sharing a server, you usually won’t run into the same performance issues associated with shared hosting. This is because each VPS has its own dedicated resources (almost like a mini dedicated server), which means you don’t need to share bandwidth and storage with other high-traffic or resource-hungry websites.

Bare Metal vs VPS

The key difference between bare metal and a VPS is that a bare metal server is traditionally not virtualised at all. Instead, you’re running your website directly on one physical server that you have full control over.

To turn a dedicated server into a VPS, virtualisation software is used to split the server into separate virtual servers for multiple customers. This allows each tenant to have their own dedicated resources without having to pay for an entire physical server.

Advantages of a Bare Metal server

Now that you know what a Bare Metal server and VPS is, it’s time to delve deeper into their differences. What are their advantages and disadvantages, and which type of server would be better for your website?

Here are the main advantages of passing on virtualisation and opting for a more traditional approach:

1. Superior performance

Having an entire server to yourself means that you don’t need to share its resources with anyone. A Bare Metal server can give you enough power to run extremely resource-intensive websites with a lot of traffic, and it can eliminate performance issues such as slow page speeds and server outages.

2. Total customisation

Another benefit of having your own server is that you can customise it to fit your individual needs. Choose your own hardware, OS, software and applications and manage everything yourself.

3. Better security

Sharing a server with other tenants can potentially leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks and data privacy breaches. If your website has more pressing security needs, then a Bare Metal server will allow you to keep your website secure. You’ll also be able to install the best security software and hardware, including traditional hardware firewalls, thanks to your full root access.

4. Consistent costs

You should have a consistent monthly payment plan based on your server and its configuration. With us you can benefit from flexible pay-as-you-use billing and the ability to start and stop your server whenever you need.

Disadvantages of a Bare Metal server

Bare Metal servers are truly fantastic for high-traffic websites that need a lot of power. However, there are some downsides:

1. High costs

Bare Metal and dedicated servers are more expensive because there are no other tenants to share web hosting costs with. This means they are typically only used for large, high-traffic websites that really need the extra power and performance.

2. Steep learning curve

The downside to full customisation and control is that you need quite a lot of technical knowledge to manage a Bare Metal server yourself. Some web hosting companies will offer managed hosting services, but most Bare Metal servers will need to be set up and managed by the tenant.

3. Time-consuming management

Not only does server management require a lot of technical knowledge, but it also requires a lot of your time. Consider how much time you would be willing to spend on server maintenance before opting for an unmanaged Bare Metal server.

4. Limited flexibility and scalability

Although Bare Metal servers are more powerful overall, they do lack some of the scalability you can get with a virtual server. If you need to upgrade, migrating to a new physical server can be more difficult than adding resources to a VPS.

Advantages of a VPS

Although a VPS isn’t as powerful as a Bare Metal server, virtual servers offer many advantages depending on what you’re looking for. Here are just a few:

1. Fantastic scalability

If you outgrow your VPS hosting plan, you can easily add extra resources or upgrade your plan via your easy-to-use control panel. This’ll allow you to grow with your virtual server and avoid a difficult server migration process.

2. Cheaper monthly costs

Since you’re sharing a server with other tenants, you can typically access VPS hosting at affordable prices. A VPS is only a little more expensive than traditional shared hosting even though you get your own dedicated resources and full root access.

3. Customisation and flexibility

As mentioned above, an unmanaged VPS hosting plan will give you full root access to the server, allowing you to customise your server to fit your needs. You’ll be able to install your own software and applications, install updates and manage the day-to-day running of your server.

Disadvantages of a VPS

Of course, there are also disadvantages to using this type of virtual server. Here are the main ones:

1. Noisy neighbour effect

With a VPS, you generally won’t face the same issues with neighbours hogging resources as you would with shared hosting. However, you’re still sharing a server even if you have your own virtual space and allocated resources, which means you could still face some issues with the ‘noisy neighbour effect’ interfering with the performance of your website.

2. Not as much customisation

Although an unmanaged VPS will give you a lot of power to customise your server, you won’t have as much control as you would get with a Bare Metal server. In particular, you won’t have as much control over the hardware of your VPS, as you’re only renting one part of the physical server.

3. Latency

The virtualisation process (which splits a dedicated server into multiple virtual servers) can cause some latency and slow your server down slightly. This is because the hypervisor software, which is a layer that sits on top of the OS of the physical server and divides it into virtual compartments, automatically uses some resources.

Bare Metal hypervisor virtualisation

As mentioned earlier, a traditional Bare Metal server isn’t virtualised at all. However, to increase the scalability, flexibility and performance of a Bare Metal server, a hypervisor can be used to virtualise the server.

This is installed directly onto the computing hardware so that it sits between the hardware and the OS. Because the hardware and the OS are now separated, the software is no longer limited to specific hardware drivers or devices, improving the flexibility and customisability of the server.

So why is this important? If you want the best of both worlds, you may choose to install virtualisation software on your Bare Metal server. This means you can get the superior power and performance of a dedicated Bare Metal server whilst also benefitting from the agility and flexibility of a VPS.

Frequently asked questions about Bare Metal, VPS and virtual servers

What is a virtual server?

A virtual server, also known as a virtual machine (VM), is a virtual version of a physical server. It allows for different environments, such as VPS and cloud computing to be made possible. As discussed above, virtual server hosting with a whole host of benefits such as flexibility, cost efficiency, scalability, ease of access and so much more. It’s favoured by those that require dynamic working, and also require a space to house a project or business without the hefty price tag of a dedicated server.

What is a virtual server vs a physical server?

A virtual server, as the name suggests, is a server that sits virtually within the likes of the cloud, or a VPS. A physical server, such as Bare Metal, a dedicated server or similar, are physical servers, consisting of components like a motherboard, CPU, memory – and use different operating systems like Linux or Windows.

Is A VPN a virtual server?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) and a virtual sever such as a VPS, are two entirely different technologies. VPNs are designed to secure online activity by encrypting your data, while a VPS is a server you can rent to host your servers. However, a VPN and VPS can be combined and used together.

Is virtual server hosting free?

Some providers do allow for free virtual server hosting. However, infrastructure and specific add-ons are available for a fee. In fact, some cloud providers offer a set amount of storage for free, but upgrading storage will often incur a monthly charge. Some open-source virtualisation software is also free, which can allow you to manage your own virtual servers.

We recommend, for your own online safety and security, that you invest in a VPS – especially if your needs are resource-intensive. Plus, you’ll have access to a 24/7 customer support team with Fasthosts if you ever need any assistance.

Which one should I choose – Bare Metal or VPS?

Ultimately, the type of server hosting you should choose will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Small and medium-sized websites may benefit from the affordability and scalability of VPS hosting, whereas much larger websites with high traffic loads and complex security needs may prefer a dedicated Bare Metal server.

Do you need help with choosing the right server for your website? Contact us today for expert advice on the best hosting plans for you.