A Windows Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a type of web hosting account. Slotted right between shared hosting and dedicated hosting in terms of both price and performance, a Windows VPS hits the hosting "sweet spot" for many individuals and smaller businesses. It provides many of the advantages of having your own server, while avoiding much of the expense and complication.
As its name implies, this type of web hosting account functionally mimics the experience of using a private server. While a Windows VPS account may still share a single physical server with numerous other accounts, it uses software to maintain its own consistent, reliable allotment of bandwidth and computing resources. The specifics of how this is accomplished are hidden from the account's owner ninety-nine percent of the time. If you have a Windows VPS, you can feel free to use it the same way you would a private, dedicated server.
How does a Windows VPS compare to other popular web hosting options?
If you just host a few static pages or, perhaps, a small website, then a bargain-priced shared hosting account is probably sufficient. However, once your hosting needs become more demanding, it is time to upgrade. If you experience increasing traffic and subsequent bandwidth use, want to host a web application, or simply need more control over your hosting platform, then chances are you have outgrown shared hosting. Before deciding on the ideal solution for your situation, though, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the different categories of hosting plans available. The following list outlines the primary strengths and weaknesses of shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting.
- Shared Hosting -- This is the least expensive type of hosting available. With a shared account, your site is placed on a server or servers with many other users' sites. Resources and bandwidth are shared between all users. This means that, much like a DSL connection in a busy neighborhood, speeds can vary dramatically depending on how many people are attempting to use the server at a given time.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) -- A virtual private server, such as a Windows VPS, combines the major benefits of shared and dedicated hosting. You get your own bandwidth and computing resources, so performance is fast and reliable, but, since you are still using shared hardware, the cost is usually only a little higher than shared hosting.
- Dedicated Hosting -- A dedicated account essentially means that you are renting your own server. While the hosting company will typically service and maintain the server, you will be the only one using it. While this, naturally, means the best possible performance and the most control, it is also the most expensive hosting option.
Which should I choose: a Windows VPS or a Linux VPS?
The most accurate answer to this question will vary depending on your particular hosting needs, your experience, and your expectations. For most basic, day-to-day operations, such as uploading files, managing email accounts, and serving basic webpages, your choice of operating system makes very little difference.
A Linux VPS may be your best choice if you:
- plan to host a site or web application that uses the LAMP software bundle. Composed of Linux, the Apache HTTP Server, MySQL, and PHP, the LAMP stack is a suite of open source software programs that work together to power a huge proportion of the web's most popular sites and services. Since Linux is the first letter in the stack, you'll need to choose a Linux-powered VPS if you want to use LAMP.
- know how or would like to learn to use Telnet. This old-school remote login protocol allows you to issue text commands to your Linux VPS via a software terminal emulation program.
- care about and would like to support open source software.
A Windows VPS may be your best choice if you:
- do web development with Microsoft FrontPage/Expression Web or Visual Web Developer. FrontPage and its predecessor, Expression Web, are the company's long-running, stand alone WYSIWYG HTML editors and web site administration tools. Visual Web Developer, on the other hand, allows for the use of Microsoft's "Visual" programming environment in the creation of web apps. Each of these tools features proprietary extensions that require Windows Server either for full optimization or to work at all.
- use Microsoft's .Net framework. Similar to Java and its virtual machine system, the .Net framework is a software-based runtime environment for executing code. It allows for the fast, efficient creation and maintenance of software in a number of popular languages. If you'd like to take advantage of this growing technology, a Windows VPS, rather than Linux, is a necessity.
- would like simple, out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Office files. Windows Server comes with extensions to work with these exceedingly popular file types.