Simply put, a server is a remote computer that is used by developers and webmasters as a software platform to store their apps and sites on.
When you want to deploy any online product to the World Wide Web you have to host it on a server that works 24/7 and make it available to any person from any part of the globe.
There are two types of servers. Physical ones that are actual computers with real hardware in them like one that you use but much more powerful. And virtual ones that are based on similar hardware of one vigorous PC running permanently but are in fact copies of real operating systems used as a substitute for physical servers with the same capabilities.
Now let’s get deeper into how different types of servers work. How are they structured in terms of technologies, which ones are most effective and which you should you choose for your project.
Sometimes it is called a "dedicated server". As we mentioned above, a physical server is a real computer with tangible hardware parts. It has a processor, a certain amount of RAM, a disk to store data on (SSD or HDD), a lot of connectivity ports, and stuff like that.
It works like any PC, so it is possible to launch applications on it. And you can do so remotely. Some providers have plans with dedicated servers for rent. In summary, the process of working with this type of server is as follows:
You pay in advance to access the server.
Hosting gives you a pre-made machine with a certain amount of memory and other hardware components.
You connect your device with a rented remote PC via a technology called SSH (or it's alternative) and control it as if it were your real computer.
The main advantage of using a dedicated server lies in the ability of the renter to control every aspect of the "machine". You have full access to anything software-wise, so you can use tools that are not available on IaaS-platforms or on virtual servers. DS comes with no restrictions at all. Also, such an approach gives you more security because nobody except you can access data inside a rented computer. Even a provider who can destroy your machine physically cannot override your privileges to control it and erase or alter data stored on the server.
There are also disadvantages in opting for such a solution. First off, it is expensive. Dedicated servers are costly to maintain so providers will charge you more, and you can’t do anything about this. Secondly, it is hard to scale a physical server when the audience for your application or the size of the database exceeds the already ambitious expectations you had when you rented it. It would be hard to move data from the old machine to the new one or to upgrade the current PC without shutting it down for maintenance.
Data backup on physical servers
One of the problems inherent in hosting products on a physical machine is the lack of basic tools to protect the data and duplicate it somewhere else in case of any malfunction.
To resolve this you might want to use software called Veeam. To back up a physical server developers have to add computers to a specific location named "Protection Group". This is possible via Veeam Backup and Replication tool. You have to add all the machines whose data you are going to add to the backup.
Then in the same application, you’ll be able to create a "Backup Job". It is a process that automatically gathers all the information from PCs included in the Protection Group.
Virtual servers are simulacrums of physical ones. Sets of hardware and software technologies emulating real computers with the same capabilities you’d normally expect from them.
They are also used to host websites and applications but in addition to traditional applications cloud technologies and different ways of virtualization introduced products that help to create fully functional digital workspaces, massive data storages, etc.
There are three main types of virtualizations:
OS-Level Virtualization — when the server containerizes certain applications or specific areas of OS, multiplies it, and makes it available for renters to install some software to work with.
Full Virtualization — it is a more complex virtual that is usually launched on bare metal (real computers hardware) using RAM, processor, and disk that exist and are not emulated.
Para-virtualization — once the hardware is used to install it many virtual OSes are controlled via special utilities called hypervisors.
Different types of virtualization come with different advantages.
The most obvious one is saving. All three help providers to spend less money on actual hardware. They can create as many virtual servers on one computer with one set of RAM, ROM, etc. Artificial platforms like this are cheaper as a product for developers and webmasters. But at the same time, emulated servers have the same capabilities as real computers.
Moreover, para-virtualized solutions have enough security to work with sensitive data. And OS-level containers make it simple to scale the system as a whole.
Different ways of virtualization yielded different products based on it that are now used by hosting providers.
VPS is a product of para-virtualization. It is a server that "tries hard" to become a full-fledged computer and makes it possible to use any operating system and any tools that you wish to access on your remote server.
VPS is actively used by developers and webmasters around the world to:
create from low- to middle-level informational sites, online stores, commercial websites.
develop and test applications together with the team.
to host personal gaming servers.
to store databases.
