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What is a Dedicated Server?

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There are a few different ways to answer the question, “What is a dedicated server?”

At the most basic level, the answer would be, “A server that’s committed to one single business or purpose.” While that does answer the question, it doesn’t really provide any context so let’s dig deeper.

If you were a Web hosting company, the answer would be, “A server that’s rented by an individual or business for their exclusive use but hosted in one of our data centers.”

If you were a network manager, the answer would be, “A server that’s dedicated to one purpose such as an application server, a print server, a mail server, a Web server or another purpose exclusively.”

If you’re feeling like your head’s full of technical mumbo-jumbo jargon, don’t worry! This article will break it all down for you below. Ready? Let’s dive in!

What is a Dedicated Server?

A dedicated server is, by definition, “A server that’s rented by an individual or business for their exclusive use but hosted in one of our data centers.”

When an individual or business rents a dedicated server from a hosting company, it’s typically for one of two reasons:

To host a high-traffic, resource intensive website, or

To host a high-traffic, resource intensive application.

Notice a pattern?

Yep, a dedicated server is the fix when you need to handle high traffic volume and manage resource-intensive tasks.

You see, with shared hosting, you don’t have the full power of the server at your command. You’re sharing it. Thus, the eponymous name. This is fine until your needs outgrow a shared hosting set-up or, in the cases when shared hosting fails, to meet your needs in the first place.

Take a look at two common scenarios:

A High-Traffic eCommerce Website

As your business grows, so does the traffic to your website. As the volume of your transactions grows, so does the load you’re putting on your Web server.

A website with high traffic and resource needs will begin to strain a shared hosting server. Soon, both your site and the other sites sharing your server will slow down or even freeze when the server’s capacity is exceeded.

With a dedicated server, you don’t need to share. You’re free to use 100 percent of the server to handle your traffic and manage your transactions. If your needs outgrow your server, you can upgrade to a bigger and faster server, something that your growing business should be ready to support.

The downsides of hosting your website on a dedicated server include greater costs and the need to manage more of the back-end technical side than you do in a shared hosting environment.

In the end however, you may find that you have no option but to move your website to a dedicated server: if your business needs the power, you either move up or suffer the loss of business and opportunity that a slow or frozen site will bring.

A Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) Solution Server

If you’ve ever used an online solution to manage your finances, send your emails or share your files, then you’ve used a software-as-a-service (SAAS) solution already.

SAAS solutions live on the Web and as such, they need to be accessible 24×7. Successful SAAS solution companies need a server that can handle heavy traffic and super-heavy resource needs. As with the high-traffic ecommerce website example above, they need a dedicated server.

From a cost perspective, this is a wise choice. Renting a dedicated server versus buying one is cheaper up front. In addition, many hosting companies provide support, server management and backup services that small businesses can leverage.

The more technically savvy among you may ask, “Why doesn’t the SAAS provider use cloud servers?” That’s a good question.

Cloud servers are just like dedicated servers except when they’re not. You see, a cloud server looks and feels like a dedicated server — you have full control over the back end and the software and utilities you install.

However, unlike a dedicated server, a cloud server is a virtual solution, a dedicated server that exists only in name. In reality, a cloud server may well share a physical server with many other cloud servers and that means that cloud servers share some of the same drawbacks as shared hosting. Yes, they’re more secure and you have more control but once again, you’re sharing resources with others.

Because they’re cheap and easy to throw up and take down, many SAAS solution providers use cloud servers for development and quality insurance. Once their solution is ready to be updated, they move it over to the heavy-duty dedicated server.

That said, you should always research and make the dedicated vs. cloud server decision based on the needs of your business.

“A server that’s dedicated to one purpose such as an application server, a print server, a mail server, a Web server or another purpose exclusively,” was the third definition of a dedicated server. Remember?

When a business grows to a certain size, assigning specific tasks to dedicated servers begins to make sense. Even a small business on the “smaller” end of small may find it useful to do so in some cases.

AspectHigh-Traffic eCommerce WebsiteSAAS Solution Server

Resource Needs and Traffic GrowthHigh traffic and transactionsHeavy traffic and resource-intensive

Server Load on Shared HostingStrains shared hosting serverRequires dedicated server for reliability

Benefits of Dedicated ServerFull server usage, scalabilityImproved reliability, scalability

DownsidesHigher costs, more technical managementInitial cost savings with dedicated server

Support and Backup ServicesNeed to manage more technical aspectsLeverage hosting company support

Cloud Server vs. Dedicated ServerConsider dedicated server for performanceCloud servers may be used for development

Specific Task Assignments with GrowthUseful for businesses with growing resource needsSuitable for SAAS solutions and larger businesses

Here are two common scenarios:

Taking Your Dedicated Server Hosting In-House

In either of the scenarios above, an individual or business may decide to buy and manage their own dedicated servers in-house.

The two biggest benefits of this approach are:

Total control over the sever setup, configuration and management; and
Complete ownership and security for sensitive customer and business data.

The downsides of owning and managing your own dedicated servers include the need for in-house technical know-how, the cost of space to house the servers and the risk of a disaster destroying your servers (if a hosting company’s data center catches on fire, they have other data centers while you do not. If you host in-house, you need to take regular data backups, store those backups offsite and arrange for a duplicate server environment to be available: that’s Disaster Recovery 101).

