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Is It Better to Use a Physical or Virtual Server?

Which Is Superior: A Physical or Virtual Server?

There are some advantages to using a physical server rather than a virtual one, but increasingly, businesses are turning to virtual servers for their IT needs. What exactly are the differences between these approaches, and which one is best for your business?

Physical vs. Virtual Servers: The Basics

Virtual and physical server management share some commonalities. Both virtual servers and physical servers are going to help you achieve the same overall goals. You’ll also need to make some important decisions while setting up, and maintain your servers to ensure long-term and consistent functionality.

The core differences are where the servers are and who’s responsible for managing them day-to-day. With a physical server setup, you’ll have the servers in your physical location, either in a separate room of your business or in a dedicated data center. You’ll also be responsible for buying, building, maintaining, and optimizing your own servers.

With a virtual server setup, you’ll employ the services of a third party to get access to server functionality. The servers themselves will be in a geographically remote location; while you’ll still be able to control some aspects of the servers, employing some degree of customization or maintenance on your own, standard maintenance, backups, and other responsibilities fall on the third party you’ve contracted with.

Advantages of Physical Servers

What are the advantages of having physical servers?

  • Reliability. As long as you purchase the right equipment and continue maintaining it regularly, physical servers are highly reliable. Virtual servers also offer a high degree of reliability, but you’ll be placing your trust in another institution.
  • Control. When you have physical servers, you’ll have more direct control. With virtual servers, you’ll definitely have some options, being able to customize certain settings and make changes when necessary. However, with physical servers, you’ll be able to control literally everything. For some businesses, retaining this control is important.
  • Dedicated function. Rather than existing in a shared environment, your physical servers will be dedicated exclusively to one function. This may be able to increase your efficiency having a  dedicated server hosting for games or help you focus on your highest business priorities.
  • Infinite customization. You can customize your physical servers in any way you want. This flexibility can lead to some innovative creativity to solve the biggest problems plaguing your business.

Advantages of Virtual Servers

What are the advantages of having virtual servers?

  • Physical space. Physical servers can be burdensome because they take up a lot of space. Depending on the size of your operation, you may need an entire dedicated data center to house them. Virtual servers eliminate this need entirely, freeing up space that you can use for something else.
  • Faster deployment. Buying, building, and initially setting up your physical servers is extremely time-consuming. If you’re trying to launch as quickly as possible, virtual servers are strictly better in this regard.
  • Lower costs. Overall, virtual servers tend to be more cost-efficient. You won’t have to spend money on hardware, you’ll spend less on energy, and you’ll even spend less on labor since you won’t be performing as much maintenance. For most businesses and in most situations, virtual servers are the more efficient choice.
  • Built-in backups. Virtual servers have built-in backups, often with multiple layers of redundancy and backup servers that are geographically separated. There’s no reason you can’t establish redundancy and backups in your own physical servers, but it tends to be much more expensive and harder to manage. If you’re interested in having the highest degree of security, and established backups that are already reliable, virtual servers are superior.
  • Less maintenance needs. If you want to keep your physical servers up and running, you’ll need to invest in maintenance. Server maintenance is both time-consuming and expensive, and there are many ways it can go wrong, ultimately resulting in protracted downtime and other complications. But with virtual servers, you won’t have to worry about maintenance much, if at all; it’s going to be handled by your service provider.
  • Scalability. Yet another advantage of virtual servers is their flexibility, and therefore their scalability. You don’t have to purchase all your equipment upfront; instead, you’ll choose a plan with your service provider, and you’ll be able to change that plan if your needs change in the future. If you plan on growing your business soon or quickly, this makes virtual servers ideal.

Which One Is Right for You?

So which is better, virtual servers or physical servers? That all depends on your business and your goals. If you’re trying to save money, maximize physical space, and don’t have a need for retaining full control over your servers, virtual servers are better. For most businesses, this is the case. However, there are enough advantages of maintaining your own physical servers to make them a worthwhile choice to consider.