So you know you want a server but whilst scoping out your options you’ve come face-to-face with a whole host of server types. Two of the most popular options are VPS and dedicated servers. But which one should you choose for your project? Well, there’s more to deciding than just the price so we’re here to look at VPS vs dedicated servers, giving you the info you need to decide.


What are virtual private servers?

First, let’s start with a quick intro to what a VPS is. Also known as a virtual private server, a VPS is pretty much what it sounds like – it’s a virtual server and it’s private. It’s a middle ground between shared hosting and a full-blown dedicated server. Like shared web hosting, you share server space with others. But instead of battling for better performance, you get your own dedicated resources meaning you won’t be restricted by the bottlenecks caused by multiple users sharing the same single resource.

Getting more technical, it starts off with a physical server being sectioned up to run several virtual servers. When you provision a VPS, you’re getting one of these virtual servers, keeping all the CPU, RAM and storage to yourself. It’s kind of like renting a flat in a multi-tenant building.

Because of their flexibility, there are a lot of things you can do with a VPS. They’re great for smaller businesses looking to boost their site performance, as a test environment for developers or even as a small gaming server.

What are dedicated servers?

Dedicated servers are similar to VPS, but instead of getting one of many virtual servers within a physical machine, you get the entire physical server to yourself. If we continue the flat analogy, getting a dedicated server is like buying the whole building. As it says in the name (similar to VPS), your resources are dedicated to you and only you.

Dedicated server hosting is ideal for those looking for big resource amounts from the start. If you’re running high-traffic sites, working on intensive ecommerce websites, developing big applications or handling large amounts of data, a dedicated server will tick all the boxes.

What’s the difference between VPS and dedicated servers?

Now you might be wondering, if they both give you dedicated resources, how are they different? When it comes to the VPS vs dedicated server hosting debate, there are some key differences to think about before choosing which is right for you. So what exactly is the difference between VPS and dedicated servers?

VPS pros and cons

VPS pros

  • Superior performance compared to shared hosting

  • Cheaper than dedicated servers

  • Great for smaller projects

  • Flexible if you need to upgrade your server specs as your project grows

VPS cons

  • Doesn’t match the performance and resources you get with dedicated servers

  • You’re still sharing a physical machine so features may be slightly limited

  • Not as suited to larger projects as dedicated servers

  • Requires more technical knowledge than shared web hosting

Dedicated server pros and cons

Dedicated server pros

  • You get massive amounts of resources from the start

  • Offer great performance for larger projects

  • Starts big, so saves having to upgrade as your project grows

Dedicated server cons

  • Is one of the more expensive server options

  • Requires more technical knowledge than other servers

  • Not as flexible as other options like vitrual private servers and cloud servers

Control

Dependent on the hosting provider you choose, the amount of control you get with a virtual private server vs a dedicated server can be fairly similar. One of the biggest factors is whether you choose one that’s managed or unmanaged. If you go for unmanaged, like our servers at Fasthosts, you get absolute control. Both a VPS and dedicated server will offer full root access, meaning you call all the shots when it comes to how it’s set up, what software is installed and how your backups are managed.

It’s worth noting that some dedicated servers come with BIOS-level controls that you wouldn’t get with a VPS. This means you can manage low-level things like power consumption, boot-loaders and hardware-level security. With a VPS, these would all be defined by the host and aren’t things you’d be able to change.

The advantage of VPS is that you do get a bit more control over your resources, with the ability to scale up your CPU, RAM and storage as and when you need to which leads us to our next point about scalability…

Scalability

We mentioned scaling resources on a VPS and this is probably one of the most significant differences when it comes to virtual servers vs dedicated server hosting. A virtual private server offers a lot more flexibility, with the ability to increase the amount and distribution of CPU cores, RAM and storage capacity as your project grows.

Dedicated server hosting doesn’t offer as much scalability. In fact, what it does offer is very limited. Because it’s a physical server, it’s much more difficult to upgrade your specs and would likely lead to some downtime for migration to another server.

Resources

The resources a server has to offer is no doubt a big deal. You wouldn’t build something without knowing you had the materials you needed to finish the project, would you? Well, it’s the same with digital projects. If you're going to build a site or develop an application you need to make sure you got the space to build it and the power to run it. Dedicated servers and VPS both have their own approach to resources, each one being better suited to some uses case than others.

VPS are more of a ‘start small and grow’ option. They’re great for projects where you might only need a smaller amount of resources to start with, with the ability to upgrade as your project grows. Dedicated servers, however, are beefy from the get-go. You’ll get more powerful CPUs, more RAM and bigger storage drives, ideal for projects you know you’ll need more resources for.

Performance

Resources and performance kind of go hand in hand, so you can probably guess the answer to VPS vs dedicated server in terms of performance. Dedicated servers come with huge amounts of resources meaning that, depending on what you use them for, they can offer higher levels of performance.

But that’s not to say that a virtual server doesn’t offer great performance too. In fact, there are VPS available that offer powerful specs that would be more than enough for a wide range of projects.

Both a dedicated server and VPS can offer the power you need to manage multiple sites, databases, and projects on one server, with enough power to go around so your overall performance isn’t affected. Which one you’d choose would be down to the size of your project and other things like the flexibility you need and your budget.

Price

Another big difference between VPS and dedicated server hosting is the price. Big resources come with a big price tag, so it’s a given that dedicated servers will be more expensive than VPS. But if you know that it’s the best hosting for your project and you’re getting the best levels of performance out there then it’s definitely worth it.

If you don’t need all that power and are looking to smart smaller, a cheap VPS server will make less of a dent in your wallet. Plus, you can always increase resources if you need to. There are higher-tier virtual servers that will offer a boost in performance compared to cheaper ranges, but obviously, these will also have a bigger price tag.

What about VPS vs dedicated hosting for gaming?

Both options can be used as a gaming server. But the main thing with gaming servers is that you need to make sure that you’ve got the resources you need to run your game of choice. So VPS would be okay for a smaller gaming server, but if you want to go big then you’d probably want to go for a dedicated server. Especially if you want to play games like Minecraft, Garry's Mod and CS:GO with loads of mods loaded onto them.

Dedicated vs VPS vs Cloud

Another server option is cloud servers. They’re similar to VPS in that they’re scalable with the ability to increase resources if you need to. Cloud also offers more reliability and power than a VPS due to its infrastructure, with added features like load balancing, networking and block storage. And with providers like Fasthosts, cloud servers often come with pay-as-you-use billing so you can start, stop and pause your server if you need to, only paying for what you use.

Of course, cloud servers differ more from dedicated servers than they do VPS. Luckily we’ve written a guide on dedicated servers vs cloud servers if you want even more info on them.

VPS vs dedicated servers: which is right for me?

Which server you should choose is all dependent on what you’re looking to use it for. Hopefully, this guide has helped highlight the main differences between them.

The bottom line is:

  • If your budget is smaller, you want something flexible or don’t need huge amounts of resources, then a VPS is likely the best option.
  • If you have a bigger budget and need more power for larger projects, then a dedicated server is for you.

If you need a hand choosing which one is right for your project, our sales team can help. Or if you already have a server with us and need a hand, our support team are always only a phone call away 24/7.

Want to read more about servers? Explore the rest of our blog where you’ll find a whole section on server related news, updates and questions.