Internal Application Hosting

There are many small business applications that can be installed for use only by your employees. A couple of examples include:

A customer relationship management solution; and
A content management (both Web and internal docs such as contracts) solution.

These systems are often business critical and they need to run on machines that can handle the number of people and processes that your business requires.

Understanding Dedicated Servers

Dedicated servers, often referred to simply as “dedicateds,” are specialized hosting solutions that offer exclusive server resources for specific purposes. They are essential for businesses and individuals requiring high-performance computing power and tailored configurations. Here’s a closer look at what dedicated servers are and how they are used:

1. Singular Purpose Servers

Application Server: Dedicated to running a specific software application, providing uninterrupted availability, and ensuring optimal performance for the application.
Print Server: Exclusively used for managing and processing print jobs within an organization, ensuring efficient printing operations.
Mail Server: Handles email communications, sending, receiving, and storing messages securely, serving as a core component of an organization’s email infrastructure.
Web Server: Hosts websites, serving web pages and content to users, and accommodating high traffic and resource demands.

2. Hosting High-Traffic Websites and Applications

E-commerce Websites: Dedicated servers are ideal for hosting high-traffic e-commerce websites, ensuring fast page loading, secure transactions, and reliability.
Software-as-a-Service (SAAS): SAAS providers often rely on dedicated servers to offer their services with maximum uptime and performance, especially for resource-intensive applications.

3. In-House Server Management

Total Control: Some businesses choose to purchase and manage dedicated servers in-house, giving them complete control over server setup, configuration, and security.
Security: Hosting sensitive customer and business data on dedicated servers provides enhanced security and ownership of data protection.

4. Internal Application Hosting

CRM Solutions: Dedicated servers are used to host internal customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, enabling efficient customer data management.
Content Management: Both web and internal document management systems can benefit from dedicated server hosting, ensuring smooth operations for important business processes.

5. Cloud Servers vs. Dedicated Servers

Cloud Servers: While cloud servers offer flexibility and control, they may share physical resources with other cloud servers, potentially leading to resource contention.
Dedicated Servers: Provide exclusive server resources, making them suitable for resource-intensive tasks and applications.

Dedicated Server UsesDescription

Singular Purpose ServersApplication Server: Dedicated to running specific software applications, ensuring optimal performance.
Print Server: Manages and processes print jobs within an organization for efficient printing.
Mail Server: Handles email communications securely, serving as a core component of an organization’s email infrastructure.
Web Server: Hosts websites, accommodating high traffic and resource demands.

Hosting High-Traffic Websites and ApplicationsIdeal for hosting high-traffic e-commerce websites, ensuring fast page loading, secure transactions, and reliability.
Commonly used by Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) providers to offer resource-intensive applications with maximum uptime and performance.

In-House Server ManagementOffers total control over server setup, configuration, and security.
Enhanced security and data protection for hosting sensitive customer and business data.

Internal Application HostingHosting internal customer relationship management (CRM) solutions for efficient customer data management.
Supports content management systems for web and document management, ensuring smooth operations.

Cloud Servers vs. Dedicated ServersCloud Servers offer flexibility but may share resources with other cloud servers, potentially leading to resource contention.
Dedicated Servers provide exclusive server resources, making them suitable for resource-intensive tasks and applications.

Choosing the Right Dedicated Server Provider

When opting for a dedicated server, selecting the right hosting provider is crucial. Here are some key considerations to help you make an informed choice:

Reliability and Uptime: Look for a provider with a track record of high server uptime and reliability to ensure your website or applications are accessible to users around the clock.
Server Customization: Check if the hosting provider offers customizable server configurations, allowing you to tailor the hardware and software to your specific needs.
Scalability: Consider your future growth plans. Ensure the provider can accommodate your scaling requirements by offering a range of server options.
Managed vs. Unmanaged: Decide whether you want a managed server where the provider handles server maintenance, updates, and security or an unmanaged server where you have more control but also more responsibilities.
Data Center Location: Choose a provider with data centers in locations that align with your target audience. This can improve website loading times and user experience.
Support and Assistance: Assess the level of customer support provided. Quick and knowledgeable support can be invaluable in resolving issues and ensuring smooth server operation.
Security Measures: Inquire about the provider’s security protocols, including firewall protection, DDoS mitigation, and data backup options to safeguard your data and applications.
Cost and Pricing Structure: Understand the pricing model, including setup fees, monthly charges, and any additional costs for services such as bandwidth or extra storage.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Review the SLAs to understand the provider’s commitments regarding uptime, response times for support, and compensation for downtime.
Reviews and Recommendations: Research customer reviews and seek recommendations from peers or industry experts to gauge the provider’s reputation.
Scalability: Consider your future growth plans. Ensure the provider can accommodate your scaling requirements by offering a range of server options.

Conclusion

While there are many answers to the question, “What is a Dedicated Server?” you can simplify the essence of the answer down to one word: power.

A dedicated server gives you the power to scale your systems as you grow your business, offer complex online services and solutions and manage your systems and data.

On the downside, using dedicated servers can be expensive and will demand more attention, upkeep and technical know-how.

In the end however, the pros will outweigh the cons, especially if you’re moving to a dedicated server because your business is growing.


Network Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is a Dedicated Server?” was first published on Small Business Trends

A full-scale primer on the ins and outs of dedicated servers. Learn what they are and if you need one for your small business’s website.Read MoreSmall Business OperationsSmall Business Trends

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