What is Dedicated Server Hosting

Understanding what dedicated server hosting is, its advantages, and disadvantages. Find out if it's right for you or not.

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We know that every website needs a server to host it, be it an eCommerce store, a blog, or a web application.

But as with all the other things today, there are many choices available to host a website. In another post, I had written about the nine different types of web hosting.

If we place them on a pricing scale, then it starts with shared hosting on the cheaper side and dedicated server hosting on the expensive side. 

However, the classification is not permanent. As technology evolves, new types can come, and existing ones can become obsolete.

The recent emergence of Web 3.0 is an example. It is opening new possibilities in how we operate the web via decentralized websites and applications (dApps). It may even eliminate the need for web hosting, at least as we know it now. Who knows?

But for the time being, it looks like Web 3.0 is going to co-exist with Web 2.0, which is the web that we’re using currently. So, choosing the right web hosting is still quite relevant.

In this post, we’ll discuss what dedicated hosting is, and when you should use it.

Many of the articles about dedicated hosting found online are either too technical or mundane, written from the perspective of an expert technician working for enterprises. There is no wonder in it as dedicated servers are an expensive purchase.

But I am not someone who has a lot of experience with dedicated servers. So I am going to take a different approach. Let me look at it from the perspective of a wannabe entrepreneur, so that when it’s time to pick a hosting, I can avoid the “I don’t know whether dedicated hosting is right for me or not” moment.

So here are the things I learned.

What is Dedicated Hosting

To give you a popular analogy, shared hosting is like renting a bed in a dormitory. You get a place to stay but you need to share the place and resources with others. If they are noisy or exploitative, it can affect you.

In stark contrast to that, dedicated hosting is like purchasing or renting your own house.

You get complete access to a physical (i.e., it is not virtual as in a VPS) server. For the same reason, dedicated hosting is also called single-tenant hosting.

Again there are different types of dedicated hosting, which we will discuss below.

Different types of dedicated hosting

1. Unmanaged Dedicated Servers

This is the most common and cheapest form of dedicated server hosting. When you purchase an unmanaged server, the hosting company gives you administrative access to a physical server located at one of their data centers. 

You can connect to it remotely from your desktop computer using the SSH protocol, just like the way you connect to any VPS or cloud server that allows root access.

You don’t need to be physically present at the data center to manage a dedicated server. It can be located in any part of the world. It is the job of the hosting company to provide secure housing for the physical server, which includes setting up power systems, networks, proper cooling systems, etc.

Since it is unmanaged, it’s your responsibility to configure the server, install the operating system, and other applications. You should also take care of the regular maintenance and security updates of the software, much like managing an unmanaged VPS. It usually requires a DevOps engineer(s) or a team to handle IT operations.

  • Access to a full physical server
  • Remotely controlled using SSH
  • You’re responsible for the maintenance, security, and software configuration.

2. Managed Dedicated Hosting

Don’t want the hassle of managing a server but still want the freedom of a dedicated server? Then you can go for a managed hosting option.

It usually comes at an additional cost. But it relieves you from the pain of server management. The hosting provider installs a control panel software like cPanel or WHM, which gives a graphical user interface to access the server and manage applications.

3. Bare Metal Servers

Another buzzword that has gained popularity in recent years is bare metal servers. But this is also one thing I don’t fully understand, to be honest.

Some people, including web-hosting providers, say that a bare metal server is the same as traditional dedicated servers while others say that it is not entirely the same.

Anyways from what I read online, here are a few things that I have understood: 

  • First, bare metal servers use more advanced hardware than traditional dedicated servers.
  • Second, it employs some methods, which makes it easier to provision faster.
  • Another important difference is in the pricing. Bare metal servers are often available for pay-as-you-go pricing. This is because they are faster to provision, usually within minutes. Whereas traditional dedicated servers can take several hours to provision.

4. On-premise Hosting

When you purchase a dedicated server from a 3rd-party web hosting company, the infrastructure is still with that company, not you.

But that might not be ideal for everyone, especially in fields where security is a major concern. Examples are banking, healthcare, and finance.

Such organizations may want to set up all the infrastructure at their own premises and manage everything on their own. This makes sure that they have control over every aspect of their servers.

However, on-premise dedicated hosting is usually the most expensive and difficult to manage. Not only the software but you also need technicians to manage the hardware.

In addition to that, you also need proper constructions to securely house the servers. It includes power generators, cooling systems, server racks, etc.

5. Colocation Hosting

Colocation hosting stands in between on-premise and unmanaged dedicated hosting. Consider it as the best of both worlds.

You rent a space at a third-party data center, which provides you with secure housing, electricity, networking, cooling systems, server racks, and other security features.

You can take your devices there and connect them at their location. So it allows you to own your own devices without worrying about the security of managing a complete infrastructure.

