A Virtual Server (also known as a Cloud Server or Virtual Cloud Server) is a cloud hosted resource that provides a familiar server environment using the underlying virtualisation platform.
Virtual servers are usually web servers that are not dedicated hardware platforms, i.e. it’s not a physical server dedicated to one customer. They are a very popular way of providing low cost web hosting services as they allow for customisation of web code and freedom for the customer to add programs and services. The advantage of this model is that each server behaves as its own separate instance and is separated virtually from the underlying hardware platform.
Virtual servers tend to utilise a number of virtualisation vendors depending on the providers preference, each has its merits and drawbacks.
The use of virtual servers has revolutionised the hosting industry, before this technology the choice of hosting platforms was either a dedicated hardware server or shared hosting. With shared hosting, websites and applications had to be designed with provider restrictions in place. Virtual servers provide a crucial intermediate step between dedicated and shared hosting platforms.
Let’s look at the advantages of Virtual Server:
Running a managed or dedicated server may be onerous on cost and is subject to hardware failure. A virtual server is free of the hardware layer and allows for careful selection of items such as processor and memory ensuring a excellent cost vs. optimisation model.
Before the introduction of virtual servers upgrades to the system processor or memory required scheduled downtime and installation of the parts. With a cloud hosted virtual server a simple allocation and operating system reboot allows for upgrades.
Virtual servers tend to be hosted on scalable platforms with multiple levels of redundancy designed into the architecture. This stable environment within a datacentre environment is a key cornerstone to provide longevity and uptime for your solution.
Backup and recovery
Unlike a physical server a virtual server is extremely configurable in terms of backup scheduling and restores. Generally providers offer snapshots of your system and are able to define a RTO or recovery time objective for your system.
Freedom of operating system
Your virtual server is not dependant on the underlying hardware system for drivers and other system variables. This means that you have the flexibility to select your operating system of choice for your virtual server, this could be a Windows server or perhaps a Linux or Unix environment.
When selecting a provider there are a number of areas to consider and ask your provider for reference we have listed the main items below;
And things to watch out for:
Virtualisation platforms or systems are delivered in different configurations with certain virtualisation systems able to segment a single physical server. If too many servers reside on the same physical server performance will suffer greatly which in a web hosting environment means slow loading websites and database queries crawling. Always check with the provider how many virtual servers are on the node or ask for an architecture diagram to check that you’re not hosted on a single server with no redundancy.
Price – if it’s too good to be true then ask why!
The cost of the underlying redundant architecture and datacentre environment for a provider is extremely high, if a cost is too good to be true ask your provider how they are able to offer such a price and do your due-diligence in terms of underlying infrastructure.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
What service level agreement does the provider offer and does it contain financial penalties or service credits in the event of unscheduled downtime? Does the contracted uptime suit your virtual server goals?
Scope of service and demarcation
Does your provider maintain system upgrades and patching and who is responsible for scheduling and storing backups of your system? Always check the provider’s demarcation in terms of service scope.
Fixed vs. variable costs
Contractor scope creep is when costs are applied after the initial contract for areas such as using higher than contracted bandwidth or applying memory, storage or processor upgrades. Always check the variable costs.
Always request a trial
Always do a trial of a system and check performance uptime and suitability. Would you buy a car without doing a test drive?
When using popular commercial products, there are licensing cost considerations which the virtual server provider passes onto the end-user. Always check the product being proposed is the right version and database and operating system licences are clearly shown in your quotation. When getting multiple quotes compare these costs and if they are not shown or the quotation is too low question the reason why!
At Compare the Cloud, we’re here to help you navigate the options and provider benefits to help you find a suitable partner. Take a few minutes using our cloud comparison tool to let us know your requirements and we will present you with informed options to help you find your perfect cloud virtual server provider.
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