VPS or a Cloud – a matter

VPS vs Cloud VM

«– A VDS or clouds?
That is the question…»

If Hamlet lived nowadays and took a system administration course, that would be his main concern. This is a reasonable thing to worry about, since many sources confuse the two terms, and even experts can’t come to common grounds. Especially if the only thing those experts are interested in is promoting their product. Something like that happened during Shakespeare’s time, too.


These two similar terms are common to find.

Note:: VDS – a Virtual Dedicated Server (a hosting service where a user of a dedicated virtual server is provided with ultimate privileges, including root level admin access). This solution is implemented by installing a special piece of software – a hypervisor – onto a physical server, which enables resources separation and creation of multiple independent virtual servers. Modern processors are developed in such a way that they can support virtualization on their hardware level.

root – the highest level of administrative privileges that enables installation of an operating system and other software on a computer.

VPS – Virtual Private Server (a hosting service where a user of a private virtual server is provided with ultimate privileges, including root level admin access). Almost the same as VDS (see above).

When referring to VDS and VPS, some sources historically separate them based on the time when two major virtualization technologies were introduced – on the physical server OS level or on the hardware level (a hypervisor is installed right onto the hardware and substitutes an OS, since it already contains elements of a core). Some people even believe that the two terms are used differently depending on the country. We will assume that VDS = VPS.

VPS vs CloudFrom the point of view of any VDS user, you rent a separate server with resources as per your agreement with the provider. That said, a slice – a part of resources (the processor’s computing power, disk memory and RAM) of one powerful physical server is allocated to you. When you need more/ fewer resources, you can order a new VDS, but with a new price. Traditionally, the cost is one of the main reasons to choose a VDS, since some configurations are comparable to a dedicated physical server, but are much cheaper. By extending the pool of rented virtual servers, you can scale up the capacity of your IT infrastructure for some time. However, one day you will outgrow your VDS and will start considering an option of renting a dedicated physical server (which is also called bare-metal).

Typically, a VDS pre-supposes that it is possible to launch, stop and restart a virtual machine independently from other users. This feature is provided by any virtual dedicated server. The customer’s software and data are completely isolated from the software and the data of another client, whose VDS is a tenant for the VDS of the other client. Just like a physical server, a virtual one is logically connected to a user’s local network and can identify the requests of a client’s software. In some cases, a VDS can have several dedicated IP addresses, routing tables set up, etc. Normally, the operation of a client’s virtual machine is not affected by other machines hosted on the same physical server (on condition that all of them operate in a stable way).

Extra traffic and excessive load from the applications of one of the VDS customers might cause an emergency, as any extra load can limit the bandwidth of a disk subsystem and other resources shared by the remaining VDSs on the same physical server. A situation like that can be cause by both a user’s mistake, a virus or a system hack and DDoS attacks. Obviously, a provider keeps track of such cases and prevents them whenever possible. However, if a physical server fails, all VDSs hosted on it stop working immediately and do not get restored until the maintenance is completed.

VPS vs CloudA broken-down server is typically restored (or replaced) by a provider; however, taking care of your data integrity (by using data backups) is on you.

There is one disadvantage to the VDS technology – you cannot scale up your resources quickly, ‘on the fly’, if the load grows exponentially (say, due to an influx of website visitors). An increase in traffic might eventually become a problem instead of a success. You will have to receive another VDS from your provider (as if a physical server went out of order) and re-deploy your system from scratch, which takes time.

With that in mind, a VDS works great for remote desktop connections and for collaborative work with office applications, creation of small e-commerce websites, corporate websites and some other services (proxy, email, voicemail, monitoring, etc.).

We do not recommend using a VDS for audio/ video streaming, setting up game servers and high-load e-commerce projects, that is, for applications with high or asynchronous traffic, for cryptocurrency mining and other resource-intensive activities. Some providers forbid it directly and set it in their service agreements; besides, they block those violating the rules in order not to affect the working conditions of the responsible users. In the meantime, some providers oversell their resources hoping that their clients will not use those resources very actively. As a result, there might be not enough computing power in case of a fluctuating load and users might experience slower performance at activity peaks.

In the end, the performance of a VDS might not meet your expectations and turn out to be lower than calculated. The options of integrating this virtual machine into a client’s network are limited, too – you get what you pay for, so don’t expect too much at a low price.

