Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is like driving in the middle lane – not exactly the dedicated fast track, but unlike the inferior shared hosting lane too. Right now however, the VPS path is looking wide open, with more and more choosing that route over shared and dedicated solutions. TopHosts examines why the trend continues and what to expect down the road.

With a VPS plan, small businesses can take advantage of dedicated services for about the same cost as a high-end shared solution. Simply put, VPS is a server within a server, allowing Web hosts to partition a single unit into multiple “virtual” machines. It acts as a dedicated server but, like a shared solution, the cost of hardware and software is distributed across many clients.

VPS Popularity Surging

John Enright, Vice President of Marketing for Affinity Internet’s, believes VPS hosting is currently taking off and will gradually steal more and more business away from dedicated and shared.

“Every year VPS plans become a more appealing alternative to high-end shared hosting customers and a more attractive alternative to dedicated solutions,” Enright said. “VPS is truly carving out its own niche and I think in the next 5 years it will overtake shared and dedicated servers, which are the options of choice right now.”

One of the primary forces driving the VPS rush, according to Enright, is the evolving technology behind it. When the virtualization concept began about six years ago, servers could not maintain a significant amount of customers, and the servers that did so were “high end” making it unappealing to end users and Web hosts alike. The Virtualization of servers also once demanded more resources and required a great deal of overhead costs.

Finer VPS Technology

Today however, VPS servers are vastly more powerful, with almost no overhead costs associated with it Enright explained. Prominent VPS management software programs, such as SWsoft’s Virtuozzo, Plesk, Ensim, H-Sphere or Sphera, have also come a long way. “VPS remote management interfaces are incredible these days, and they’re so powerful and easy to use,” Enright said. “The technology’s open to so many more right now.”

Thanks to the improved technology surrounding VPS solutions, Web hosts are finding it easier to offer it, which is in turn driving prices down and making it available to a wider market. With technology also delivering much more power and convenience, the service is becoming just about as attractive as a dedicated service, at a much lower cost.

A Happy Medium

Will Childs is Director of Partnerships for Canada Web Hosting (CWH), a leading provider north of the U.S. border. Childs says VPS hosting plans are growing in popularity every day because it supplies customers with a happy medium, for less cost.

“If you look at virtualization technology today, it’s coming into maturity,” Childs said. “Most developers in today’s climate don’t necessarily want to initially invest in a fully managed dedicated service without test driving the hosting organization first. On the flip side they don’t want to go through a shared platform either. VPS let’s them focus on developing rather than managing.”

Childs explained that evolving VPS technology is providing many of the same advantages of a dedicated solution. Every day, developers and small businesses are growing more comfortable with the power and capabilities of a VPS solution, Childs said, which also keeps them free from having to manage a larger infrastructure environment.

Difference from Dedicated Minimal

According to Enright of Affinity, there’s virtually no difference between a VPS plan and many dedicated server solutions out there right now, thanks to improved technology. He says today’s virtualization isolates clients extremely well from others on the “box” and – unlike being in a shared environment where too much CPU or bandwidth consumption affects a client’s Web performance – VPS customers are rarely impacted negatively in any way.

“A couple of years ago, VPS might not have been as fast as dedicated, but that’s no longer the case. I would say there’s no difference between your typical VPS account and a low-end dedicated server plan,” Enright said. “When you log into a VPS you have root access and when you run typical Unix commands you can’t tell if it’s VPS or dedicated these days.”

A Stepping Stone

With technology improving and VPS costs coming down, many more are also looking to VPS as a stepping-stone or the next best thing after a shared hosting plan, or as a step before investing in a dedicated plan. Childs of CWH says it’s very common these days for clients to outgrow their shared plan and ask to migrate over to a VPS account.

Childs also noted that more and more Web hosting providers themselves are offering VPS as a stepping-stone, to improve and enhance their own business. Growing companies, that want to offer more services but can’t quite compete in the dedicated hosting arena, see VPS platforms as a great opportunity.

“VPS hosting is a very hot market right now, because many hosting companies that are growing at the moment want to jump from a shared hosting company to something with bigger revenue potential,” Childs said. “Moving into the high-end dedicated market may be quite a jump, so a lot of companies are using VPS as a stepping stone for their own internal growth.”

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