Reasons to Buy Dedicated Server

Dedicated hosting is quite expensive and powerful. But it may not be the right choice for everyone even if you are a big business. Maybe a cloud hosting plan that offers better entry-level pricing and scalability may be a better option for you.

Before making such an expensive decision, you should convince yourself that you really need a dedicated server.

Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have any resource-intensive applications to run that can put a lot of stress on CPU, memory, and bandwidth?
  • Are these demands mostly stable? Or do you just receive some occasional or seasonal spikes in traffic?
  • Do you have any specific requirements that make single-tenant servers a necessity?
  • Is the performance of utmost importance to you so that you want to avoid even the slightest of latency?

If your answers to most of these questions are yes, then you might need a dedicated server.

Let us analyze the reasons one by one:

1. Resource-intensive applications

Just that you receive a lot of traffic may not be enough to justify purchasing a dedicated hosting. If your site is mostly static in nature, then you could easily maximize the performance of your existing VPS or cloud server using efficient caching practices.

On the other hand, if your site is highly dynamic and requires several database operations, then it can easily consume a lot of server resources. Large eCommerce sites are an example.

So, find out whether your application is actually taxing the CPU and memory resources. For that, you can consider conducting load testing and profiling on a staging server, local machine, or a cloud server.

Check out the graphs to understand the CPU usage, memory usage, and bandwidth consumption.

2. Stable demands

Unlike cloud hosting, which is often available for pay-as-you-go pricing, dedicated servers require you to lock in for yearly or at least monthly billing periods.

So, dedicated hosting makes sense only if your usage pattern stays the same, or grows steadily over a period of time. 

Otherwise, if you receive traffic spikes only on occasions, which comes and then fades away, then there is no need to keep a dedicated server on for the whole time. It results in a wastage of resources and money. Instead, a cloud server that supports automatic scale-up and scale-down is a better option.

3. Single-tenancy is a must

Although some people believe that cloud and VPS servers are not secure since they are multi-tenant, it’s not entirely true. If it was insecure then huge businesses like Netflix will not be using cloud platforms like AWS, GCP, and others.

However, some businesses may still need that assurance, which only a dedicated server can give.

Banking, finance, and healthcare applications may have special regulatory requirements to meet, which makes single tenancy a must. You can rest assured that nobody else is using the same physical machine as yours.

4. Maximum performance

If you take a cloud or a VPS and dedicated server with identical specifications, then the dedicated server may exhibit better performance. The reason is that it has no virtualization layer in between.

On a cloud server, you don’t get direct access to the physical machine. Instead, you are only accessing the virtual machine created from physical machines via hypervisors that sits on top of them.

And when you install an operating system like Linux, you are actually installing it on the virtual machine (guest operating system). So it always involves an additional layer, which potentially increases the latency.

In contrast to that, on a dedicated server, you can install the operating system directly on the physical machine, minimizing the latency.

Who uses it – some examples

To get a better idea, I also did some research on some real-world use cases for dedicated servers. I wanted to know what kind of businesses use them.

And the best places to learn about them are case studies. Many web hosting companies publish case studies explaining how their customers were able to solve their problems using their products.

In one of those case studies published by A2Hosting. I came to know about Gemtracks, an e-commerce site selling music tracks. It allows multiple creators to list their music tracks and allow users to purchase licenses.

Such popular eCommerce websites need to handle a lot of concurrent visits and execute frequent transactions from around the world.

Another one I saw is Adjust – an analytics platform for mobile applications. The working of analytics platforms revolves around data, which requires frequent reads and writes. So it can be quite resource-intensive, justifying the need for dedicated server hosting.

I also came to know about hosting companies that purchase dedicated servers from another company and then resell them. 

For instance, you can purchase an unmanaged dedicated server from a company like Liquid Web, then create multiple shared hosting plans out of it and sell it to your customers under your branding.

You can even create a website builder platform like Squarespace and host it on a dedicated server, then sell packages to your users, allowing them to create websites on their own.

  • Busy eCommerce sites
  • Data processing applications
  • Web hosting resellers
  • SaaS applications

Where to get & How much it costs

To get an idea of the hosting prices, I looked at some of the popular hosting companies out there. From what I have seen, most companies offer servers from 16GB memory and upwards.

Among them, Vultr Bare Metal seems to be one of the cheapest.

InMotion HostingLiquid WebVultr Bare MetalA2 Hosting
*month-to-month prices (can change – please the respective sites for up-to-date prices)

OVHcloud also has some great offerings starting from less than $60/month for 32GB servers. However, it comes with HDDs instead of SSDs, which can be slower. If you add NVMe SSDs, then the price goes above $100/mo.

Wrapping up

I hope this post helped you to get an idea about dedicated hosting, when to get it, and where to get it.

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Abhinav Raveendran is a blogger with a keen interest in learning web trends and exploring the world of WordPress. Apart from that, he also has a passion for nature photography and travel.

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