Many have heard the term, but what is dedicated hosting? What are the benefits of a dedicated server? Here, we shall look at dedicated hosting services and who would benefit from using such a service rather than a regular shared hosting account. First:
What is Dedicated Hosting?
Quite simply, a dedicated hosting service is one that offers you the benefits of a dedicated server. Rather than share a server without thousands of others, or even just having your own part of a server such in VPS hosting, you get the whole thing for your own use. Naturally, you pay for this, so it is not for the beginner.
If you have large volumes of traffic, such as large online companies and some large, popular blogs have, shared hosting doesn’t do the job, and neither does VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting in many cases. The same is true if you need more security than is possible by sharing a server, even if you have your own piece of it as in VPS.
Dedicated hosting services are generally the most reliable of these three options, and you are not sharing your server with anyone. It is, therefore, more secure. You have complete control over your server, and while the network staff may help you with some of the fundamental aspects such as hardware upgrades and operating systems, you generally manage it all yourself.
In effect, you are leasing a server for your own exclusive use and can choose your own operating system, hardware and so on. You don’t normally use this type of hosting if you need cPanel to run your website – but you can! Unmanaged dedicated server hosting services are usually used by web professionals and system administrator specialists. Here are some more factors involved in server management.
Dedicated Server Management
Managed hosting services, such as managed VPS and shared hosting, are turnkey operations where you simply set up your website or blog and off you go. Such services are targeted to people who have relatively little knowledge of server technology. You can also get fully managed dedicated hosting services for those same people but with extremely large blogs and websites.
As yet, there have been no formal standards set to define what services should be provided by the dedicated server providers. What this means is that terms such as ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’ are defined differently by different providers. It is important, therefore, that you establish what is done for you and what you have to do before you sign up for any dedicated service.
That said, because of the potential complexity of managing your own server, hosting providers may offer you any of a number of levels of managed dedicated hosting services.
Managed Dedicated Hosting Services
Such services range from fully unmanaged to fully managed. Prices tend to increase as you go from one level of management to the other. Here are the four levels of management you can generally find when you purchase dedicated web hosting:
You are provided with the server, and you deal with upgrades, maintenance, security and everything else. This type of service obviously costs less because the provider is saving on administrators, security, customer service and so on. You save money by doing all that yourself. This is only for the experts, or those employing experts.
Self-Managed Dedicated Hosting
This term refers to the provision of basic management by the provider, such as basic server maintenance and monitoring. Customers may install their preferred operating system (OS), security systems and databases. No support is usually provided with self-managed dedicating hosting. You would normally have your own IT staff.
Managed Dedicated Hosting
We are making a distinction here between ‘managed’ and ‘fully managed’ because there is a difference between them in the level of help offered by the provider and also in cost. With managed hosting, the provider will carry out a higher level of maintenance and monitoring. There will be a greater degree of server management and updating provided, and a small amount of support.
Fully Managed Dedicated Server Hosting
The customer has nothing to do with the server side of the operation. This is generally similar to shared hosted or VPS, only customers have their own servers. This is the most costly way of using a dedicated server for your site. However, you are less likely to require IT staff, with server-side training.
Lack of Common Service Definitions
It should be appreciated that, as explained earlier, there are no written definitions of each of these types of hosting services. Thus, self-managed to one company could be fully managed to another. You must therefore have your service fully defined before you commit to it, or you might get a nasty shock!
Although service definitions may vary between providers, client expectations will tend to ultimately bring them together to a common definition. However, if you are good with server technology you should be able to operate with a fully unmanaged server, and if you know nothing about it, then go for fully managed. Anything in between will become suitable for you as you learn.
Many newer companies in the field do not offer managed hosting services because they do not have the expertise. A fully unmanaged service enables them to leave the customer to manage their own server. Here are some aspects of dedicated hosting in greater detail.
Operating Systems and their Support
There are alternative operating systems (OS) that can be used on a server. Open source OS, such as Linux and UNIX variations, are frequently included free of charge. There is also a commercial version of Linux, known as Red Hat Enterprise. This is an extension of Linux that is offered to clients for a monthly charge that includes regular updates. Microsoft SPLA can be used to provide the Microsoft Windows server, again adding to the cost of your hosting.
Operating systems frequently need updating to add new versions of such aspects of the OS as security changes, patches and vulnerabilities. Service packs, kernel upgrades and security patches help to maintain the core in a safe and invulnerable state. This is the type of installation and security management you would do yourself with a fully unmanaged service.
Security of Dedicated Servers
By their nature, dedicated servers are far more secure than shared servers. You have no other users sharing your storage space, with all the potential security risks that bring. Not only that, but you can add your own security systems if you wish: firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware systems and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection systems. Your web hosting can be as secure as you can possibly make it, and you are not restricted to what server security is provided by the hosting service.
Dedicated Web Hosting Costs
As stated earlier, costs vary with the level of management provided and with the cost of the OS and security systems if they come with the type of service you choose. Prices are coming down with increasing competition in the field, and you can get fully unmanaged hosting for as little as $39 and as much as $1,000/month. Here are some ball-park prices to the nearest dollar (all monthly):
- HostGator: Fully managed – $79 – $128.99
- Bluehost: Fully managed – $150 – $250
- DreamHost: Fully managed – $149 – $249
- InMotion: Fully managed – $99.99 – $229.99
The actual cost of these dedicated web hosting services will vary according to the amount of storage space, bandwidth and file transfer you require, and also with the level of management provided and the equipment supplied. Keep in mind that you will have other costs according to the equipment and software you have to buy and install yourself.
Dedicated service from the regular shared hosting companies such as HostGator and Bluehost is good for standard blogs and websites with large volumes of traffic and lots of pages and posts. It is also good for sites dealing in music and photo downloads where high volumes of large files are constantly being processed.
The others may be more suited to larger professional companies with their own IT staff, particularly the higher priced servers capable of securely handling extremely large volumes of traffic.
It is not easy to decide when you need the benefits of a dedicated server. Generally when you begin to suffer downtime, and slow downloading and uploading speeds, or frequently exceed your allocated storage or bandwidth (if any limit), then it may be time to think of a dedicated hosting service. Discuss your needs with an expert before jumping in with both feet – your solution must be tailored to your needs for the best and most cost-effective result.