So many terms for the same thing... no wonder it is confusing!

What is "the cloud"? What is VPS Hosting? What is a virtual server?

These terms, along with many others, have been coined in the industry and by the media for many years now. Yet, what are they? Are they any different? The truth is, they are all about the same.

The term "the cloud" is just simply a new name for something that has been around in the Internet forever: the fact that something is remote. That your data, the software that you use and access daily, is located in a server at a remote location; a data center, instead of such data or software being located in your own computer or a server in your office.

Here is a simple one: email. When we started using Hotmail back in the 90s, you were basically using email "in the cloud". Why? Because your email messages weren't sitting in a server in your office. Your desktop computer wasn't handling the intricacies of communicating with other email servers in order to exchange messages. Hotmail was. All you had to do was log in on a web page and there were your email messages.

We've been using "the cloud" since the Internet was invented.

Of course, in recent years, there has been a big movement to shift everything off to the cloud. Instead of setting up a shared data storage server in your office, we now can use Dropbox for that. Instead of installing Quickbooks in our desktop computers, we now use something such as FreshBooks or QuickBooks Online.

But what do all these companies need in order to run these online services that you now use on a daily basis? In the beginning, decades ago, they needed to buy servers and set them up in a special place designed for servers, known as a data center or server colocation facility. This was expensive.

Then, the industry of leasing servers to customers came to be. This became known as a dedicated service provider, such as our parent brand, ServerPoint.com.

Large and innovative websites such as Houzz.com, hosted on hundreds of dedicated servers at ServerPoint.com, use the service of a dedicated server provider to run their website operations.

Now, in the last ten years, a new technology, known as server virtualization, has arisen. This technology fools an operating system, such as Windows 2012, to think it is running in a physical server, just like your Windows 10 or Mac OSX is running in the computer you may be using right now. Each virtual server does not know that the same physical server is also hosting many other running operating systems, either be Windows, Linux, or both.

A server running virtualization software is called a hypervisor. At ColossusCloud, we manage hundreds of hypervisors at locations around the world, each running dozens of individual operating systems. When you sign up for our service and deploy a virtual server, our software chooses a hypervisor from our vast pool and instructs it to create a virtual server, just for you. It can be Linux or Windows based.

So, which is the real term? The truth is, "virtual server" is correct. You can also use "virtual machine". The web hosting industry uses mostly the term VPS, which stands for a Virtual Private server. And thus, "VPS Hosting" became the common term to use.

"Cloud vps" is now the new term. It is differentiated mostly by the fact that you can either customize a server with any memory, disk space or CPU specifications you want, and because you also sometimes have the ability to pay by the hour, allowing you to deploy and destroy virtual servers whenever you want.

VPS hosting, virtual servers, virtual machine, cloud virtual server, VDS (virtual dedicated server), cloud VPS... they are all basically server virtualization technology.

Posted by Minerva Gonzalez

Minerva is Chief Information Officer at ServerPoint.com, parent of ColossusCloud.com, a leading web hosting company. Her tasks include the direction of IT staff, budgeting, policies and procedures, and coming up with the future strategies of our company. She has been in the Internet industry for over 20 years, making her one of the most experienced leaders behind our products.