Are Virtual Servers Better Than Physical Ones?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like virtual servers, and those who prefer physical ones. And to eliminate the possibility of a third category (people who don’t know enough to make a definitive judgment), we’ve assembled this handy guide to the rival merits of physical and virtual servers…

The similarities

As companies increase their online presence, and applications become ever-more sophisticated, the market for data storage is expanding by almost $250 million every year. Regardless of where it’s hosted, a server provides secure storage for online content including websites, applications and databases. Both options are surprisingly affordable, as they’re easily subdivided among multiple clients to spread demand evenly across a 24-hour period. Conversely, both options may be dedicated to one company. And either way, backup data sources negate the effects of hardware failures or forced restarts almost immediately.

The differences

A physical server is a tangible object, located in a secure data center. Each server has its own memory, network and processing resources, with a specific amount of space for file storage. It’s reminiscent of a desktop computer, and old PC towers are often reconfigured as small servers once the non-essential software has been eliminated. A few additions are generally required, such as backup power supplies and network cards.
Also known as a virtual machine, a virtual server is cloud-hosted, although the cloud provider still relies on physical servers. It’s hardware-agnostic from the server underpinning it, which boosts portability and expandability. Storage might be divided across several virtual machines, enabling each one to be maintained or upgraded in isolation.

The benefits of virtual servers

Cloud-hosted storage eliminates the DIY approach of installing servers in a climate-controlled IT room. Scaling is easier in the virtual environment, enabling an expanding business to occupy a larger virtual footprint with a few keystrokes. If a server experiences a severe malfunction, it’s quicker to transfer a server image onto a new node than to set up a new physical server from scratch – one-touch recovery may even be possible. And of course, virtual solutions are almost always significantly cheaper.

The benefits of physical servers

Because virtual servers are hosted on physical disk drives, there will inevitably be a slight drop in performance as the extra stage of data transfer takes place. There are no performance bottlenecks with physical servers – fewer links in the chain also mean an easier diagnosis of any problems as they arise. And virtual machines still rely on physical disk space in a data center, with in-built redundancy ensuring backups are constantly being maintained.


Large companies may benefit from the exclusive use of a physical server. However, improvements in connectivity and reliability make virtual machines an increasingly tempting option for many modern businesses. Little wonder Cisco estimate seven out of eight business workloads will be cloud-hosted by 2021. However, WestHost is ready to assist with whichever platform best suits your needs. Ask our advice by getting in touch…