The Definitive Guide to Dedicated Hosting
There are many different types of web hosting to choose from depending on your individual requirements. For beginners or those moving from another host, this can be an overwhelming process. Today we’re going to take a closer look at Dedicated Hosting, which is usually reserved for those who have had experience with more basic hosting plans in the past.
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What Is Dedicated Hosting?
Dedicated Hosting refers to a hosting plan where you have an entire server dedicated to your website or whatever else you decide to use it for. While the provider will manage the hardware side of the server at the data center, you can have full control over everything else from your end.
Like your own desktop computer you will have to choose a processor, RAM, hard drive, and an operating system. Your plan may also come with a set amount of “Bandwidth,” which is the amount of data you are allowed to transfer each month.
These resources are used to power your website, in much the same way your desktop computer powers a piece of software. If you have multiple programs open at once your PC uses more RAM. Likewise if multiple web users are loading up your pages at the same time, more of your server’s RAM will be used. The size of your pages will also increase the amount of RAM required.
The amount of bandwidth you consume is dependent on how big your pages are in file size, and the number of hits you get. A single 10kb html page for example that is loaded 5,000 times, will use 50mb of bandwidth. Obviously a large website with lots of traffic will require a lot more bandwidth than that.
With a dedicated server all of the recourses available are used just for you.
Dedicated Hosting vs Other Hosting Methods
Dedicated hosting is usually only used by webmasters with particularly popular websites, because they require more resources than the average. To fully understand this, it is important to understand how other forms of web hosting work.
Shared Hosting: Is the beginners form of web hosting. The provider will cram many different customers on to the same server and bill them a few dollars based on a low amount of estimated resources.
These resources are not allocated directly to each customer, so the server responds whenever a request for a page from anybody’s site is made. If 3,000 hits suddenly came all at once from Reddit the server will direct it’s resources to the page in question. However when somebody then tries to visit the page of another site the whole system is going to start slowing down, because the resources are being hogged by one site. If the host overloads the server with customers, and a few of their websites start to become popular, everybody suffers. Eventually those that go over their limits will be asked to upgrade, but the damage has already been done. It’s not very efficient at all.
A site that has become popular or a business that relies on their web presence to make money, need a hosting plan that runs efficiently and does not slow down.
You can now see why a dedicated server is so appealing. With all of the machine’s resources reserved just for you, reliability is greatly improved.
VPS Hosting: Is an option that you may want to consider before dedicated hosting. Unlike the shared environment you are guaranteed a specific amount of resources at all times, which cannot be impacted by anybody else using the server. Think of it as if everybody has been given a slice of pie, and the pie is the server. Virtual Private Servers operate exactly the same as dedicated servers on your end. You are given root access and an overarching control panel to configure the server in any way you wish. The key difference is that a virtual server is obviously virtual. In reality you are in one partition of a much bigger server. With a dedicated server you have free reign over the whole entire machine.
A fairly popular site will work just fine on a VPS, however if you’re still experiencing slow downs, and you want the freedom of having a whole server, dedicated hosting may the way to go.
Cloud Hosting: Is a newer form of web hosting that many view as a combination of VPS and dedicated hosting. It can have all of the resources and more of a dedicated server, but is still virtual.
In simple terms a host will create a massive network of different servers and then use “the cloud” to pool the resources of them all together. They can then offer plans to customers based on the amount of pooled resources. Because these networks are usually so big and set up in a very efficient manner, customers can change the amount of resources they require in real time, drawing them instantly from the pool or cloud of total resources available. This allows for pay as you go billing.
For larger sites cloud hosting may work out cheaper than dedicated hosting, but there is an overlap where dedicate hosting will work out the cheapest. Furthermore cloud networks can be poorly managed and some people still prefer the concept of renting their own single server which they have full access to.
Why Use Dedicated Hosting?
With all of this in mind, the benefits of dedicated hosting are fairly obvious:
- Extra Resources: If you’ve outgrown shared hosting plans, dedicate servers offer much more resources.
- Reliability: With the resources of the server dedicated just to you, and nobody else to impact its performance, dedicated hosting is therefore much more reliable.
- Choice: Dedicated plans are usually highly customizable, or at least there’s a lot of option to choose from. You might be able to pick the operating system you want, the number of CPU cores, the amount of memory, and all sorts of other features.
- Freedom: So long as you know what you’re doing, having access to a whole server means you can change settings you wouldn’t usually be able to. You can also install of the software and features you require, alter security, and whatever else you might want to do. You could even set the whole thing up just to operate as a mail server. The possibilities are endless.
- Security: Because there are no other users on your server this brings with it a certain boost in security. You’re not going to be impacted if somebody else is hacked or gets infected for example.
