Do you need a Dedicated Server? Published: Jun 08, 2004
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Perhaps you are wondering what dedicated servers are for, and whether you need one. Or perhaps you already know you need a dedicated server, but are stuck when it comes to choosing a host. Whichever way, here are a few guidelines that may help you in maki

Do you need a Dedicated Server?

Perhaps you are wondering what dedicated servers are for, and whether you need one. Or perhaps you already know you need a dedicated server, but are stuck when it comes to choosing a host.

Whichever way, here are a few guidelines that may help you in making your decisions:

1. Do you need a Dedicated Server?
When renting server space from a host, you basically have two options - to rent shared server space or to rent a dedicated server. With a shared hosting arrangement (often referred to as 'virtual hosting'), your web-site shares server space with other web-sites. If you rent a dedicated server, on the other hand, you get an entire server and network connection to yourself.

Shared servers are less costly to rent than dedicated servers. They usually require a lower level of technical skills too, because the host does most of the server administration. This is why shared servers are usually the best choice for entry-level web-sites or for small businesses whose web-sites do not have high traffic levels.

While shared servers are the most cost-effective option for small web-sites, they are not necessarily a good option for large, "mission-critical" or high-traffic web-sites. For these a dedicated server may well be necessary.

Dedicated servers are more expensive to rent than shared servers, and they also require a higher level of technical skill to operate. However, if you are making thousands of $$ a day from e-commerce and your business would fail if the server went down for a day or more, then you should seriously consider renting a dedicated server. Here's why:

Server Response Times and Site Traffic Management
The server response times on a shared hosting arrangement depend on what is happening with the other sites hosted on the server. Your own server response time will be affected by service interruptions on another site - for instance, if another site suddenly receives an unexpectedly high level of traffic. These interruptions will be outside your control on a shared server. With a dedicated server, on the other hand, you alone are responsible for managing, and planning for, traffic levels and other events that may affect server response times.

Flexibility and Software
With shared servers, you will have limited access to the operating system, and software applications will be limited to those, which are provided by the host. If you want to be able to install run your own advanced, customised ecommerce or database applications you will probably need a dedicated server.

As your site grows, your traffic grows and your applications become more demanding, you will need to upgrade your server. If you are using a shared server, your upgrade options will be limited. Your host will usually allow you to increase the amount of disk space available to your site -- but that is all. You will not be able to upgrade the hard drive, Ram processors, platform or software applications yourself. When you are using a dedicated server, you can do all of these things.

Information on a shared server is likely to be less secure than information on a dedicated server. A dedicated server can also be provided with its own firewall. If you are storing highly sensitive information on your server, this increased security will obviously be a high priority.
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2. Choosing a Dedicated Server Host
So, assuming you really do need a dedicated server, how then do you go about choosing the right host? Here are a few of the factors you will need to consider in making this choice.

Obviously, your choice of platform will depend to a large extent on the types of applications you are using and the skills and knowledge you already possess. The two most well known operating systems are Windows NT and Unix (which includes the Linux, and Solaris platforms). Windows NT, the more expensive option is regarded as the most user friendly and easiest to install, especially for those who use Windows on their PCs. Unix is cheaper, but there is usually a much steeper learning curve for those who are not familiar with the more arcane Unix environment.

Data Transfer
Most dedicated server providers will allow you to choose your level of data transfer, usually in gigabytes per month. Usually, you will be paying for this, so you do not want to purchase more data transfer than is realistically needed. This can always be increased as needed.

Data Backup
If you run a site, which is constantly being updated, you will need to back it up frequently. This can be a hassle. Many dedicated hosting providers will provide a back up service for you - usually for an added fee, but the convenience may be worth it.

Your server will need to be monitored constantly to prevent service interruptions. Check to see that your host can provide such monitoring, and how frequently it is done (eg every 5 mins), and what measures they use to deal with problems, which are detected.

As mentioned, running a dedicated server does usually require a greater level of technical knowledge than shared hosting. However, those who lack technical expertise may still be able to operate a dedicated server --- if the host offers some form of web-based automation to simplify the process of managing a server. Check to see if your host can offer such automation (if you think you may need it).

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