The introduction of virtualization led to a revolution in computing through the previous decade. This has allowed a single computer to run multiple virtual computers simultaneously, meaning that as hardware increases in performance a single computer can now replace many others. So let’s look at how this works.
Virtualization starts with software on the hardware computer that allows the creation of virtual machines, or VMs. This software is referred to as a hypervisor, with hardware running this software also commonly referred to as a hypervisor. The operating system that the hypervisor software runs on is normally called the host operating system, although with some systems the hypervisor software is part of the operating system.
The virtual machines on a computer have resources segregated from each other and from the host operating system. Conventionally, when a virtual machine is created it will be assigned an amount of memory, a maximum amount of CPU time and a hard disk image will be created for it. The hypervisor software is responsible for managing the running of the virtual machines, ensuring that each is accessing the correct areas of memory and disk, and that the CPU resources are scheduled accordingly.
For the virtual machine itself, the hypervisor and host operating system are entirely transparent. The hypervisor presents the hardware to the virtual machine in the form of the specifications that have been configured for it. This means that as far as any operating system installed on the virtual machine is concerned, it is running with the full resources of a smaller computer.
Creating a virtual machine is only the first part of the story: to use the VM, it also needs to have an operating system of its own installed. The operating system on the virtual machine is generally referred to as the guest operating system, and this guest can then be configured as it would were it running on a normal computer.
So how does a VPS, or Virtual Private Server, fit in with all this? Well, fundamentally a VPS is just a virtual machine that runs server software. Cost wise they generally sit in between basic shared web hosting services and a full dedicated server. The term “private” is used to illustrate that the virtual server’s resources are private to the customer leasing it rather than shared as with web hosting. Some resellers may also refer to them as virtual dedicated servers. As such, the virtual private server offers you all the configuration options that a dedicated server does, allowing you to install and configure software to your exact specifications.
The benefit of a virtual private server over a dedicated server is that if you don’t need all the power and performance of a dedicated server, so you can save money by buying a virtual private server with a specification much closer to your requirements. It’s easy to add more or remove resources from this virtual private server at a later date than it is to a dedicated server through the management control panel. A virtual private server can be adjusted to meet the needs of your software or site as it grows, or if it simply needs short term resource adjustments.
Another advantage over a dedicated server is that normally you can go from purchasing resources to having a virtual private server running in minutes, rather than the hours or days it could take to get a dedicated server deployed. Also, many virtual private server hosts will provide a wide variety of start-up images consisting of operating systems and software, such as control panels or commonly used web applications pre-installed, saving yet more time when it comes to deployment.
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