It is quite multi-purposeful and most of the time the VPS’s capabilities would strongly depend on the plan that you chose renting the server (and your aims of course).
How does VPS work
Virtual Private Servers differ from each other by the technology that is used to create and control virtual machines. Usually, VPS is divided into two camps: based on OpenVZ tech and KVM tech. We’ve already discussed containerization, so OpenVZ is similar in terms of implementation. It makes it possible for a provider to host many virtual machines on one PC making each of them dependable on the same CPU, the same RAM, and the same disk. KVM is different because it helps to create many isolated artificial servers on one physical one. It is a much more secure and reliable technology.
Pros of VPS are:
Relatively low price. It is not as cheap as basic virtual hosting but it costs less than a physical machine. Considering the fact that it behaves more like a real computer it seems to be a good bargain.
Less responsibility. You don’t really have to worry about the technical aspects. Just launch a server with a desired OS and applications and you are ready to go.
Cons of VPS are:
Dependency on shared hardware. Some types of VPS give you only a fraction of the hardware installed on a physical machine. In this case you’ll share it with other developers and webmasters. It sometimes means your application or website might performan poorly because of other tenants using the same server. Even if you choose proper virtualization technology, hypervisors will limit potential capabilities.
Also, you have no impact on hardware itself. You’re isolated inside the workplace guaranteed to you by a hypervisor.
If you see the abbreviation VDS don’t bother looking for an explanation. It is basically the same technology represented by VPS. The only distinction you might stumble upon is a type of virtualization used for both. Webmasters sometimes like to emphasize it. Just as VDS only means KVM-like servers and VPS OpenVZ-like. More on this in our previous article.
The most basic type of virtual servers. The idea of it is similar to containerization but on a more subtle level. Basically, when you rent shared hosting you get a space on the hard drive of a PC controlled by administrators of the host you pay.
It is not as bad as it might seem at first. Yes, your server in this case is just a folder. But nobody restricts you from putting files in it. It is therefore a mediocre but practical solution for simple websites (there are many devs out there who build on top of shared hostings rather massive WordPress-based projects).
If you need something more complex that requires installing different packages or using specific structures you should rent VPS and go a step further.
The highest degree of virtual servers. Clouds are ephemeral and outstandingly flexible. Virtually you can convert them into anything. Database, application server, digital office, private file storage, a stack of private clouds together forming hosts to deploy different tools on, etc.
On top of clouds, different companies build fully-fledged services that are almost ready to use before you click "buy". And they are separated into three groups:
IAAS — Infrastructure as a Service. A type of cloud where everything hardware-wise is on hosting and anything software-wise is on the tenant. A solid solution for a strong team of developers wishing to focus on development but not on server management.
PAAS — Platform as a Service. A more abstract form of service that cuts out part of the software management and puts developers eye to eye with the OS-level fragments of the infrastructure.
SAAS — Software as a Service. A modern solution for teams that have no need for OS-level control but rather certain software solutions. For example, Hostman offers pre-made virtual cloud clusters with analytic tools, gaming servers, databases, and other stuff that developers and entrepreneurs need for their work but have no competence to implement manually (or just don’t want to).
Using modern virtual servers you don’t really have to worry about data safety. The host will take care of it (normally once you’ve pay for it). And it works not only for modern solutions like cloud-based ones but for classical VPS servers too.
To create backups you will need to access a control panel (a special tool provided by the host that lets interact with your server). In 99% of cases this will be a button or a tab saying "Create a backup" or something like this. Activating it will quickly and effortlessly create a copy of every bit of information on your server that you need. Moreover, you will probably to able to plan this procedure so it happens automatically every few days.
Here it is. It is of course up to you to choose what kind of server to use as a host but think twice before making a decision. Virtual platforms are highly anticipated because they are really easy to operate and powerful. Want to try one before paying for anything? Get to Hostman Marketplace and choose a virtual platform with a preinstalled software of your choice or deploy your own via GitHub. Everything is free for 7 days and after that prices start at just $5.5 per month.