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VPS vs CDN – What’s the Difference?

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When you are building your website, you are building something for yourself, but you are hoping that other people benefit from it. In order for others to benefit from your website, they need to be able to quickly access the information that you are trying to transmit. The ability to accomplish this will depend greatly on the hosting service that you use.

A common question for those new to hosting and website design is, what is better? Using a CDN or a VPS? First, we need to understand what each of these tools are and how they work.

What is a CDN?

On average only a small percentage of websites utilizes CDNs to provide faster and more effective loading times. Content delivery networks offer a great way for you to improve server response times. They do this by making it possible for you to deliver your static content, such as videos, JavaScript, images, and CSS, from a location that is closest to the individual who is visiting your site.

Content delivery networks are designed primarily for larger websites that have a lot of information. However, they can be used on any website that needs a boost. E-commerce stores have found CDNs to be especially beneficial, owing to the fact that many of their customers are visiting from around the world. A CDN makes it possible for these individuals to purchase items from a store located on the other side of the planet and still get response times that are similar to what they would get if the source site was local.

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A CDN is a collection of global servers that are located at strategic points around the world. They are responsible for delivering a website’s content to its users. Some people think that if they have a VPS, a CDN would be of no benefit to them. What they are failing to understand is that although a VPS is going to give them a powerful hosting platform, it cannot overcome the issue of distance. The server location is a huge factor in determining the experience that your users have.

Even if you have a VPS or dedicated server but your server is located in the United States, a visitor from India is going to experience lag. However, if the CDN server is located in India, your visitor is going to have a smoother and lag-free experience.

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Even optimizing your CDN for in country usage can be optimal. A study by hosting researcher Nathan Finch explained in a recent Smashing Magazine interview that if users optimized an Australian-based CDN over a local host loading time increases of over 31% could be obtained.

Regardless of if you use a free hosting service, something that we don’t recommend, or if you are using an expensive dedicated hosting service, a CDN is going to help you. A CDN is going to reduce disc space and minimize bandwidth usage. Most CDNs reduce loading times on average by 17%.  Reducing resource usage is beneficial because on most platforms the amount of resources allocated to your site are limited. A CDN is going to help you even if you get an unexpected jump in traffic. Those surges do not force you to exceed the resource limit.

What Is a VPS?

VPS stands for virtual private server. Your server uses virtualization technology to split a physical server in to a number of virtual servers. In other words, the server is one physical piece of hardware, but thanks to the software installed on it, it is able to function like separate servers. The term “private” refers to the fact that the server is reserved for you. This makes it very different from shared hosting where you are sharing RAM, bandwidth, CPU, and other resources with others.

The web hosting provider that you use will install a virtual layer over the operating system of the server. This makes it possible for each user to install their own operating system and their own software. A virtual private server separates your virtual server from the other virtual servers on the same hardware at the operating system level, making the separation complete.

Virtual private server hosting is a few steps above shared hosting, but it is not as good as dedicated hosting. With dedicated hosting, the server is entirely yours. With virtual private hosting, there will be other people on the server. However, your website is the only domain that is allocated the resources on your virtual private server. What is nice about a VPS is that it is affordable. It gives you bang for your buck.

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Why should you consider using a VPS? One reason is that you are concerned about security. If you need hosting that has advanced monitoring capabilities as well as more space for backups, then this is the right option for you. If you start to experience a spike in traffic, this may be the right option for you. If you feel that your website is constantly running slow, this could be the result of your shared hosting not having sufficient RAM to accommodate the increased size of your site. A VPS will allow you to scale your website without having to worry about low resources or slow load times.

Individuals who have an online store have seen the benefit of upgrading their hosting plan. With a VPS, you have a secured and dedicated virtual server, which makes it more likely that you are going to pass a PCI compliance test. A VPS may be right for you if you need to install custom software in order to get the most out of your website.

CDN Versus VPS

Really, the question is not whether or not you need a CDN or a VPS. The truth is that both platforms can work together to produce improved user experience for those visiting your site. A VPS is going to give you the resources you need to customize your site, expand your site, and make it readily available to all, especially those who are near to you. A CDN is going to take some of the load off of the VPS by allowing visitors in other parts of the world to access your site from a remote location closer to them as opposed to putting strain on your server.

Are you currently using a CDN or a VPS or a combination of both? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.

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