If your professional IT tasks call for a sophisticated enterprise-level solution, elaborate infrastructure and high performance and security level, you should consider migration to the cloud. Despite its name, the ‘clouds’ are typically deployed on the hardware of ground-based data centers with reliable electricity supply and data protection systems.

If you think about moving your infrastructure to the cloud, you will most likely consider two options – to create a private cloud or to connect to a public one (IaaS). If you rent a couple of proper servers and deploy a virtualization system, you get your own private cloud that you do not share with anyone else. Let’s have a closer look at the option of renting resources from a public cloud.

Cloud Infrastructure – IaaS (Cloud VM)

CloudTo set the terminology straight – ‘a public cloud’ refers to a model when network access to shared resources (applications and services, data transfer network, servers and storage devices) is provided upon request. The provider’s resources run on expensive professional and modern hardware managed by a special software suite. That said, the client does not rely on the operation of a separate physical device (a disk array, a server, a router, etc.). If any device fails, its functions will be taken over by a duplicate device on the flight – the load will be rebalanced within a cloud. The idea of the cloud is to integrate the provider’s physical network devices and other resources into a single point. The computing power of this pool is dynamically distributed among consumers based on their requests.

The IaaSInfrastructure as a Service – model in a public cloud gives to a client the highest possible degree of freedom in terms of choosing and configuring the hardware, building their own virtual network within an easy-to-use constructor, installing the OS and the applications of their choice.

Cloud VM vs VPS infographics
Cloud VM vs VPS infographics

Besides, virtual network devices in a provider’s cloud can be set up, integrated and combined into networks just as easily as physical hardware in a client’s office.

The key tenet of IaaS is its flexibility – a client can connect extra resources or dismiss the unnecessary ones without turning to the provider. This ‘self-service on demand’ model works best for those clients who have high scalability, reliability and performance requirements.

Cloud computing and cloud storage are basic services in any public cloud. The most notable extra service powered by IaaS is BaaS - Backup as a Service. This solution is based on regular creation of baseline ‘images’ of data on the client’s machines (‘snapshots’ of the operations at the end of each day). To do that, special algorithms are used to facilitate a small record and quick data restoration; besides, it is possible to roll back (return) to one of the saved stable versions if necessary. At a set period of time, the data are sent into a remote data center for safe storage and, whenever necessary, they are returned to the customer for a recovery.

Note: some cloud providers offer other services, too, those being:

BaaS – Backend as a Service (providing users with software development kits (SDKs) and application programming interfaces (APIs));

DraaS – Disaster Recovery as a Service;

EaaS – Everything as a Service (fundamental modernization of the client’s company services based on a particular service model).

Please mind the differences between the services listed above and services written in a similar way (IaaS – infrastructure as a service, SaaS – software as a service, PaaS – platform as a service)

The list of key differences

Having studied the basics, let us compare a VDS and a cloud. They don’t have much in common:

  • Both a VDS and a cloud are based on physical servers and virtualization systems. And that’s actually the only affinity they have.

The list of key differences is much longer:

  • From the technical standpoint, each VDS is self-sufficient and represents a closed system. In other words, you cannot change the configuration of a virtual machine all by yourself. When using a VDS, it’s highly unlikely that you manage to build your own networks and subnetworks. When using a cloud, this task is something basic.
  • A VDS is only protected in terms of the standard data centers security and the security measures you set up for yourself. In the meantime, your resource pool in the cloud is protected by the data center security system, the cloud security system and any other technical means at your disposal.
  • As we mentioned before, if a physical server hosting your VDS breaks down, all other machines hosted on it stop working, too. In the meantime, such incidents are completely impossible in the cloud thanks to a number of architecture-level solutions.

These differences pretty much explain the technical and the price gap between a virtual dedicated server and a pool of resources in the cloud.

Time to choose

When choosing between a VDS and a cloud, you need to be aware of the fact that these are two different tools designed for completely different tasks. Relatively small projects that do not require any complex infrastructure solutions are well-off with one or several VDSs.

Complex projects with elaborate topology and higher requirements towards the quality of the infrastructure call for a more expensive, flexible and reliable solution – a public cloud operating under the IaaS model.

Regardless of the scope and the specifics of the tasks at hand, whenever you make a decision on working with an infrastructure service provider, you do the right thing.

Author: Stanislav Komukhayev

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