The Differences between a VPS and Cloud Server

Posted by P. Haftman, CTO

There is a lot of confusion in the industry especially in the web hosting world regarding the differences between a VPS server and a Cloud Server.  Many companies seem to use these terms loosely or interchangeably when discussing Virtual Servers, so we felt that it was time to cut through the hype so users would understand the differences and be able to choose the best option to meet their needs.

What exactly is a VPS ?

A VPS is sometimes referred to as a 'Virtual Private Server' or 'Node.'  A VPS gets its name from one shared physical server (or node) that is divided up into several smaller 'virtual' server slices.  Each slice is sold to a different customer for their use.   A traditional VPS platform can only run one operating system on each physical server.  VPS customers on the same physical server will all be using the same operating system.   Typically, VPS providers use a legacy technology called a 'container' to isolate multiple users on a single server from one another while slicing up a single shared instance of the operating system.

A VPS is typically used in Web Hosting

VPSs are popular with web hosting companies who typically sell them to customers who need more machine resources for their website than what can be provided by a typical web server that is hosting hundreds of websites.  These types of customers may choose a VPS on which to build a large e-commerce site, a database-driven web application or to run a social network.  A VPS may be a better choice in some cases, especially when the customer may not be ready for a fully 'dedicated' server exclusively for their use which can be a costly proposition.

No isolation from other customer resource demands when running on a VPS

Many customers who choose a VPS will at some point experience some problems that are pervasive among VPS platforms.  What they may not realize is that there is no isolation from other customers' application demands on the server.  If one VPS customer is running an application that uses most of the CPU, all the other VPS customers will be affected.  It is a common occurrence that when all the machine resources of the server get used up by other VPS customers housed on the same machine, that an application or website may run very slowly or even grind to a halt and stop running altogether.  Customers whose applications stop running may have to log-in and restart them, but there is no guarantee that they will continue to run if the machine resources are already being taxed.

VPS nodes are oversold causing servers to slow down or crash

By far the single largest problem with a VPS is that VPS providers typically oversell their nodes, making one physical host machine run far too many customers.  This turns into a resource allocation nightmare causing poor performance or server crashes that affects all the customers on that node.  If the physical server fails, all VPS customers on that server will go down.  This is why a VPS cannot provide you with high-availability.  Unfortunately, a customer cannot predict when this might happen, but inevitably it will.   

A VPS cannot be scaled to accommodate peak traffic times or customer growth

While a VPS may provide a customer with a small portion of dedicated memory, there is generally no dedicated CPU allocation, no disk I/O, network I/O, etc.  Additionally, most VPS providers only offer small amounts of memory resources.  When more is needed, or when a customer suffers enough downtime, they encourage the customer to move onto a larger VPS, or move to a 'dedicated' server (for their use alone).  This is because a VPS node cannot be scaled to accommodate the growing needs of an individual customer. 

Why not use a Dedicated Server?

Dedicated servers are not usually the first option to be considered since they can be more than ten times the cost of a VPS.  Customers often find themselves in situations where they don't need a dedicated server 24/7, but when the performance of their VPS becomes unacceptable, or they have significant periodic spikes in website traffic, they end up migrating to a dedicated server to avoid slow response and to accommodate high peak times in website traffic.  This comes at a cost, not only the cost associated with dedicated server hardware that may be actually under-utilized a majority of the time, but also the time and expense of migrating the application to a new server, which may take several days to complete.

VPS Security Concerns

There are notable security concerns with a VPS.  If a customer on your shared server does not take security seriously, and is hacked or receives a malicious virus, then your VPS applications could also be negatively affected.  You must remember that on a VPS node, you have no knowledge or any control over what other customers may be doing.  For this reason, a VPS should never be considered for any critical business application.  

Muddying the Water

Unfortunately, web hosting companies often muddy the water when customers start asking about cloud servers and the differences between a VPS and a Cloud Server.  Whether it is deliberately done or just out of ignorance, some say there is no difference at all.  Some even claim that a VPS and Cloud Server are the same thing since they are both "virtual servers" and the only difference is in the way they are billed.   This simply is not the case.  Typically when companies make these types of claims, it is because they do not have a true cloud computing infrastructure to offer their customers.   Some VPS companies will even refer to their services as Cloud Hosting, trying to capitalize on the cloud computing trend, which adds to the confusion for customers trying to understand the differences to make the right choice. 

The Crosspeer Cloud Difference

As previously stated, traditional VPS providers slice up large dedicated servers to share between customers.  By contrast, a Cloud Server is a virtual server instance that provides the user with a dedicated and protected set of machine resources.  On a Cloud Infrastructure, each cloud server is completely isolated from another, providing customers with the ability to scale their server resources on-demand.  With a cloud server you always get the full amount of allocated CPU, Memory, Disks, etc. that you are paying for.  Due to the nature of their architecture, cloud servers cannot be 'overrsold.'

Install the Operating System of your Choice

The KVM technology which serves as the foundation for the Crosspeer Cloud enables every user to run their own isolated copy of an operating system of their choice, providing the user with more control over their virtual server environment.  This enables the customer to experience higher performance, deeper configurability, stronger isolation and security guarantees.

Automated Server Deployment

Crosspeer Cloud Servers allow you to resize your server instances in near real-time without any data migration or reconfiguration of the server/OS at all, something that is not possible with a VPS platform.  Also, Crosspeer Cloud Servers employ automated ordering and deployment of computing resources including the ability to spin-up additional servers instantly or add capacity as needed.  This can be accomplished using our easy web control panel or programmatically via our robust API.  Such features are not available with a VPS platform.

Custom Configurations

Unlike a VPS, Crosspeer customers can deploy a unique server configuration and custom network architecture including VLANs, Firewalls, Load Balancing and Static IP addresses.

Availability Guarantees

Keep in mind that while on a VPS, if the physical server fails, all VPS customers on that server will go down.  Cloud Servers offer High-Availability, so if a physical server fails, a cloud server is automatically migrated to another physical server without experiencing an outage.  Crosspeer offers a Reliability Guarantee with 100% Uptime.  Our industry-leading Service Level Agreement provides 100x credits for any downtime.

Data Security

Unlike a VPS, Cloud Servers run in a secure environment providing you with your own isolated server instance with no risk to your data.  If a cloud server customer gets a virus or is hacked, other customers' servers will not be affected.  In addition, each cloud customer can implement their own additional security measures for their individual users since they have full control of their server configuration, operating system and applications.

Unbundled Computing Resources

Unlike most Cloud Infrastructure providers, Crosspeer provides you with unbundled computing resources so you can select the amount of CPU, Memory and Storage of each server to meet the exacting demands of your applications.  For example, you may have an application that is much more demanding of the CPU than Memory.  On the Crosspeer Cloud, you can deploy a server with more CPU power and less Memory so you can truly match the resources to the application, rather than having to pay for a defined set of resources that may not be fully utilized.  This not only helps to improve the performance of your applications, but can save you a significant amount of money over the life of the application.

Cost Advantages

A few years ago, many could argue that VPS servers were less expensive than cloud servers.  Much has changed in the last couple of years and this is no longer the case.  Next generation cloud servers like those available from Crosspeer offer customers a much greater value than a VPS for about the same cost.  The shift in computing dynamics has led more companies to embrace cloud technologies rather than to purchase, constantly upgrade and routinely maintain their own server hardware.  Cloud computing has been proven to be a secure, reliable, scalable and cost-effective computing environment for countless applications, from large enterprise workloads to mobile web applications and everything in-between.

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