Within the world of web hosting there are a number of specialty hosting services. In the category of dedicated web hosting and dedicated servers there exists a sub-category of hosting products and services that have the moniker ‘managed’ in common. What exactly is a managed dedicated server and which customers are best suited for this product? In order to clearly understand the product category encompassed by managed dedicated servers, it is important to understand the overall category of dedicated server web hosting products. Terminology is thrown around in the web hosting industry often, and in large amounts. From shared hosting, to dedicated servers, to hardware specifications and bandwidth limits, these terms are sometimes not explained clearly or at all. One of these terms used without many descriptions of “what exactly it is” is a dedicated server. A dedicated server is a particularly viable option, but it may only work for some people, and there’s still a few quirks involved. This article will discuss what a dedicated server is, who they’re intended for and under what situations, and some basic explanations of what to look for in a dedicated server including unmanaged vs. managed solutions.
So What is a Dedicated Server?
A dedicated server is an actual, physical server in a data center somewhere. Like a normal desktop computer, it has it’s own processor, memory, hard drive etc. A dedicated server is different from “shared” hosting, another hosting option used by most small sites, which derives it’s name from the fact that many people share a single server. A dedicated server is different. As the name would suggest, a dedicated server is 100% dedicated Ã¯Â¿Â½ all of the resources on it are open for the sole use of the owner, absolutely nothing is shared. It’s because of this fact that makes dedicated servers extremely appealing to larger websites and hosting companies. Not only do these servers have many more resources than normal shared hosting accounts, you aren’t at the mercy of other’s sharing your account. No longer will sites use most of the resources on a system, making other sites load slowly. For larger websites or businesses, a dedicated server can be a huge step in the right direction.
Dedicated servers are intended for a particular group of people. For example, someone with a simple, personal homepage would not want to consider a dedicated server, as it’s much more expensive than typical shared hosting account. It also includes far more resources than a small personal page would most likely even come close to using. For larger web sites that utilize high amounts of processing power (like bulletin boards, web games, or complicated scripts), or web sites that have very high amounts of traffic, a dedicated server is certainly an option to look into. At some point, larger web sites will simply exceed the amount of bandwidth and space that a hosting company can provide, and use more resources than a regular hosting company can provide.
Dedicated servers also have myriad other uses besides high traffic and high resource web sites. Dedicated servers also are frequently used to run game, chat, or radio servers. Depending on their size, these tend to use a greater amount of resources than a typical website. Some hosts will also not permit these on a normal hosting server because of the amount of resources they use, and the impact they may have on other web hosting customers. Almost all applications that require a dedicated server share a need for copious amounts of bandwidth, high storage needs, or simply the need to isolate critical processes from other hosted accounts.
A final category of people that may make use of a dedicated server are more tech minded individuals, or users with experience in system administration. On a normal hosting account, installing, upgrading, or using a particular version of software such as PHP, SQL, control panel software, or even a certain operating system is not usually possible. For full customization in operating system, software and server settings, a dedicated server may be the better option. The amount control dedicated servers offer is unparalleled. However, not everyone has to be a system administrations expert to use a dedicated server. Dedicated servers can also be used by less technical users.
Managed Dedicated Servers vs. Unmanaged Dedicated Servers – What is the Difference?
Managed dedicated servers vs. unmanaged servers can be a clouded issue. The bottom line: it depends on the hosting company as to what their definition of managed or unmanaged, but there are some basic guidelines on this issue.
Unmanaged Hosting, while cheaper, does run the risk of breaking something without anyone to fix it, at least without paying for such services. The host will usually setup an initial operating system and some basic software, and leave the rest up to you. Hosts will usually not install or upgrade any programs or operating systems (sometimes they won’t even install security upgrades!) on a server. If something needs to be reconfigured, or a setting is changed somewhere that causes problems, usually a host won’t spend much time trying to fix it on unmanaged servers. The only time a host may intervene is in case of a hardware failure, or in case the box needs to be rebooted manually from the data center. They may also reinstall an operating system or do basic upgrades, but this largely depends on the host. There may also be fees associated with this. However, if minimal or no support from a host is needed, this may be a better option as it’s almost always cheaper than managed hosting.
Managed Hosting is on the other end of the spectrum. The host will perform system administration functions on a box, they’ll usually perform system upgrades or other system changes, or install certain sets of software. This still varies from host to host, and depending on the host, they may or may not install software they don’t specifically support. However, operating system upgrades, security fixes, and help is usually just a call or a click away. Some hosts will even offer 24/7 support for their managed hosting, meaning that if something suddenly goes wrong and there’s a major crash, someone will be able to fix it right away. As mentioned above, the level of support a hosting company offers on managed servers depends on the company. It’s always best to read a potential host’s description of server management, and see what exactly they won’t and will do, and make sure it fits into the one’s general technical experience level and specific needs.
What To Look For in A Managed Dedicated server?
While there are many intangibles regarding what to look for in a managed dedicated server host, there are three key components that need to be examined.
Reputation and Support: Make sure to read other client’s experiences, and see what they think of the the host’s customer service. After all, the fact that you are choosing a managed solution means that you are relying on the company’s support. Make sure their terms are fair, and that no one (or very few) people have had problems with the host in the past. The reputation of a managed hosting company reveals volumes about how they will probably treat your account.
Specifications: Like desktop computers, managed dedicated servers have hardware specifications. Look closely at the amount of memory, the size of the hard drive, the processor type, and the amount of bandwidth provided. Most managed dedicated server providers will allow these options to be customized to specific needs.
Price: The price is always something to consider in the decision. With dedicated servers easily costing hundreds per month, finding the right price for the right value is crucial. There’s no point in paying more for something that can be received from another host for a lower price if all other things are equal. However, the very fact that one is seeking a managed solution will probably indicate a higher price point – as the service component is now included in the monthly cost.
Be sure to evaluate whether a managed dedicated server is right for a certain site or business. A dedicated server may not even be needed, or a higher end managed dedicated server may be required. Figure out your exact needs in a dedicated server. Next, based on experience level, choose whether a managed option or an unmanaged option is the best. Some may need the security and support a managed solution provides, while other people with system administration experience may be just fine without management. Make sure to read a host’s policy regarding managed and unmanaged solutions to determine what looks the best. Finally, look all aspects of potential providers, including resources and support quality. Following this advice should provide a solid foundation to start the search for a managed dedicated server, and make your dedicated server purchase a positive one.