A dedicated server is one computer on a web hosting providers network that is dedicated exclusively to one website or customer. These servers are usually rented by customers who have either software requirements of a proprietary nature or large, resource hungry sites that require large amounts of disk space, memory, processing power and bandwidth. On the other hand, most small websites will little traffic tend to be clustered with a crowd of other sites on the same server.
Dedicated server providers set up rows of servers either routed together or separately in their data centers with technicians nearby 24/7 who monitor data flow, up-time, and performance. Renting a dedicated server for large projects allows more control, security and flexibility over your business and web properties.
When contemplating hardware selection for a dedicated server, the main concerns should be selecting the appropriate CPU (either single or multi-core), RAM, uplink speed, hard drive space and bandwidth that will provide optimal performance for the operating system you plan on running. Whether you choose Unix, Linux, Mac, Windows, Red Hat, FreeBSD, Fedora or Debian, the choice should be based on the type of software and other web applications you intend to use.
Depending on the tasks you need the server to perform, make sure the CPU can deliver even more processing power than required, as you never want a server to be running at full capacity even during peak traffic hours. The two leading processor manufacturers are Intel and AMD, so you will most likely be choosing between them. The amount of RAM is also crucial. You can never have too much memory so obtain as much RAM as your budget will allow when ordering your dedicated server. The amount of hard drive space can vary wildy. Just because a dedicated server is required for your service doesn't mean you need a large amount of disk space. If you are following a strict budget this may be one area you can save some money by selecting a smaller drive. Just be sure you choose a hard drive with enough headroom for future growth.
Since most hard drives will eventually fail, it is vital to keep current backups to preserve your data. One way to accomplish that is to make use of a RAID-1 array. RAID-1 mirrors the data of your main storage drive to a second hard drive. Two hard drives are required to make use of this feature.
Always be aware of how much bandwidth usage you average on a monthly basis and monitor trends to determine if you will require more bandwidth in the future. Usually 1000GB per month is more than enough bandwidth for medium and even large traffic web sites.
Another reason dedicated servers can provide more security over a shared hosting environment is they provide full control of what ports are used, allowing you to close unnecessary ports or ports that pose a security risk. This is important because the more open ports a server has exposed online, the more you risk security breaches. The main ports you will need open are 80 for HTTP, 25 for SMTP and 110 for POP3.
Dedicated servers are typically divided into managed and unmanaged. A managed dedicated server is overseen by the service provider while an unmanaged dedicated server is maintained by the customer who has the responsibility of updating their own software, limiting the dedicated server provider's oversight to connectivity and network issues. Usually unmanaged servers are for tech savvy users with experience and knowledge of dedicated server maintenance. A managed dedicated server gives the service provider more responsibility, acting as a guide to dedicated servers, ensuring software updates, patches, security monitoring and hardware maintenance as well as troubleshooting connectivity. Fully managed dedicated servers are more suited for the web owner who lacks the technical expertise or does not have sufficient time to update and monitor a server. Managed servers are also more much expensive for obvious reasons.
The main benefit of dedicated servers is expanded resources compared to shared servers. This flexibility lets enables the customer to install whatever programs they wish to the server, such as ecommerce solutions or database platforms. If your site relies on open source development, you will want a dedicated server so that software compatibility won't become a limiting factor.
The only real advantage to a shared server is that it's usually very cheap or even free, which is fine if you have a basic blog or personal site with little requirements. However, the more interactivity you want to add to your site, the more reason you will benefit from the resources of a dedicated server. As a helpful guide to dedicated servers, the amount of web traffic your site attracts is a primary concern. Shared servers work well for low traffic sites, though it is necessary for high traffic sites to migrate to dedicated servers because large amounts of simultaneous traffic eats up CPU cycles and RAM. A large site running on a shared hosting account would likely cripple the server, causing problems for everyone. Dedicated servers are also useful for setting up custom remote access.
Another benefit of dedicated servers is they provide more administration control of your site, especially if you have paying customers. As soon as your business picks up, you will want various types of software added to simplify analytics, accounting, secure connections, customer service and sales transactions. This means you will need the extra security and performance that shared servers usually can't provide.