InclusiveHost Blog

Cloud vs. VPS Hosting: What’s the Difference?

vps_cloudThe term “cloud” has been thrown around the hosting industry quite a bit recently, but what does it really mean? How does cloud hosting compare to more traditional virtual server technologies? More importantly, is having your important data “in the cloud” a good thing or a bad thing? We’ll do our best to clear up any confusion you may have, while helping you decide which option best suits your particular needs.

Basically speaking, having your data “in the cloud” means that it is stored using technology that doesn’t depend on one particular hard drive or server. The idea is that if a particular component fails, the remainder of the network will compensate. This ensures that your data always remains accessible even in the event of a malfunction.

The problem with this basic description is when the term “cloud” is used to describe many other types of virtual hosting technologies, such as Virtual Private Servers (VPS). The fact is, while a VPS can be hosted in a cloud network, it is a fundamentally different technology.

Let’s start with Virtual Private Servers, or as they are more commonly called in the industry, VPS’s. VPS technology has been around for many years, and is still the most common form of virtual hosting. A VPS is a virtual hosting environment (commonly referred to as a “container” or “virtual machine”) located on a physical server. This server, which is typically high-powered, is known as a “node.” A number of VPS’s can be hosted on a single node–how many depends on the capabilities of the hardware node, as well as the specifications of the individual containers. The containers are managed using a particular visualization software, such as Virtuozzo, OpenVZ (the open source version of Virtuozzo), or Xen.  Which each of these platforms are fundamentally different in how they operate, they all share the same goal of creating virtual environments that (for the most part) are separate from one another, and provide similar functionality to a dedicated server.

VPS containers are typically sold with set package specifications, such as a certain amount of memory, disk space, bandwidth and CPU allowance.  While this makes choosing a VPS package easier, it can also be somewhat limiting in terms of customization. A VPS can be resized, usually on the fly, without much difficulty, within the confines of the hardware node capabilities. This is an important point: If you wish to have a VPS container with specifications that exceed that of the hardware node, you must upgrade the node to accommodate. You cannot have more memory in a VPS container than what is installed on the node, for example.

This is where cloud hosting comes into the equation. A cloud platform consists of multiple hardware nodes that share resources. While a VPS is limited to the resources of one particular node, a cloud hosting plan can use network storage (known as a SAN) to provide access to a much larger pool than what would typically be available on a single hardware node.

Cloud hosting is often sold with a number of configurable options, rather than in preset packages, due to the nature of the platform. Because of this, it is usually much easier to customize a cloud hosting plan than a VPS. Also similar to a VPS, a cloud plan can be adjusted on the fly. While a VPS would typically be marketed to a customer whose resource needs are somewhat constant, a cloud hosting plan is more suited for customers with frequently changing resource needs.

A major benefit of cloud hosting is redundancy. True cloud hosting platforms are designed to compensate for minor hardware failures, such as a failing hard drive, or even an entire node. In most cases, cloud instances can remain online in such situations with only a minor impact on performance. This leaves staff free to perform maintenance on the defective hardware without affecting customer uptime.

Concerned about the safety of your data “in the cloud”? A cloud hosting plan is no more of a security concern than any other remote hosting environment, including shared and dedicated hosting. While a cloud platform involves multiple hardware nodes, these nodes are usually at the same physical location so there is no increased security risk. Your data is isolated from other customers just as it would be on any other hosting platform.

“The fact is, while a VPS can be hosted in a cloud network, it is a fundamentally different technology.”

Which type of hosting is better? This depends on your needs. VPS hosting is usually less expensive, because of the lower hardware cost involved. VPS packages also are typically sold with lower resource specifications, reducing the associated costs. If you’re looking for a lower cost virtual hosting environment, and don’t foresee the need to greatly increase your resource allocation on short notice, then a VPS may be your best choice.

True cloud hosting usually has a higher base cost, due to the need for multiple hardware nodes to form the cloud network. However, due to the availability of pooled resources, cloud hosting plans can be expanded to use much larger specifications than what would typically be offered on VPS plans. Also, because of how cloud plans are billed, they can be a better choice for a customer who needs to quickly increase resources to prepare for last-minute advertising or other high-traffic event.  If you want the ability to adjust your plan capabilities on a moment’s notice, and are prepared to pay a little more for the platform, cloud hosting may be better suited for you.

What about these cheap “VPS cloud” plans that can be found all over the web?  In most cases, they aren’t true cloud plans at all. The “cloud” term is often used to describe any virtual platform, regardless of whether it offers the benefits unique to a true cloud plan or not. While VPS technology can be combined with a cloud platform to offer additional benefits, it costs money to do so, meaning you usually won’t find a true cloud-based VPS plan for $10-$20/month.

When choosing a virtual hosting solution, here are the things you should consider:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do you sometimes launch advertising campaigns on short notice, or have other last-minute events that would require a large boost in resources?
  • Alternatively, is your traffic usually steady with very little need for resource adjustment?

The good news for you as a customer is that InclusiveHost offers excellent cloud and VPS hosting platforms in both the United States and Europe. Regardless of your particular needs, we are confident we’ll be able to set you up with an appropriate cloud or VPS plan. Change your mind? Not a problem…. we’ll switch you over! If you have any questions regarding our cloud or VPS hosting plans, please feel free to contact our sales and support team.