Differences between physical and virtual servers

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phys vs cloudHere at City Network, we have two offers for dedicated servers. In the first one, you can order a physical one, which as soon as it arrives is setup on one of our racks and after the operating system is installed, you can access remotely.

The other one has to do with virtual servers (City Cloud), where the physical layer is abstracted. This gives you the ability to provision your own servers and start using them immediately.

Each case has their own advantages, we’ll briefly describe each provisioning process and let you decide which one is better for your needs.

Physical Servers

Getting a physical server involves several steps, as follows.

Once you hire us to get one, we call the hardware provider (Dell in our case) and wait for several days for the hardware to arrive at our offices in Sweden. With the hardware here, one of our technicians locate a free rack unit, install the server, connect the corresponding cables and power supply and after talking to the customer, the desired operating system is installed.

After a few basic diagnostics and with the operating system ready to go, users are delivered their credentials. After this, you can remotely access your server and start setting up whatever software you wish. At this point, control is up to you and we only intervene for reboots and hardware changes. Although once configured, this is a rare occurrence. The servers we use from Dell have great quality hardware, redundant disks and all kind of components built to last.

We take care, of course, of the network and make sure you have fast connectivity at all times. Top of the line Cisco routers and switches, redundant refrigeration and continuous power ensure you won´t get any hiccups under normal circumstances.

The server runs non-stop until the end of times, or until you decide to stop using it.

Virtual Servers

Virtual dedicated servers or Infrastructure as a Service as it´s commonly known is a way of having your own machine and while the end result is similar, the way to order one is different.

You start by registering an account (here at City Cloud), and when you have confirmed your email and identity, you get access to our control panel. From there, you just click on “New VM”, select the operating system and/or image (some of them come with pre-installed software ready to go) and wait a few minutes.

That´s right, after a few minutes you get a new virtual machine that can be accessed by SSH or VNC. The IP address is assigned automatically so you have everything you need to start installing software.

Servers run continuously until you turn them off, which can be done with literally one click. You can then clone them, erase them, turn them back on or just leave them paused.

Since you pay by the hour and by capacity, you can increase and decrease power and cost between minutes. Choice is really up to you or your application, since this can also be automated.

The right tool

So, as you can see, our Cloud Computing platform has benefits that pop into view. But, does this mean that you need to go over completely to cloud servers? Or negate physical servers altogether?

Not so fast

That´s right, always remember the old adage “the right tool for the job”. There are cases where you need a physical server.

For instance, with a physical server you can go overboard and get a really powerful server just for yourself. Physical servers are the only way to guarantee a complete server free from any overhead possible.

Examples of this are really specific nowadays, for instance, when you need a big database server that uses intensive disk operations. Or you have a game server that needs to handle thousands of users.

The other advantage of using a physical server is that you now exactly where your server is, nobody touches it and there is no underlying software to worry about.

On the other hand, if you are starting out of even so, if you are a medium or big sized company that need to scale, cloud servers are a great fit. Its cost effectiveness is hard to beat and the ability to manage your own private dedicated servers are a remote system administrator’s dream come true. You can “sit” at a virtual console and check for problems, you can do all sorts of changes that would otherwise require you or your trusty technician to be seated at the server rack.

And before we forget, these two options are not mutually exclusive either. We have several customers that have both physical and cloud servers running at the same time.


As you can see, there seems to be a trend. Many people are starting to move their servers into the Cloud (private or public) and some others are starting out directly using virtual servers.

If we had to recommend one to you, it would be virtual servers, since it gives you a lot of control over resources and most importantly, how you spend your money. With physical servers you pay even if nobody is accessing your web server, however with virtual ones, you just pay for resources you use and turn them off the unnecessary ones.

Most worries today about cloud computing have to do with not knowing where the resources are located, but that´s exactly where our expertise comes in. We take care of keeping the physical layer running smoothly while you concentrate on the software side, where you can shine.

Other concerns have to do with performance, how much overhead is a virtual machine running on a networked host? and the storage layer? what about CPU? I´m fighting for usage with other customers? These are valid questions, which we will respond in a future post.

In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to try City Cloud and we can even offer you some test time if you are unsure, give us the opportunity to pleasantly surprise you.