Bare Metal vs Virtual Machines (VM): Which One is Better?

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Bare metal servers and virtual machines are both powerful hosting solutions, making it harder to choose between the two.

Virtual machines run on bare metal servers, but the added hypervisor puts a strain on performance and multi-tenancy can compromise security.

At the same time, bare metal servers can be an expensive hosting solution that isn’t suitable for everyone. So, which one do you choose?

In this article, we will discuss the differences between bare metal and VMs to help you decide which one is better for you.

What Is a Bare Metal Server?

Bare metal servers are single-tenant hosting solutions that can power even the most demanding web hosting apps. The hardware components of bare metal servers are not shared with any other users, unlike the hardware of shared servers.

Bare metal servers are characterized by high processing power, stable and consistent performance, and ultimate security. They are also highly customizable and allow you to scale your dedicated server by adding new hardware.

Bare metal servers are also commonly known as dedicated servers. Both of these terms refer to the same hosting technology.

When you host on a bare metal server, you are the only user in that hosting space. Your hosted applications and services can therefore utilize 100% of the server’s hardware resources.

What Is a Virtual Machine?

Virtual machines are hosting servers based on software. Multiple virtual machines operate on a single bare metal server.

A layer of software called a hypervisor is installed on the bare metal server to create individual virtual machines on top of it. The hypervisor is also used to allocate the hardware resources proportionally to all virtual machines.

New virtual machines can be created instantly thanks to the hypervisor, and they can be removed at any given point if they are no longer needed.

Virtual machines created on one server share all the hardware resources, such as the CPU, GPU, storage, and RAM of the server. This makes virtual machines a multi-tenant hosting solution.

The performance of virtual machines is comparable to bare metal servers. Their performance is however impacted by the addition of a hypervisor, as well as other virtual machines running on the same server.

Comparing Bare Metal Servers vs Virtual Machines: 7 Main Differences

Virtual machines operate on bare metal servers. However, there are key differences between the two hosting solutions that make them different. Let’s go through the 7 main differences between bare metal and VMs:

#1. Tenancy

The biggest difference between bare metals servers and virtual machines is the number of tenants hosting on them.

Dedicated or bare metal servers are single-tenant solutions where only one user hosts their web services. The user can fully utilize the hardware components of their server.

Meanwhile, virtual machines are multi-tenant, because multiple of them run on a single bare metal server at the same time. A higher number of tenants on a hosting server can negatively affect performance as well as security.

#2. Security

Bare metal servers are the most secure hosting solution on the market.

They allow for custom security software to be put in place and defend the server from malware. And because there is no more than one user on the server, there are no hosting neighbors that can breach your server security.

In contrast, multiple virtual machines operate on one bare metal server, and a security flaw in one of them can compromise the security of everyone hosting on the same server.

#3. Performance

Bare metal servers and virtual machines run on identical hardware. The difference is that the same hardware is used by more than one host with virtual machines.

When hardware is shared between users and just one of them demands more power for a short period, all other virtual machines on the same bare metal server will experience a drop in performance.

The hypervisor used to create instances of virtual machines also uses part of the resources of the bare metal server, leaving behind less available resources to share between the virtual machines.

#4. Cost

There are two main ways hosting plans are billed: monthly or by the hour.

Monthly pricing plans are more common for bare metal servers, which start at $100 per month. You will pay a fixed amount per month depending on the server configuration you have chosen. If you need more resources for your hosted services, you will have to pay for a hardware upgrade.

Meanwhile, virtual machines are typically billed on a utility-based system. They are billed by the hour, and you will only pay for the resources you are actively using. The cost can vary from just a few cents per hour to a few dollars if your resource usage is high.

When your hosted services on a virtual machine demand more resources, your server will automatically scale and the hourly cost will increase. The price will drop as soon as your resource usage goes down.

#5. Customization

Bare metal servers can be customized at any time during your hosting contract. You can build your custom dedicated server to start with, or you can choose from standard dedicated hosting plans and upgrade them if you need to in the future.

Virtual machines are not customizable, as you cannot pick which components go in them. Rather, you get to choose from a variety of configurations, and you can add on more VM instances for higher performance. This process can happen automatically to accommodate bursts in performance.

#6. Deployment

Another major difference between bare metal vs VMs is the time it takes to deploy a new server upon purchase.

When you buy a dedicated server, it can be delivered in as little as 4 hours or up to 24 hours from the time you buy it. It can take some time for you to migrate your files and start hosting on a dedicated server.

On the other hand, virtual machines are delivered almost instantly, since they are immediately created when you purchase them. You can start using your virtual machine right away.

#7. Scalability

Both bare metal servers and virtual machines are easily scalable, but the way scaling is done is different for each of them.

To scale a bare metal server (either up or down) requires physically swapping hardware components. If you are trying to scale up your server due to a surge in traffic on your website, you might just miss it and be left with unnecessary hardware at the end of the process.

While using virtual machines scalability is done much faster. Virtual machines immediately scale up the hardware resources to accommodate traffic peaks without interrupting your hosted services. This process happens automatically, and when the traffic surge is over the server resources go back to normal.

Bare Metal vs VM: Which One Should You Get?

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Bare metal servers and virtual machines are both excellent hosting solutions and provide high-performance platforms for hosting your web services. They are however suitable for different purposes.

Bare metal servers are ideal for:

  • Hosting critical applications that constantly demand high performance
  • Hosting in large industries that cannot compromise on security
  • IPTV streaming services
  • Online education platforms
  • Storage and backup solutions
  • Media and news outlets

Virtual machines are excellent for:

  • Developers testing applications that temporarily need powerful hosting
  • Startup applications and websites that are scaling up
  • Websites that receive high traffic seasonally
  • Companies trying to save on hosting costs

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