Back To Basics: What is a virtual server?

The subject of the title might sound like an object from a sci-fi movie, but there’s a real chance that you could be accessing services and websites using virtual servers right now. They’re used by many millions of website creators, designers, technicians, engineers, bloggers and other utilisers of the World Wide Web every day.

Firstly, what’s a server? Simply put, a server is a physical space or sometimes a program that holds the components of a website, such as content, pictures, HTML code and more. The server provides a service, hence the name; so when a computer ‘contacts’ a given server with a request for information, such as someone visiting a website (normally known as a ‘client’) that server fulfils a need by providing the space and capability for that website to function, and hence appear on the visitor’s screen.


With a virtual server, those computer resources are shared: the virtual aspect refers to the fact that a single server is not specifically linked to one computer, and is instead spread across multiple locations. Sometimes dozens of servers can reside on the same computer or multiple computers.

This virtualisation has enabled cloud technology – a term that has become common knowledge in the English language – which can be rented by the hour depending on the capacity used and has a wealth of practical applications for anything from sales to gaming.

So how else can it be ‘virtual?’ Because it is at someone else’s location, the users don’t have to deal with any of the hardware associated with its running – it’s being done for them by the host company and they don’t have to do any of the physical maintenance work themselves. They can instead concentrate on the site itself, such as analysis of traffic and admin of content and passwords.

In addition, the coupling of multiple domain names that each pass to a basic site can be resolved more easily; for example,, .net and could each go to the same, single domain name. Various websites existing across multiple servers are cheaper to run, and also less likely to fall foul of a specific technical problem with any one given server. One other advantage of a server is that they can be standardised, meaning that exactly the same settings can be replicated in other servers if required. If those servers are then combined one suddenly has double the server power/capacity, with no need to attempt complicated procedures.

In truth there are many advantages and few disadvantages, which is why so many companies have made the switch. Some of the disadvantages include possible lack of speed at capacity, but most of the ‘rumoured’ issues are more myth than truth, as explained here. As with any technology or change of which you are unsure, it’s best to consult experts such as those who deal with cloud servers from 100TB, before you’re thinking of building or transporting your websites and/or data centre onto a virtual server. That way, one can assess the options and make the best choice.

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