HOSTING

What Is Dedicated Hosting?

What Is Dedicated Hosting? We take you through the basics in this article.

Dedicated hosting has a reputation for being incredibly expensive, and something that only larger businesses can afford. While this can be true, it is not necessarily the case and over the course of this article we shall explore what dedicated hosting is, as well as some of the different options and pricing as well.

What Is Dedicated Hosting?

When thinking of dedicated server hosting the first thing that comes to mind is that you would have an entire dedicated hosting server to yourself.  I.e. no-one shares any of the resources of the server with you like you would get with shared hosting and VPS hosting. Typically, when ordering a dedicated hosting service, you would have full control over the hardware, and you would have full control over the server, including the operating system and other configuration.

Usually, the dedicated hosting server is rented from a data center or third-party provider, but many data centers also offer co-location.  Co-location is where you own the server outright, but rent space in a server cabinet along with other features and services, such as bandwidth, backups, support, etc.  Even the largest hosts will either rent or co-locate their servers in a third-party data center (see SiteGround for instance) For the purpose of this article, we will be discussing features of a rented dedicated hosting server.

Another type of dedicated hosting that is increasingly gaining traction is the sharing of a dedicated server.  Essentially, this is where a host parcels up the resources of a high-powered server into smaller pieces.  While this would appear similar to a VPS, the fundamental difference is that the resources are dedicated to the customer.  While a server offering VPS may be oversold (i.e. more resources sold than the server has on the presumption that not everyone will use all their resources), a dedicated hosting plan would ensure no overselling, and that the resources are always available to the customer when required.  In some cases, these will be called "Hybrid Hosting" (for example A Small Orange offers this), although some hosts may just call it dedicated hosting without referring to the fact the server is shared by multiple parties.  An example of the latter is Hostgator.

A Closer Look at Dedicated Hosting Servers

To see how a dedicated server differs from other types of web hosting, an easy way is to take a look at the ordering process of a few different providers.

1.  SoftLayer — Highly Configurable

SoftLayer offers Dedicated Hosting Servers with a very high degree of customization.  They provide servers for many web hosts (such as SiteGround) as well as individuals and companies. With SoftLayer, you can choose from a large number of different dedicated hosting servers all varying in cost and CPU, and then continue to configure your exact requirements.  Check out the video below (no sound) that quickly runs through the SoftLayer Ordering Process where the exact configuration of the dedicated server is carried out:

As you will see from the video there are a multitude of options to configure on your dedicated hosting server, such as:

  • Server type — The prices vary from around $150 per month for a low specification server to over $1300 per month.
  • Server Security — Configure firewalls (such as APF firewall for Linux, Hardware Firewall based on bandwidth, or Windows Firewall)
  • Amount of RAM —  Choose from just a few GB RAM, or for an extra $960 per month get a massive 512GB RAM.
  • Operating System — Choose from a multitude of operating systems, from the standard Centos or Ubuntu, to something more specialized such as  CloudLinux or Parallels.
  • Hard Drives — With web hosting the Hard Drive configuration is critical, not only to ensure responsiveness for the websites but to ensure data security.  Many of the good websites will go for something called  RAID 10. An example of Raid 10 is where you have four hard drives.  2 of the hard drives mirror the other two, so if you have failure of one of the drives, you will not lose any data as there is always a live backup copy.  Also, the two drives run in parallel, so that data is spread over the two drives so that retrieval of the data can be done by accessing both drives at the same time, doubling the retrieval speed.  Couple this with SSD drives and then you have something extremely powerful.  This is just one example though of many different types of configurations.
  • Bandwidth — Choose your uplink port speeds and the amount of bandwidth your server needs.  By customizing your plan to exactly what you need you can make sure you get the best value for your server.
  • Software — Choose what software you want installing, from cPanel WHM Softaculous, as well as your choice of Database Software.

2.  A Small Orange (or other Shared Hosting Provider that offers Dedicated Servers) — Less Configurable, but much cheaper with more support available

If you do not have much experience with Dedicated Servers, but you believe a dedicated server is the right solution, the key thing is to ensure you have sufficient support available to you.  This may by purchasing a management service at the hosting provider, or relying on a third party or someone in-house to do this for you.

We will discuss the different types of management available later in this article, but for the purpose of this section we just want to imply that some hosts will provide a much more helpful service at the expense of limited more standardized offerings.

A Small Orange for example, just offers a choice of 4 different servers:

what is dedicated server hosting ASO

Of course, when you go to sign up you do get some limited choice of configuration, and choice of management options.  The key thing, though, is that you have all the pertinent choices laid out for you, quite often at a very reasonable price.  Also, all the backups are being taken care of, as well as server security (if you choose the management option).  One great thing by going with a host that more specialized in Shared Hosting and VPS hosting is that their software support (to help you with cPanel and WHM queries) is included at no extra cost.  Companies like Softlayer, on the other hand, would not offer this, and so might not be suitable for the more novice customer.

what is dedicated server hosting

Management of Dedicated Server Hosting

Typically Dedicated Hosting comes with no management, save for hardware maintenance.  This means you need to be fairly proficient with server management or have a system admin on staff.  Many Dedicated Hosting Providers will offer varying degrees of management ranging anywhere from an extra $25 per month to several hundred dollars a month.  The level of management and what it covers will vary, as will whether management includes proactive monitoring (i.e. they will deal with server issues without being prompted by your support inquiry).

Also, software support (i.e. WHM or cPanel support) may or may not be included, and therefore you are advised to choose your provider and associated services carefully.  The following lists the different levels of support typically offered:

  • Fully managed — Includes monitoring, software updates, reboots, security patches and operating system upgrades.  Quite often the customer does not need to carry out any maintenance tasks at all.
  • Managed — Includes medium level of management, monitoring, updates, and a limited amount of support. The customer may carry out changes to the server themselves if needed.
  • Self-managed — Includes regular monitoring and some maintenance. Customers provide most operations and tasks on the dedicated server and is better suited to those who know what they are doing.
  • Unmanaged — Little to no involvement from the service provider. Customers provide all maintenance, upgrades, patches, and security.  This usually is the cheapest option, but you need extensive knowledge to run an unmanaged server successfully.

That being said, you will most likely find that hosts who primarily offer shared hosting, will offer the cheaper Dedicated Server solutions, as well as a higher degree of user, orientated support. 

Not only that, but some hosts now offer a Hybrid dedicated solution.  This is where a high-end server is divided between several users, each having dedicated resources of their share (unlike VPS Servers, where resources are shared and often oversold to some extent).

Quite often with Dedicated Solutions, you will need to create your own backup solutions which can increase the cost of the overall running of the server.  You are advised to inquire whether backup storage is available, as well as consider off-site backups.

Is Dedicated Hosting Right for You?

This is a difficult question that only really you can answer once you know what is dedicated server hosting.  Dedicated servers are usually used by those with a higher degree of knowledge and need a more complex hosting solution, whether because of the special configuration requirements, or levels of traffic and resources required.

A common misconception is that Dedicated Servers are more powerful than a VPS, but this is not always the case.  Quite often a fully managed VPS using the latest and most powerful hardware can be much faster and more powerful than a cheap dedicated server, in addition to offering greater flexibility to enable you to scale up and down as required with more or fewer resources.

Usually, a VPS will also offer a greater degree of support, and for this reason, can be a better solution, especially if you are not confident of your technical ability.  If you are looking for a VPS, we highly recommend A Small Orange, and you can read our review of their Cloud here.

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