It’s easy to confuse between a VPS and the cloud, what with advanced VPS services like Amazon Lightsail setting the bar higher and higher when it comes to the feature set they offer to the users.
This misunderstanding is more common than it should be.
While the distinction between VPS and the cloud has been blurred, these terms are still not interchangeable. The differences may seem slim at first glance, but for some developers they could mean a world of variance in how they approach their projects.
Let’s see what separates them.
The primary difference between a VPS and a cloud platform is that a virtual private server is actually a single, physical server that is split up between a number of users. Virtualization software divides these users from one another, though you are not entirely isolated from being affected by other users on the box — particularly if they are running resource intensive workloads.
A cloud, on the other hand, uses distributed resources across multiple physical servers, with redundancy allowing for a seamless transition to other servers in the network. In other words, you see the resource as one, but multiple systems are behind it.
This distinction, ultimately, has an effect on factors like location, scalability, and the costs associated with a service. Cloud offers quick provisioning and deployment, while VPS are not that easy to scale up or down. A cloud is also a bit more expensive in terms of hardware, while a virtual private server can be had on the cheap.
While VPS providers have been here for ages, companies like DigitalOcean ran with the concept and provided their own unique twist to it. They started calling their service the simple cloud. This was done to attract customers and developers that were burned by their experience with VPS providers that offered a substandard service.
Once they had the attention of these users, DigitalOcean started adding tons of new features like block storage, floating IPs and DNS — all elements that are far beyond what VPS companies provide.
Amazon took this approach with its Lightsail service. It is still a cloud in the broader sense of the word, as it provides users with an API for interacting with it, hourly pricing, and a bunch of value added services on top like floating IPs and DNS. Only, Amazon is pitching this to users with a simplicity disguise, calling it a VPS to appeal to smaller users, and those that want simple solutions to host their apps and websites online.
The whole idea with Lightsail is that Amazon has made it possible for developers to start out with a simple cloud, or VPS service, what have you, and slowly add more advanced AWS tools and database on top, as and when needed.
At the end of the day, it does not matter what Amazon Lightsail is called — it’s the same thing.