Since you are reading this blog, I guess it is fair to assume that you have some interest in setting up your own server online. However, before we begin, I think it is important to understand some of the basics of what a server is.
A server is, in essence, a computer that is connected to the internet. In order for a computer to function as a server, it needs to be permanently on and connected to the internet, 24/7. Only when the computer is connected turned on and connected to the internet will you be able to access the software on the server whenever and wherever you wish. At the same time, the computer also needs to be assigned a static Internet Protocol (IP) address. While there are ways to work around a dynamic IP address, there are several functions of a server that require a static IP address. Because of this, it is technically challenging to set up your own server at home (not to mention it might also violate some of the terms of service of your Internet Service Provider (ISP)).
Moving on to the topic for today, those of you who may be somewhat familiar with server technology may have heard the terms dedicated server and virtual private server (VPS). As the name suggests, a dedicated server is an entire machine “dedicated” to one user, while a VPS is a virtual machine on a physical dedicated server.
So how do you choose between the two?
A dedicated server is essentially a physical machine hosted by an ISP somewhere around the world, powered on and connected to the internet 24/7. It is a computer that you control most likely remotely, using tools such as the Secure Shell (SSH).
On the hardware front, a dedicated server typically provides better performance. Because the dedicated server is a physical machine, you as the user, get full access to all the resources available on the machine, such as the processors, Random Access Memory (RAM), storage drives, etcetera. The internet access is also dedicated to the single machine.\n\nOn the software front, there is better security as the entire machine is controlled by the user and there is no intermediate provider between the ISP and the user. Furthermore, there may be some software that may not be compatible with certain virtual machines which can be mitigated by using a dedicated server instead. Since a dedicated server is just another computer, there should be no issues installing various software whatsoever, provided the hardware can support it.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A VPS is a virtual machine hosted on a dedicated server. A single dedicated server is often divided into several virtual machines that are individually owned by different users. The virtual machine is under your control as the user, but you have no control over the running of the dedicated server.\n\nOn the hardware front, there is no direct access to the hardware at all. The resources you get as the user depends on the packaged plan that you purchase from the VPS provider. Some of the common resources that are highlighted include the number of virtual cores/threads, the RAM, the bandwidth, the network speed. While these resources may be dedicated in certain virtualization configurations, more often than not, they are not.\n\nOn the software front, one of the best features of a VPS is the ability to reinstall the Operating System (OS) on your server very easily. This is often done through a customer portal provided by the VPS provider. Moreover, it is also easier to back up a VPS by taking a snapshot of the machine. This also enables you to migrate your services easily should you choose to change service providers.\n\nLastly, a VPS is typically cheaper than a dedicated server. Because the VPS provider is able to divide the server into several smaller machines, the cost of running the machine can be split up among the users.
While a dedicated server may sound tempting due to the dedicated hardware, there are also many advantages to using a VPS, especially for beginners. At this point in time, I would recommend beginner users to use a VPS instead of a dedicated server, since reinstalling the OS is very much more convenient on a VPS, as compared to a dedicated server.
In my subsequent posts, I will recommend a few dedicated server and VPS providers that you can consider if you are looking to rent a server for yourself.