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VPS vs. VPN: What’s the difference?

“VPS” and a “VPN” sound similar, but don’t get confused — they’re two different technologies that have nothing to do with each other. Since it’s common to mix them up, let’s explore their differences and discuss how you can benefit from each technology.

VPS vs. VPN: What’s the difference?

What is a VPS?

A VPS, or virtual private server, is a physical server that has been divided into smaller virtual servers. When you create a website, it needs a home — a server where all its data and files are stored. Depending on your requirements, you can choose from a few different hosting options:

  • Shared hosting
  • Cloud hosting
  • Dedicated server hosting
  • Colocation web hosting
  • Managed hosting
  • VPS hosting

What’s special about VPS hosting? VPS technology splits one server into multiple virtual servers, operating as separate entities. Each user can rent a virtual server for hosting their websites, blogs, apps, and other services. A VPS is similar to a dedicated server because it’s reserved only for you.

How does a VPS work?

A VPS works by using virtualization — a process of taking one physical server and splitting it into many virtual private servers for people to use. These virtual servers share the same physical server but function independently from each other.

Each virtual server is allocated a portion of the physical server’s hard disk, CPU, and other resources, depending on the specific VPS plan. Since virtual servers are separated from one another, users don’t need to share RAM or storage space, and they can install their own software and operating systems.

What is a VPS used for?

A VPS is a web hosting service. You can rent a VPS for hosting your websites, blogs, apps, and other types of digital content. Here are several situations in which you would want to use a virtual server:

  • You need to host a website that has outgrown shared hosting due to increased traffic and requires more resources.
  • You need secondary storage.
  • You manage multiple websites and want to host them all in one place but keep them separate.
  • You are running a custom app or software that requires specific server configurations or a lot of CPU.
  • You have an eCommerce platform and require robust hosting to handle traffic spikes.
  • You are a developer and require isolated development environments for testing changes.
  • Your business is growing so you need scalability.

If any of these scenarios apply to you — consider renting a virtual server. If you’re still in doubt, check out VPS’ benefits below.

The benefits of a VPS

The main benefits of a VPS service include:

  • Scalability. A VPS allows you to scale up resources and easily allocate more disk space, RAM, or virtual cores. Likewise, you can scale down if you see that your needs have changed.
  • Cost-effective. VPS hosting is much cheaper than dedicated server hosting because you share the server with other users, while having full control over your virtual server.
  • Performance. With a VPS, you get the speed you paid for because your server space is entirely segregated from other users even if they’re on the same physical server.
  • Control. Having a virtual private server at your disposal gives you control, and you can customize your server as you like. You can install software, open ports on the server, and add features without having to consult your hosting provider.

The drawbacks of a VPS

If you’re considering renting a private server, you should also consider its drawbacks:

  • Price. Users willing to upgrade from shared hosting to a VPS will have to pay more for their subscription. A VPS’s price might not be appealing for start-ups or small businesses trying to save money.
  • Technical configuration. Some inexperienced users might find it difficult to configure a VPS and maintain it. If you don’t have a dedicated IT administrator, it can be challenging to figure everything out yourself.

What is a VPN?

A VPN (virtual private network) has nothing to do with web hosting — it’s a completely different tool for improving cybersecurity. A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic so nobody can see what you do online, spy on your browsing data, or block you from accessing your local content securely when you’re traveling. VPNs come in the form of apps or software that connects your device to a secure VPN server.

NordVPN has more than 6300 servers in 111 countries, from the UK and the US to Australia, Canada, and other countries around the globe. It takes just one click to change your virtual location and protect your data. Want to increase your online security today? You can install the NordVPN app on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other device. But how does it work?

How does a VPN work?

When you download a VPN app and enable the VPN connection, your internet traffic is redirected through a remote VPN server, securing the data traveling between you and the VPN server. A VPN ensures the security of each data packet by wrapping it in an outer packet and then encrypting it. In other words, the VPN service creates an encrypted “tunnel” for your online traffic when you’re browsing the internet.

When should I use a VPN?

You should use a VPN when you want to increase your online privacy and security. Here are a few situations in which you would benefit from a reliable VPN service:

  • You’re using public Wi-Fi. By using public Wi-Fi without any security tools, you are risking your privacy — hackers may gain access to your sensitive data and use it for malicious purposes. If you’re worried your device might connect to a suspicious Wi-Fi automatically, simply leave your VPN on all the time.
  • You want to browse privately. If you connect to a VPN server, it becomes impossible for third parties, including your internet service provider (ISP), to see what websites you visit.
  • You want to securely access local content from abroad. Simply choose a VPN server in your home country and enjoy the news outlets and streaming platforms you subscribe to at home.
  • You want to get better deals online. Use a VPN service to compare prices of flights, car rentals, hotels, and goods in different locations by connecting to different servers and get the best deals.
  • You want to avoid annoying ads. When you browse, websites collect data about you and then flood you with targeted ads. A VPN changes your IP address, making it extra difficult for websites to track your data based on the IP address.

The benefits of a VPN

Here are the benefits of using a VPN to improve your online privacy:

  • Security. A VPN encrypts your traffic so you can browse safely wherever you are. The least you should do is secure your public Wi-Fi connection. NordVPN also has the Threat Protection protection feature, which helps you identify malware-ridden files during download, stops you from landing on malicious websites, and blocks trackers and intrusive ads.
  • Privacy. ISPs, data brokers, and online advertisers collect data about your browsing habits and you can never be sure who can access it. A VPN shields your activity and your IP address from prying eyes, ensuring that your browsing habits stay private.
  • Unlimited access. Some countries heavily regulate the internet, block websites, and limit what their citizens can access. With a VPN, you can enjoy the unrestricted internet without any limits. NordVPN even has obfuscated servers, designed to be used in suppressive environments.
  • User friendly. The NordVPN app is easy to use, so you don’t need to be a tech expert to navigate it. Just download the app, set up your account, and connect to a server with one click.

The drawbacks of a VPN

VPNs increase your online privacy and security, but there is a price to pay, literally. Reliable VPN providers typically charge a monthly or yearly fee for providing robust services.

In a handful of countries, VPN use is heavily regulated or even banned, so you should be careful when using it there to avoid any legal repercussions. Some streaming platforms and websites might also block access from known VPN IP addresses.

Free VPNs have multiple drawbacks. Most lack a decent server infrastructure, and their encryption may be weaker. Free VPNs will not provide you with enhanced security features, either. On top of that, they are known for their lack of privacy — some of them sell your data to third parties, defying the purpose of online privacy. When it comes to free VPNs vs. paid VPNs, we recommend choosing the latter.

VPS vs. VPN: A comparison

A VPN and a VPS are two different technologies serving different purposes. There’s no reason to choose one over the other because they both have their uses.

VPSVPN
What is it?A virtual server for rentA cybersecurity tool
What is it used for?For hosting websites, blogs, apps, etc., and as secondary storageFor an increased browsing privacy and online traffic security
BenefitsEasy to host websites and other services, allocated CPU, RAM, and storage, easy to configure the server, easy to scale, isolated environments for usersMasks your IP address, hides your browsing activity, helps to avoid online tracking, increases security of your online traffic, allows to access home content securely from abroad

You can use a VPS to host your website as well as use a VPN while administering it, protecting yourself online. If you often work from cafes, co-working spaces, hotels, or airports, a VPN app is a vital tool to enhance your digital security. So take a look at the main features and benefits of VPSs and VPNs: