The simplest definition of what a VPS is that it is a virtual machine sold as a service by an Internet hosting company. It is technically both shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
And if you think this is cutting too close to the cloud, and similar to the EC2 instances, then you have a point. That’s because a VPS shares a number of similarities to the concept of cloud instances, just like they share similarities with virtual machines.
Since some purists consider Amazon Lightsail to be, more or less, a glorified VPS service, it is important for you to get an idea of what a virtual private server exactly is, in order to understand the distinction between these two highly popular ways to set up your online presence.
Let’s dissect what makes a VPS, first.
The technology behind VPS hosting is quite like that of VMware or Virtual Box, the two programs that allow users to virtualize their environment. The major point of difference being the fact that while these applications allow you to run several virtualized operating systems on a single machine, a VPS setup is made up of several different virtual servers running on a single dedicate hardware.
In other words, a server with say 64GB of RAM is partitioned into sixteen different virtual private servers of 4GB each, with similar sharing of other system resources like processor, storage and networking.
VPS hosting, or even using a VPS for regular computing usage like file downloading or running software, provides you with the affordability of shared hosting, while at the same time giving you more power and control like a dedicated sever.
You don’t share your OS with anyone else, you can run your own applications and server software like Apache, PHP and MySQL, you can restart your virtual server anytime you want without affecting anyone else, and you also have a set amount of RAM available to you on your VPS at all time.
No more juggling for resources with other tenants of your online server!
Now, on the onset, Amazon Lightsail may sound like a VPS service, but it is much more than that. The company calls it these fancy names to attract developers and keep things simple for them. But the physical servers powering Lightsail are the same ones you would be using, were you to spin up an EC2 instance. AWS simply reskinned the infrastructure that they already have powering their massive cloud to appeal to a different kind of customer.
Lightsail is designed to be an ideal service for users that don’t want to mess with the elaborate details of launching their own clouds. As we learned, you are provided with a simple and no-nonsense UI that provides you with everything you need in as little time and space as possible.
The Lightsail workflow is designed to get you and running with the service in minutes, while still allowing you access to the power of the Amazon cloud in terms of features, options and extensibility. You don’t get the complete feature set, the one you may get when running EC2 instances, but you get a lot more than what a simple, or glorified even, VPS service may provide.
With the VPS concept distinctly defined, let’s see how it compares to a full-blown cloud.