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Recommended Host for Dedicated Server
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.
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.
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.
Need more info on dedicated hosting, and how it compares to shared, VPS and cloud hosting? Not sure if you need managed or unmanaged services? Be sure to check out Chapter 2 about the "5 Types of Hosting" and Chapter 5 on "How a Web Server Works" from our Ultimate Guide to Web Hosting.
Dedicated Server Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is dedicated hosting?
Dedicated hosting is a type of web hosting plan where you have control over an entire physical server.
Does dedicated hosting mean I own the server?
No. Different hosting companies describe it differently, but usually these plans are described as leasing or renting the server equipment.
What kinds of server equipment can I get with dedicated server hosting?
All kinds. Every hosting company has their own set up that they offer. Typically, these are heavy-duty rack-mounted servers in very large data centers.
What are some advantages to dedicated hosting?
Power and control. In terms of power, you have the full resources of the physical server — they are not being shared by other hosting accounts. The biggest advantage for most users is the extreme level of control they have over the server. You can configure it any way that you like, install anything on it, and run any type of application.
Do I need to be concerned with the company’s data center?
To some extent, yes. If the data center has an unreliable power supply, poor physical security, or a relatively slow connection to the internet, all these things can have negative impacts on your server usage.
Does it matter where the data center is located?
Yes. It is usually best to have the data center reasonably close to the people it is serving (that is, in the same country). There can also be legal implications (both positive and negative) with using a server that is physically located in another country.
What operating systems can I run on a dedicated server?
Any of several Linux distributions, of course. You can also run Windows Server if you need it for certain types of applications (.NET, ASP, Silverlight), but this will, of course, come at an additional cost. With some hosting companies, you would have to handle purchasing and licensing yourself while others offer it as part of their hosting plan.
What software applications can I run on a dedicated server?
Any at all, of course. You have complete access to the server and can do (almost) anything you like with it. You can run any kind of website technology, like Ruby on Rails or Node.js. You can also use a dedicated server as a private storage hub, or as an enterprise server for company-facing services like email and productivity software.
Are there any limitations on what I can do with a dedicated server?
Terms of Service for dedicated servers usually specifically prohibit illegal content of any kind. In fact, this is one of the issues with running a server in a different country — what is and isn’t legal might be different. Obviously this includes certain kinds of sexual or graphic content, but the biggest issue is content which violates copyright law (keep in mind, different countries handle copyright law differently). You need to be especially mindful of this if you are running a site that allows users to upload their own content without editorial oversight (such as with social media sites). If you are not actively monitoring user uploads, you may find yourself hosting content that puts you afoul of the hosting company and sometimes the law.
Do I need to know a lot about server administration in order to run a dedicated server?
No, but it certainly helps. You will be responsible for the server. This includes security, software upgrades, performance, all of it. If your PHP interpreter is acting up, it will be your responsibility. If your database queries bring your system to a crashing halt, you are the one who is going to have to fix it. So you, or someone on your IT staff, is going to need to act as a SysAdmin. (On a related note, it’s hard to imagine an organization needing the resources of a dedicated server without having the requisite technical skills. If you don’t really know what to do with a server, there’s a good chance you don’t actually need one.)
Can I get the hosting company to manage my dedicated server?
Yes. Hosting companies offer “Managed Dedicated Server” plans (under various names) which have a variety of support and management services included. This can range from basic support to hands-on management and consulting. This level of support can be extremely helpful, but you will only have a good experience with a dedicated server if you or your staff are at least somewhat familiar and comfortable with server technology.
Are there any downsides to dedicated server hosting?
The expense. Unlike with a VPS, your dedicated server costs the hosting company the same in terms of physical space and computing resource whether you use it a lot or a little. For this reason, dedicated server hosting has a much higher fixed monthly or annual cost to you, the user.
Is dedicated server hosting “scalable”?
No. While a dedicated server provides much more storage and bandwidth than a traditional virtual private server, there is still a physical limit on things like processing speed and storage. Once you hit those limits, you’ll need to upgrade your hardware in order to expand.
What are the alternatives to dedicated server hosting?
Conventional or cloud-based Virtual Private Servers are the most directly comparable alternative. You can also run your own equipment in a collocation center, but that is a much more difficult and complicated undertaking.
Dedicated Server Hosting vs. Virtual Private Server hosting. Which is better?
That depends entirely on your needs. If you need a high level of customization and control, you may need a Dedicated Server. If you need flexibility combined with ease of use, you’re probably a good candidate for a VPS plan.