Problems With Dedicated Hosting
As much as dedicated hosting is a great solution, there are some concerns you might have as well.
- Price: Naturally because you’ll be in charge of an entire server the price is going to be much more than a shared hosting plan. This must be factored in to your budget. Will the increase in performance recoup your losses? If not, is it still a fair hedge against a decrease in traffic due to poor performance?
- Overwhelming: If you’re used to simply logging in through CPanel or FTP on a shared plan, then a dedicated server is certainly going to confuse you. Most hosts however will guide you through the process and set things up for you if you ask. However if you opt for a fully managed server it will usually add to the cost per month.
- No Scalability: Unlike cloud hosting and certain VPS plans, you cannot easily upgrade most dedicated server plans. You will either have to purchase a better server and have everything migrated over, or have new hardware installed in to the current server, both of which take time. This will cost more than in the cloud, and may cause down time as the server has to be reset and tested. It’s therefore important that you know how much resources you need and give yourself space to grow when choosing the server in the beginning.
What to Look For With Dedicated Hosting?
If you think a dedicated server is the best step to take, here are a few things to look out for to make sure you get a good deal and you have everything you might need.
- Operating System: Unless you have a technical preference the operating system of your server is not necessarily a major concern, so long as the hardware is good. The usual choice is between Windows and Linux (not to be confused with their desktop versions), though there are several others as well.
- Certain types of website require certain operating systems. For example the ASP or .net language require Windows, but chances are you’ll be using PHP which can run on all systems.
- RAM/CPU: Choosing you CPU and the amount of RAM can be a confusing process, because it’s difficult to know exactly how much your site currently uses. Common sense says you should aim somewhere in the middle of what they’re offering unless you know your site is exceptionally resource intensive.
- Bandwidth: These days bandwidth is very generous and you can often get “unlimited” or at least an amount you will never go over (we’re talking terabytes). You can check you previous hosting stats to get a clear idea about how much your site has been using each month, then apply this to your new plan.
- Managed or Unmanaged?: The amount of support you get with a dedicated server varies, and may be referred to managed or unmanaged. A managed server is monitored by the web host and if you need anything doing all you have do is drop them an email or support ticket. The basic setup and security will be handled before you even get your details, and software updates and regular process will all be done for you. If however you know what you’re doing, can install you own software, and know how to troubleshoot if something goes wrong, you may opt for unmanaged. This is a cheaper option, though you may have to pay a fee if you do end up needing help down the line.
- Extras: Do you get any extras, such as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or caching system? How many dedicated IPs do you get? Are platforms like WordPress available for 1-click install? What control panels are available to help manage the server, such as WHM?
Recommended Dedicated Web Hosts
- XLHost: Are one of the few dedicated hosts out there that offer lower spec and cheaper options, for those that want to get out of the shared or VPS environment. For $74 per month you can get a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, a whopping 10TB of bandwidth (you’re never going to exceed this) and 5 IPs. With this you also get free setup and 24/7 technical support.
- InMotionHosting: Is known for their great support and reliable hosting. Their basic dedicated plan costs $119.99 per month, for a fully managed I3 powered server, with 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, and 6TB of bandwidth.
Jumping forward to their top tier “commercial class” plan you get a whopping 64GB of RAM, a Dual Intel Xeon CPU, and 15TB of bandwidth. They allow upgrades to be added without the need to reboot, which is a great option for scalability. In other words your site will not go offline.
- LiquidWeb: Offer 3 levels of support. Self managed where server management is all down to you, core managed offers a basic level of support, while fully managed will do anything and everything. Servers start at $179 per month, but for this you get a fast 4 core Intel Xeon processor, 8GB of RAM, 250GB of space, and 5TB of bandwidth. Uploads are not counted in the bandwidth, and you also get a 1TB backup drive.
There top end option is really extreme. For $799 you get a AMD Quad Opteron processor with 64 cores!
- SingleHop: Offer a sort of quasi-cloud system whereby your dedicated server is topped up with extra resources from the cloud network when required, which they describe as “just in time” deployment. This means you’ll be safe regardless of huge viral spikes in traffic.
For $159 you get a quad-core CPU, with 16GB of RAM, two 500GB hard drives, and 10TB of bandwidth. All plans however can be customized to your own liking, even after you’ve entered in to an agreement. From you account screen you choose the changes you want to make and you can even test them based on estimated load.
- Arvixe: Allow you to choose between Windows or Linux, and have plans with up to 96GB of RAM and 10TB of bandwidth. They have 24/7 fully managed support, with nightly security updates, and a choice of which control panel to use to manage the server. They also offer cloud hosting solutions.