Many web sites are hosted on shared servers, where many different web sites share the hardware resources of one server. In contrast, having a dedicated server means that just one web site is hosted on that server. This means that all of the resources of that server – its processor power and hard drive space – are available for use by that web site. Dedicated servers are still owned by the hosting company though; the user is paying to rent the server for a period of time.
There are several advantages in having your own dedicated server. When you are using a shared host, you are restricted in what applications may be available for your site to use – most hosting companies install software that they consider to be necessary for the many web sites they are hosting. You may find there are programs you do not use, or you may need software that has not been installed.
When you set up a dedicated server, you will be able to specify what operating system the server will use, and also only install the programs that you will need to operate your site. You can also specify, within certain limits, the actual hardware you need – processor speed, size of hard drive and so on. Upgrading is also a lot easier – if you start to run out of disk space, then you can quickly add a new hard drive.
Speed is another consideration. A shared server means that your web site is competing with other web sites for processing power. If you intend to run a site that is processor-intensive, for example with a lot of streamed content, you will find that opting for a dedicated server will result in far better performance for your site, without any of the delays that may happen when other web sites are sharing hardware resources.
There are disadvantages to this though. With a shared hosting plan any server problems you may have will be handled by the web hosting company. If you choose to have a dedicated server then many of these problems will become your responsibility. Since the actual server is still owned by the hosting company they are responsible for any hardware problems but you will be responsible for any software issues that will arise. You must be prepared to spend a lot more time on support issues in order to keep the server running at its best.
Cost is an issue too. Although you do not need to buy the server hardware and only have to pay a monthly fee, a dedicated plan will probably cost about 10 times that of a shared plan. Don’t forget to factor in your additional support costs too – they may also be significant, especially if you have to hire an IT support person if you don’t have the time or expertise needed.
If you feel that your current web site is constrained by a shared host then a move to a dedicated server will pay dividends. If you are planning a high-traffic site that will use a lot of server resources then again a dedicated server would be a good choice. However, this is not for everyone, and you will need to consider carefully before taking this step.