Buyers Guide

What is a dedicated server?

When IT professionals talk about dedicated servers, they are referring to a physical server that will be housed and hosted within the data centre of a web hosting company. This server is then rented or leased to an external client, along with necessary software and the internet connection itself. The client is then able to craft a system environment that meets their business needs within the dedicated server space. This will include elements such as their chosen operating system, any custom software requirements and - potentially - a virtualisation platform.

What other services are offered?

Most commonly, the web hosting company will also provide value-added administration offices, including disaster recovery and firewall maintenance, data backups and updates to the operating system and applications.

Benefits

There are various advantages to using dedicated servers:

Cloud-deployed updates

Clients no longer need to host hardware or update it on their premises. This reduces the cost of maintenance and servicing, physical storage space, power supply, security, networking etc.

Billing and tax

The company buying in the dedicated server service also gets to pay a regular service fee rather than a single, large initial cost for a depreciating asset.

Utilisation

Dedicated servers allow clients to fully utilise every resource and storage space without constraints such as limited memory or RAM (shared hosting can lead to difficulties with fair resource usage and allocation between different clients).

Uptime

With a dedicated server, uptime is also guaranteed and optimised for the client; something that is particularly crucial for customer-facing organisations and for those with resource-intensive digital assets and applications.

Security

Dedicated servers are more secure, as they are ring-fenced for one client, rather than shared with another user whose operations may increase the risk of security breaches. Additionally, with a dedicated server, the client can choose the level of advanced security that meets their unique business needs; something that is particularly important to regulated businesses and those which operate with confidential customer data.

Less risk

There is also less risk of IP blacklisting, as you do not share your IP address. This happens when a server's IP is linked with spamming, phishing or some other kind of malicious activity, and becomes blacklisted by an ISP. This can result in email downtime and fees to remove the blacklist status.

Administrative access

With a dedicated server, you can customise the access levels for administration. This means that the client can stay in control of how the resource is used, and act on any potential threats according to their own processes.

Technical support

Web hosting companies will typically offer a priority for support services for their dedicated server clients, because most firms that buy in these services will have applications and computing needs that are mission critical. This means that disruption to business activity is minimised in the event of a problem, and that the response team is typically available around the clock for enhanced business continuity and disaster recovery.

Common configurations

There are three typical types of configuration for hosting servers:

Shared hosting, which sees a server shared among different clients - offering a lesser cost, for a shared (and lesser) CPU and bandwidth etc.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS) - where, as with a dedicated server, the resources are ring-fenced for a single client only

Dedicated servers, which are highly powerful and more reliable than shared hosting and VPS systems.

Providers

Some of the main providers of dedicated servers include Rackspace, Hosting Source, XL Hose, Steadfast and Dream Host.

When might you need a dedicated server?

Typically, you would use one to host a website - particularly one that was large or complex. If you are currently hosting your website on a shared server and are considering a switch, you should consider these things.

Performance

Even 'unlimited' shared hosting plans tend to have soft limits placed on them, to avoid 'noisy neighbour' syndrome, where one client uses more than their fair share of resource. Dedicated servers remove this problem entirely.

Configuration

Shared hosting will typically offer the most common software configuration at the lowest price. This is acceptable for businesses with standard requirements and low budgets, but bigger brands tend to want flexibility and freedom on how they install, update and customise their software.

Security

If anything goes wrong with a shared hosting server, your data can be compromised. With a dedicated server, the client retains full access rights for administration, meaning that access to the server remains solely under control internally and that data cannot be accessed.