Rapid growth happens often with popular Web sites. They start out using a simple shared account, only to consume so much of the server’s resources that they are forced to a dedicated server. Other times, a company will simply want the flexibility a dedicated server offers, even if they do not operate a high-traffic Web site.
Put simply, a dedicated server is a computer located in a data center that is used for a single Web hosting account, whereas shared accounts can potentially share a server with hundreds of other sites. A site on a dedicated server has the same Internet connection as all the other servers, but it doesn’t have to share it with anybody. This can be a tremendous boon for anyone who operates a large site.
One of the things that dedicated servers provide is customizability. Since the client is going to be leasing the entire computer rather than just a portion of it, many Web hosts allow the client to select the components used in the server. These can range from hardware, such as disk size and the amount of memory, to software. Most hosts can set up dedicated servers with Unix or Windows-based Operating Systems – the choice is typically left to the site owner.
There are typically two categories of dedicated servers: managed and unmanaged. Managed servers are usually operated by the Web host, while the client provides the Web site data. In these cases, a good host will fully monitor the server and have technicians standing by in case of difficulty. An unmanaged server is operated and maintained by the client; the Web host provides the storage space, physical security, and bandwidth. However, often a Web host will have a consultant available to assist clients operating an unmanaged server – this is usually provided at a nominal fee.
Looking for a suitable dedicated server is something that takes time and research. Not all Web hosts are created equal, and neither are all dedicated servers. There are several issues that must be addressed before a client can choose the best server.
First of all, what does the Web site actually need, and how much space will it need to grow? This is an incredibly important question, as any computer has limited capabilities. Before one can select a dedicated server, one has to know exactly how much disk space the site will require, along with memory and bandwidth.
Second, what amount of customization and upgrades will the Web host allow? Many Web hosts offer specific dedicated hosting plans, and have the client choose between them. Some offer full customization of the Web server. What works best depends on the Web site.
Upgrades, however, are another matter. If a Web host doesn’t upgrade its machines on a regular basis, there is something wrong. Technology is infamous for moving extremely quickly, and a Web host that doesn’t keep its machines up to date will quickly find itself, and its clients, falling behind.
Third, where is the server stored? A good host will keep the server in a safe, secured environment, usually at a data center. A Web host that stores a dedicated server elsewhere is usually a bad sign.
Finally, what support does the host offer? Even for unmanaged servers, there should always be an account representative available to handle client concerns. There should also be a managed hosting plan that one can opt into, just in case managing the server solo is too much. Also, upgrades and customizations should be seamless, with little or no impact on the users of the site.
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