Most Web hosting companies offer packages that mean your site shares a server with several other companies. This shared hosting model is fine if you’re a relatively small business but as you grow there may come a time when you need to look at getting a dedicated server to look after your needs alone.
This doesn’t, of course, mean that you need to have the server on your own site. You can still use a specialist hosting company but what dedicated hosting means is that an entire server is set aside for your own use. Although you don’t control it directly it means you get an input into the choice of hardware and software used.
The advantages are in performance, security and stability and control – you can choose when scheduled downtime takes place for example. Dedicated hosting is expensive though so it’s best suited to sites that are likely to carry a high volume of traffic.
Factors to Consider
Many of the considerations you need to take into account when choosing a dedicated host are the same as those for a more standard shared hosting service. Though you rent or own the server itself the hosting provider will still charge you for bandwidth and with a high traffic site this will be a major factor. Often bandwidth is pooled such that you will have access to additional capacity that’s shared with other sites in order to allow for spikes in traffic at peak times.
A dedicated server should offer you more control over what software is used. You can therefore install your own scripts or shopping cart solutions in order to fully customise the setup to your needs. The hosting package will usually include a control panel that allows you to access and manage the server remotely. This means that your own IT staff can be in charge of updates and changes to the site even though it’s physically located elsewhere. Note that this is not to be confused with full server management – the ability to install and update operating systems and so on – which is usually retained by the hosting company.
Key Points to Look At
- Backup – make sure your host has a backup regime in place. Ask how often the server will be kept and how long copies of data are retained before being overwritten.
- Disaster recovery – in the event of a major problem what measures are in place. Is there a hot site backup? How long will it take to switch across to an alternative system?
- Security – what anti-virus, firewall and anti-spam protection is in use? If you have a dedicated server do you get to install your own preferred solutions?
- Uptime requirements – you should look for guaranteed uptime in excess of 99.5%. Make sure this is written into the contract.
- Operating system – which OS will the server use? Do you have a choice and how much control do you have over when updates and new versions are implemented?
- Access – how much access does the server control panel convey? Are your employees able to access the server remotely and securely, via a VPN for example?
- Service fees – you need to understand what you’re paying for. Common fees include server rental, bandwidth charges, operating system and software licences, and management fees. There may also be one-time setup fees.
Moving to a dedicated server for your hosting is a major step. But when your business reaches a critical point where you’ve outgrown shared solutions it can offer the best way of providing a reliable online presence for your customers.
Jann Webb is a freelance writer and former systems analyst. When looking for dedicated hosting she recommends you choose a reliable supplier such as Ant Hosting.