To be available to their users, all websites need to be on a computer somewhere, connected to the internet and world wide web. You can either organise this yourself, or let a hosting provider do some or all of it for you. The degree to which the provider does this, is what differentiates the types of hosting you can buy.
Hosting, your way
Unlike with virtual/shared/reseller hosting your own bare-metal dedicated server should allow you to customise the hosting to suit your needs and provide you with complete isolation from other customers and what they get up to as the whole of the physical hardware is dedicated to you.
It’s also where things can get more complicated in terms of support and help, read on for more.
Hassle or hassle free?
Just like with a cloud/virtual server, this is where things can become a hassle, broadly speaking there are two classes of management you can expect with a dedicated server:
Un-managed – Bar installing the OS, it’s all up to you to install the software you need, keep up to date with security and fix any problems
Fully Managed – The provider will take care of everything for you with the caveat that “everything” differs between providers!
If you’re just moving on from virtual or reseller hosting then you’re probably going to want a fully managed solution unless you’re familiar with running your own servers – do you really want to be learning on the job with your live apps/sites?
Hosting as a holiday
Imagine for a moment that each type of web hosting is like holiday accommodation, a dedicated server would be like having your own private villa with a pool, it’s all dedicated just to you. You’ve got no one else using your villa or pool (hardware) and the only people using your kitchen and bathroom (resources) are the people (customers) you’ve invited (hosted) to holiday with you.
If you want to take up the whole pool with a dozen giant pink inflatable flamingos then that’s up to you, it’s your pool after all.
Is a dedicated server right for my customers’ websites?
Unfortunately it’s not always as simple as, “I need 200GB of space and this server has 500GB so it’ll do“. There are a number of things you need to consider, here’s our top 5 things to consider when looking at different types of website hosting.
We’ve rated each of the areas out of 5 based on our own services to help you quickly compare the different types of hosting available. As there’s a lot of variation between providers you should always check any assumptions before signing up.
Ease of use
When it comes to hosting having your own server is a big step up from virtual hosting. If you’re opting for a cheaper un-managed solution you’ll need to know about managing servers, database software, firewalls, security updates etc.
If you’re opting for a managed solution then it can be as easy as using a shared/virtual hosting account if the service comes with a control panel. You’ll still need to check that the provider will support the software you need, often “Fully Managed” can just mean, “We’ll look after the bits we install as standard, but everything else is on you” – we should know, we’ve had to provide support services for customers with services at a “fully managed” server provider before now.
We’ve given this 2.5 as it can really be anything from 1 to 5 and we offer both un-managed and fully-managed options depending on your needs.
This is where a dedicated server can excel compared to other forms of hosting, with much larger resource allocations (our dedicated servers go up to 128 CPU cores and 1TB+ RAM for example).
It’s important to remember though that some of those CPU/memory/disk resources will be taken up by the operating system and the various services running your sites/apps e.g. database server, email server, security software unlike with shared/virtual hosting where the provider will usually be covering that. This is often less of a concern compared to a cloud server as you’ve usually got a lot more resources to start with though.
We’ve scored this 5/5 as it’s the best way to get more resources for your sites until you move on to more complex infrastructure with your own private cloud.
This is probably the area where providers vary the most. Some will talk the good talk with lots of mentions of “fully managed” etc. whilst not walking-the-walk so it’s important that you check what your chosen provider will actually do:
Are they providing any support at all? (Managed vs. un-managed)
Are they providing support for the software you need to use? Or only software they originally installed for the service?
Are they proactive or reactive with issues?
Are they monitoring your sites/apps to make sure they are functioning?
Will they help diagnose slowdowns in your apps/sites?
Will they help you scale your sites/apps as your userbase grows?
Above all, it’s important not to make any assumptions when comparing providers, always check that you will get the support you need as providers vary enormously in their definitions of managed/fully managed services.
This is where having your own dedicated server can really start to come in to it’s own, just like with a virtual cloud server:
Need a different system/service configuration? No problem.
Need a specific piece of software to run your sites/apps? No problem.
Need to run jobs that take a couple of hours? No problem.
Now with some providers (us included) you can start customising the hardware as well:
Need less CPU but more memory? No problem.
Need more CPU but not a lot of storage? No problem.
Need lots of local storage? No problem.
Need a GPU? No problem.
Of course the caveat again, is that if you want a truly fully managed service you’ll need to check with your provider if they’ll support what you want to do.
As 100% of the hardware is dedicated to you, that also means so are 100% of the costs, so a dedicated server is going to cost more than a similar cloud server will.
Just like with a cloud server you need to bear in mind is the cost of any extra software e.g. control panel, enterprise software, security software etc. which can often add 10-25% on to the monthly cost depending on the software.
Potential downsides and issues
A key part of our ethos is honesty and integrity, and that means we need to point out some potential downsides to dedicated servers. That’s not to say they will be a problem for you and your customers, just that they could be depending on circumstances.
Unlike with a cloud server a traditional bare-metal dedicated server won’t come with any failover built in, so if the server has an issue then your apps/sites will be offline. You can of course you can fix this by having multiple servers and building a highly available service, but that comes at additional costs. Modern server hardware also tends to be incredibly reliable and robust so for a lot of workloads this isn’t an issue e.g. If you lose £500/hour and once every 3 years you had an hour of downtime then it probably isn’t appropriate to spend the extra, but if you have a team of 50 developers unable to work for an hour and your sites are losing £10,000/hr then it probably is.
If you are concerned about application/site availability then please book a chat with our team and we can discuss various options with you and help you work out what is appropriate.
Not always easy to upgrade
Depending on how long you’ve had dedicated server and it’s initial specification it might not be so easy to upgrade and add more resources to it such as CPU/memory/storage. It also depends on the provider, with many only offering set specifications.
Generally speaking if you provider builds systems to order then they’re probably going to let you add more memory, more storage and more/better CPUs depending on the server used.
If this is something you are worried about then you should check with any potential provider. You can also book a call with one of our team and we’ll walk you through the options available to you.
Highly configurable, both software and hardware
Huge range of resource offerings from 4 – 128 cores, GBs to TBs of RAM etc.
It’s all yours, no sharing with anyone else
Your own IP address
Can be more expensive that most other forms of hosting (depends on the number of apps/sites you’re hosting on it)
Not as easy to upgrade/downgrade services as needed
May need to manage the server yourself or pay to have some manage it
Dedicated servers are the ultimate in standard hosting, the last step before more complex solutions such as private cloud, microservices etc. and offer the best value when it comes to larger CPU, memory and storage requirements far outstripping their cloud counterparts.