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For many businesses, dedicated servers are essential. A dedicated server is essentially a rented computer that is available to one customer alone. That makes dedicated servers an expensive solution, but it also gives professionals the capacity they need to run resource-intensive applications, or host websites that have to cope with huge traffic spikes.

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Why Choose Dedicated Server Hosting?

When you select this kind of hosting, you get, as the name suggests, a dedicated server all to yourself. No other website lives on that server but yours. All the server's storage space and speed are there for the benefit of your site alone. No one to compete with for page load speed. No one to compete with for uptime. And you get to choose your operating system.

Shared, VPS, Dedicated or Cloud?

Shared hosting is normally the cheapest hosting available from a web hosting company. Once a site outgrows the shared environment, it can be upgraded onto a more flexible plan with higher capacity: normally a Virtual Private Server (VPS).

The trouble with a VPS is that it's still based on sharing. In terms of its virtual existence, it's isolated, but it still shares a single physical server with a clutch of other VPS clients. There are fewer risks of problems from over-utilisation, but the VPS instances are not entirely isolated. As a consequence, VPS customers only have partial control over the hosting environment, and they can still run into problems if a neighbour behaves badly.

A dedicated server is just that: dedicated to one customer. The entire box is theirs. This means acres of space, huge bandwidth limits and no sharing. More importantly, it means that the customer is free to tweak and customise the whole environment, including the server operating system. This is often the only way to host advanced scripts and applications.

When you rent a server, you also benefit from the infrastructure that's in place: fire and disaster protection, robust physical security at the data centre, and speedy network connections to the outside world.

Dedicated Resources

You might wonder why anyone would buy a dedicated server when shared hosting offers "unlimited" resources. The fact is that "unlimited" is misleading. Shared hosting is aimed at personal or small business sites, and anything outside the norm will trigger alerts with your hosting company. Additionally, dedicated server customers can set their own rules, their own security policies and control every aspect of the software they run.

Dedicated servers are sold with fixed resources. Some hosts offer dizzying arrays of options, allowing you to choose the brand of server, operating system, RAM, disk space and software. Additionally, you can choose between managed and unmanaged; the latter is pretty risky unless you're a server administrator.

If the business outgrows its dedicated server, it can have the server upgraded or rent a second one.

Points to Remember

Buying hosting can be confusing, and it's tempting to buy the biggest and best. However, dedicated servers are not ideal for everyone because:

  • They're expensive
  • They can be difficult for non-technical people to set up
  • You really need management, or an in-house technician, if you want to avoid catastrophe
  • Dedicated servers don't give you the peace of mind that cloud hosting can offer (although some hosts do market hybrid dedicated plans
  • Like all computers, they crash, and they're difficult to bring back online

On the flipside:

  • You have your own server, which means you can do anything you want
  • You can grow your site
  • You can run chat servers and other applications that you can't run on cheap hosting plans
  • Your sites and applications will load fast
  • Your host will let you please yourself, within reason
  • You're not going to be slowed down by other customers' bad coding
  • Other customers can't complain if you hit a traffic spike
  • You can lock your server down against attack

What About Cloud Hosting?

Shared hosting is certainly designed for small sites, and VPS hosting has its limitations. Cloud hosting is ideal for businesses that experience fluctuating traffic, since you generally only pay for what you use.

The drawback of cloud hosting is that you don't have total control, so security could be more of a concern. Cloud servers can also be more difficult to monitor.

If you're not sure that dedicated is the right option, take a look at a cloud or hybrid hosting plan.

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