Difference between Physical and Virtual Servers

Aug 31, 2023

The scope of the IT revolution and digital transformation is constantly changing. And considering this evolution, many businesses are actively investing in the digital infrastructure, including servers, network architecture, compute resources, and more, to stay dynamic and ahead of the competition. 

Depending on their size, requirements, and other hosting demands, these investments will differ from business to business. 

Therefore, when starting a business, you need to make a critical decision of choosing between a Physical and a Virtual Server to build your business’s infrastructure. 

However, to understand the key difference between these two servers, let us first look at them individually and understand their definitions and uses. 

What is a Physical Server? 

A physical server is generally defined as a hardware server or simply a physical computer with CPU, motherboard, processor, hard drive, IO Controllers, memory, etc. It is generally large and is also referred to as a bare-metal server, as its hardware is directly used by an Operating System (OS). 

A physical server is a single-tenant server, meaning it can run a single instance of OS, such as Linux, Windows, or other operating systems. In addition, most often, it is used by businesses to run a single application. 

What are Virtual Servers? 

Virtual Servers are used within the VPS Hosting service, wherein a physical server is split into several virtual machines or virtual servers. These virtual servers are used to host your website’s data instead of the actual physical server. 

Virtual Servers work on the server virtualization principle, where the physical server is split into multiple virtual machines through virtualization software called the hypervisor. 

Hypervisor extracts hosting resources, including CPU, disk space, memory, storage, from the physical server to assign them to each virtual machine. It runs on the physical server’s hardware, in place of the operating system. 

Thus, virtual servers offer VM architecture that provides complete account isolation, full root access, enhanced flexibility, and easy scalability. In addition, the performance of each virtual server is independent of the other. 

Let us look at more key differences between Virtual and physical servers. 

Key Differences Between Physical and Virtual Servers 

Virtual Servers offer multiple benefits over a physical server, including reduced management costs because of the reduced number of on-premises physical servers. 

We shall compare these two servers based on the following factors: 

  1. Performance 

Performance is a critical determining factor when choosing a virtual or a physical server for business scalability. 

If your website deals with large web traffic and a huge amount of data that needs to be processed constantly, choosing physical servers is ideal. Physical servers are more powerful, reliable, and efficient than virtual machines. 

In contrast, virtual machines are more prone to performance issues and risks, depending on the hosting provider, due to the overflow of virtual servers within the physical server. 

Thus, if your business operates on the computing resource’s fullest extent and potential, a physical server is an ideal choice. 

  1. Portability 

Portability is another crucial difference between a virtual machine and a physical machine. Data migration or portability is key as your business grows and scales. 

Migrating your physical server from one data center to another is a resource-intensive and risky task. Here, you will have to backup all the stored data to another removable media or disk space, move the media with all the hardware resources, and reconfigure all the system components on your new server. 

However, since VMs are hardware-independent and isolated from each other, as they have their virtual hardware, you can easily move them from one physical server to another or across virtual environments. 

  1. Management 

Physical Servers require high skills and manpower to manage them. In addition, if a physical server fails or crashes, it requires a lot of time to resolve the issue. 

However, virtual servers are much easier and more convenient to manage, and you can easily recover a failed virtual server with a matter of a few clicks. 

  1. System or disaster recovery 

Virtual machines have a much better, more reliable, and simpler disaster recovery process than a physical server. 

It is vital to quickly restore critical data and operations during failure or disaster to minimize server downtime and its negative impact on your website. With a physical server, restoring business operations and disaster recovery takes days to set up a new physical server, applications, installing an OS, and restoring data from backups. 

However, with the use of prior data backups, you can easily restore your entire virtual server without affecting your website’s uptime. 

  1. Security 

The virtual server environment offers a much simpler and easier security configuration and management. In addition, you can protect your virtual servers based on the universal security model. 

In addition, the hypervisor dashboard allows you to document, develop, and implement security policies and procedures from a single place. 

In contrast, physical servers require you to build a protection system for every individual server based on their resources, computing capabilities, and the sensitivity of the data it stores. Therefore, it becomes difficult and resource-intensive if your IT infrastructure is built upon multiple servers. 

  1. Costs 

Managing and maintaining a physical server is highly expensive and requires time and skills. In addition, because of the frequent server and system failures, constant software and hardware upgrades, and damage of computer equipment and components, it gets too difficult to repair these problems and pay for the repair costs. 

However, VMs are cost-effective as they ensure affordable capacity optimization by evenly distributing computing resources across all the running virtual machines. 

Therefore, if your business consists of a large number of servers, virtualization is an ideal and cost-efficient solution. 

Conclusion 

Physical and virtual servers are reliable solutions that benefit different businesses and serve different use cases. 

While physical servers are ideal if your business deals with a huge amount of web traffic and data, a virtual server is suitable for small and medium-sized and growing businesses that wish to scale and grow with time. Hence, analyze your business requirements and choose a suitable server per your needs and demands.

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