Virtual server web hosting provides a balance between dedicated hosting and shared hosting. In a virtual server setup, the host machine is actually shared, but it does not appear to be. The machine is broken up into segments, or "virtual servers," that are completely separate from one another. To users and webmasters, the virtual server looks like its own server. The websites are not affected by the actions of others who share server space, and the IP address is unique to each client.
Virtual web server hosting offers two main benefits. First, it is much cheaper than dedicated hosting, because the owner can split the cost of the server machine between several users. Second, because there is a virtual barrier between each user on the host machine, the actions of one user do not impact the performance of another client's website as frequently as they do in a shared server environment.
When choosing a virtual server, you must choose the operating system you wish to have, which is not always easy. Virtual servers usually run either Linux, FreeBSD, or Windows as their operating system. There is much debate over the differences between Linux virtual server hosting and a Windows virtual server, but both offer stable hosting at an affordable price. Unless the webmaster is using Microsoft-specific software, there is little difference between setting up a site on a Windows virtual server or one run by Linux. Linux virtual server hosting is a tad bit faster than Windows hosting, which is something to consider if performance is a high priority. For some, using Linux virtual server hosting requires learning a new operating system, but most virtual server web hosting packages come with training and support, making this a hurdle that is easily overcome. Many hosting services also employ platform-agnostic editing and site management tools so the Windows vs. Linux debate is often eliminated. And if you are ever stuck you can post your operating system questions to FreeBSD Forums.
Finally, there is still a potential security risk. In a virtual server, each user can have his own unique IP address, but some virtual servers are not set up this way. Your IP address could end up being banned because of the actions of another user. This can be avoided by purchasing virtual dedicated server hosting.
Choosing a server option comes down to deciding what your business needs and wants out of a host, and comparing that to the budget you have set for website hosting. One of these three options will provide the correct fit for your business's needs. To read about the other types of hosting return to the web hosting comparison article.
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