VPS vs VPN: Do You Need a Virtual Private Network or a Virtual Private Server?
Despite having a two-thirds similarity in name, Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Virtual Private Server (VPS) are completely different things. While they may both make use of virtualization technology, they are designed to perform very different functions.
Knowing the technical differences between these two technologies can help open new possibilities to users. Today we’re going to consider some of what each of these can do, along with their benefits.
What is a VPN?
As the name implies, VPN is a network of private servers. These allow users to connect to them in order to gain certain benefits. By design, VPNs are intended to help their users increase privacy and security while connected to the web. Using a VPN in the right way, nobody will be able to tell who you are, what device you’re using, or even where you are connecting from.
How does a VPN work?
VPN services typically make use of client applications on devices and route data through communications tunnels towards secure servers. Along the way, encryption is applied to data for additional security. On the VPN secure servers, the data is then routed on to their final destination.
Since your data is routed through the VPN’s servers before being routed on, you also ‘adopt’ the IP address of those servers. This means that whichever site you’re heading to will not have a lot of the typical information such as your real IP address, what device you’re using, or anything else.
Most VPN service providers will own their own servers and this contributes further to the element of security. Some for instance have gone as far as to make use of RAM-only servers which have their contents wiped after each reboot.
Why use a VPN?
There are many possible reasons you may want to use a VPN service. They can help users mask their origin IP addresses, prevent trackers from working, allow geo-location spoofing, and bypass web censorship.
Some possible scenarios include:
- Private Browsing – Websites today often track their users. Some companies like Google and Facebook go exceptionally far to collect data from their users. This can be extremely intrusive, and configuring those services to avoid data collection can be very difficult. VPNs can help by masking your devices and locations, along with blocking data trackers.
- Accessing Netflix Content from Other Regions – Streaming services like netflix often restrict content based on geographic locations. By using a VPN, you can avoid these blocks and access more content than would usually be possible.
- Bypassing ISP censorship – Governments of different countries typically have different policies on web content access. Some more totalitarian authorities may block excessive amounts of content. Using a VPN can usually help bypass these blocks.
- Avoid Location Tracking – Thanks to IP masking, encryption, secure servers, and other technologies, it can be very difficult to trace VPN users. This can be useful if users believe they may be in danger online, for example.
- Stopping Price Discrimination – Some websites track your activities and present different prices based on your browsing profile. Using VPNs can avoid this and get you unbiased offers when you’re shopping – for instance, buying airline tickets online.
- Use Public WiFi Safely – Using public or free WiFi connections such as those offered in cafes can be very dangerous. These are often unprotected and very vulnerable to hackers. Using a VPN while connected to public WiFi can safeguard your data to a high degree.
What is a VPS?
VPS is the creation of virtual servers using virtualization technology. The typical usage is to create isolated, standalone environments that mimic an entire ecosystem. In web hosting, this is useful for offering users VPS plans which have similar benefits to dedicated hosting but come at a fraction of the price.
In fact, to most users, the experience of using a VPS hosting plan isn’t different from having a dedicated hosting account at all. They work in much the same way. In reality though, VPS hosting plans only occupy a small slice of an entire server.
Some web hosts like ScalaHosting make use of Cloud-based technology, which increases the potential of their VPS plans by a lot.
How does a VPS work?
Using software, servers are split up into virtual accounts. Each of those VPS accounts will be allocated a specific amount of resources such as CPU, memory, bandwidth, and storage space. Users are then allowed to configure the VPS environment to their liking.
Although VPS accounts may reside on the same hardware, for all intents and purposes, they will function as independent systems for their users.
Why use a VPS?
When users of shared hosting have exceeded shared hosting capacities, VPS is their next step forward. Alternatively, VPS is suitable from the beginning for sites with higher requirements like eCommerce sites or those that have increased security requirements.
There are many reasons why you might like to opt for VPS hosting.
- Improved performance – All VPS accounts will get dedicated resources. This translates into much better performance since there is no need to wait for resources to become available when needed. Reliability is also increased by access to better data backup and restoration capabilities on VPS accounts.
- Better security – The account isolation means that VPS is much more secure and stable than shared hosting environments. No matter what happens to others on the same server, VPS accounts will not be affected.
- Scalability – With VPS you can easily and quickly increase the amount of resources available. This can be done in minutes even and as simply as by adjusting a sliding resource bar at times.
- Cost effectiveness – Since resources are so easily scalable, VPS hosting is also more cost effective. You can opt to pay for the bare minimum of resources needed for your site and gradually increase them as your requirements rise.
- Better customizability – With VPS accounts, you’re building an entire hosting environment from the bottom up. This means it can be created to your exact needs. You get to choose the Operating System (OS), web server, and more – plus configure them to your liking.
Websites which should consider using VPS hosting include:
- Those with medium to high traffic volumes
- Sites handling personal information
- eCommerce websites or online stores
- Needing special environments or custom applications
VPN vs VPS
As you can tell by now, VPS and VPN and two very different things. However, it is interesting that they can be used together effectively. For instance, if you are a VPS hosting user, you can use a VPN service while connecting to and using your VPS account.
By doing this, you are increasing the security of your website by taking advantage of the properties of a VPN. Take for example if you are transferring your website files and database. Using a VPN means the data in transit gets encrypted.
Something a little more unique is the fact that since VPS hosting is so configurable, you can actually build your own VPN service using it. Of course, this will be much more limited in use compared to a commercial VPN service, but it will work for some purposes.
The tongue twister combination of VPS and VPN can be a little confusing on the surface, but gets clearer as you understand them. Each of these services have their own uses, but can be combined for better overall security.
VPS hosting can also be used to build VPN services, but this is typically of very limited use compared to full-service VPN plans offered commercially. For web hosting though, you will definitely need a hosting plan of some sort – VPS or otherwise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use my VPS as a VPN?
Yes it is possible. However, keep in mind that part of the appeal of a VPN is the ability to make use of a wide range of IPs from their different servers. Most VPS hosting accounts will offer much more limitations in this sense.
Is a VPN safe to use?
Most premium VPN services are safe to use and will improve your privacy. There are a few things you can take note of though, such as a no-logs policy, country of jurisdiction, protocols offered, and reputation.
Do I need both a VPN and VPS?
Technically, no. While VPN can help you increase your security, it is not necessary to have it to use a VPS hosting plan. For added security during file transfer you can instead make use of Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) as well.
Which VPS hosting is best?
There are many options to consider when it comes to VPS hosting plans. No matter what, always go with a VPS host like ScalaHosting for better performance and reliability. ScalaHosting offers both Managed and Unmanaged VPS plans based on Cloud technologies.
Do free VPS plans exist?
Yes they do. However, they are very rare and typically limited to the point of being not very useful. Free VPS plan users also run significant risk that their data may be collected and sold by the service provider.
What is a VPS – Everything you need to know!