Having a dedicated server gives you high flexibility and a lot of options for your site. Usually you have root/admin access to the server and you can manage and modify each aspect of the server behavior – software running, configuration, etc. So if your site needs more than any shared hosting plan can offer or if you have some special requirements – the dedicated server is the right choice for you. When you are on a dedicated server – your site is the only one that uses the server resources. Also when on a dedicated server you have no restrictions on the number of websites that you can host, on the number of mailboxes. The whole CPU and memory is on your disposal. You can install whatever programs and software that you wish.
Most companies rent dedicated servers for a monthly fee. The fee includes certain amount of bandwidth and one or more dedicated IP addresses. Additional bandwidth usually costs less compared to a sharing hosting plan.
The greatest disadvantage of a dedicated server is its price. It is significantly higher compared to shared hosting plans. Another thing is that while on a shared hosting plan, the webhost staff takes care of the server upgrades, security, hacker attacks, etc. On a dedicated server these tasks in most of the cases are your own responsibility. So you need to be familiar with system administration before going for a dedicated or at least hire a sysadmin to take care of your server.
There are a lot of companies that offer the so called “Managed dedicated” servers. With these packages most of the regular maintenance and system administration tasks are carried on by the company itself. You need to check the company offerings for full list of features and specs included in their dedicated server deal.
Some dedicated servers come along with a lot of software installed. This includes regular features as email, database server, web server, etc as well as some management software(Control panel – Cpanel, Plesk, Exim) with web interface for managing different aspects of the server – configuring websites, creating mailboxes, ftp user, etc.
When do I need a dedicated server? There is no simple answer to that. In general you may need a dedicated server in any of the following cases:
- Security – Being on a dedicated server, you are on your own. You do not share the server with anybody else. Nobody has access to the server. So you can be sure that you data is safe. For example on a shared host in case of mis-configured server some other users on the server might be able to read your data. When on VPS, there is always a sysadmin that can read your data. When on dedicated – nobody is granted access to the server except you.
- CPU power – When on a shared hosting plan or a VPS you share the CPU, RAM and I/O resources with other users on the same server. As any other shared resources, there might be occasions in which a given user will take all the CPU and/or RAM and the server performance can suffer greatly, even a server can go down. The bad thing is that you cannot do anything about it. When on a dedicated, the CPU works only for your site. Yeah, your site can bring the server down too, but at least you have more control over the situation.
As explained in the previous paragraph, when you are alone on the server all resources are allocated to your site. So a dedicated server performance cannot be compared to the performance of any other type of hosting plan.
The Greatest downsides are that now, when you have a dedicated server you will need to manage it – configure software, apply security patches, monitor uptime, perform backups – all the regular sysadmin tasks that are being performed by the web host when you are on a shared or a VPS plan. So to be able to run a dedicated server, you must either have the necessary sysadmin skills or have the necessary money to hire a sysadmin to manage the server for you.