Physical Web Servers or Virtual Web Servers?

Physical Web Servers or Virtual Web Servers?

Web hosting is a multifaceted business. Performance and cost are two factors that come readily to mind, but reliability and scalability are key aspects too.

Your web hosting business may be just starting, expanding, or already a recognized name in the industry, but there’s more to choosing between a physical or virtual web server than just the size of your enterprise.  

Physical Web Servers for Reassurance and Control

There can be no denying that even in this day, a physical or bare metal web server has a reassuring ring to it. Not only do you know exactly what you have, but you don’t have to share it with other websites that you don’t control.

It’s little wonder therefore that some web hosting providers eye this possibility with interest. They may insist on installing their own hardware in a colocation center, combining the advantages of fast network access with a server they know from top to bottom.

The controllability that comes from your exclusive use of the server means you can:

  • Guarantee levels of performance to specific customers
  • Ensure compliance to industry data security standards in the financial and medical sectors, among others
  • Budget a fixed amount per month to make your own financial planning easier
  • However, physical constraints may lead to inflexibility. You’ll pay the fixed amount whether or not you use your physical server to its full capacity. And you won’t be able to go beyond that capacity unless you invest in an additional server or find another solution.

    Virtual Web Servers for Scalability and Availability

    Growing web hosting businesses are often among the first to see the advantages of virtual servers. Not only can they avoid capital investment in their own servers, but they can also scale their business more smoothly, without leaving unused capacity (as in physical servers) to go to waste.

    By choosing a reliable, well-run data center as a provider of their virtual web resources, you can also reinforce the availability and business continuity of the web hosting services you provide to others.

    Virtual web servers can be effective for:

    • E-commerce, especially for serving customers with strong seasonal variation (ups and downs) in their e-commerce business that they want you to host for them
    • Hosting websites linked to other backend databases or systems
    • Hosting websites or web interfaces linked to SaaS (Software as a Service) applications

    Virtual servers can also offer advantages of high availability too. If a such a web server goes down or if the physical machine hosting it fails, it can be rapidly restarted elsewhere for service to continue as normal.

    Can You Have Both?

    A competent, professional data center partner can help you to get the advantages of both physical and virtual web servers. Colocation services will let you continue to run legacy or specialized physical web servers.

    Flexible, pay-only-for-what-you-use virtual servers then allow you to access further resources as and when needed, possibly transitioning from physical to virtual servers over time.

    In all cases, you also get access to the high-speed, failsafe network connectivity a good data center offers you, and a data center support team to help your web hosting business run smoothly without having to bump up your own headcount.


    How close do virtual web servers now come to also offering the same advantages as physical web servers? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.


    If you’re a web host, and you’d like to learn how to differentiate from other web hosting companies, cloud providers, and managed service providers, watch our webinar recording, "How to Grow Your Web Hosting Business. "


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    Topics: Web Hosting

    Matt Sudowski

    Written by Matt Sudowski