How to Choose the Right Dedicated Server — 6 Tips to Maximize Performance Without Maxing Out Your Budget
Your baby is all grown up—just like a newborn starts sleeping in a bassinet before moving to the crib and finally graduates to his or her own bed, your website will experience growing pains as it’s ready to move to larger and more powerful servers.
Now that you’ve successfully raised your website to become a full-fledged traffic magnet, it’s time to see how far it can fly. Dedicated servers provide the most power of all the hosting options, with all the processors, memory, and bandwidth concentrated solely on serving up your content.
Because you are the sole tenant of a dedicated server, you have the opportunity to find a hosting provider and infrastructure perfectly tailored to your needs—especially your budget. Naturally, the pinnacle of web hosting is also the most expensive. Here are some of the things to look for to avoid the sticker shock and make your transition from VPS hosting as smooth as possible.
1. Find Cost-Effective Technology Configurations That Meet Your Needs
When you shop for a new car, you don’t automatically start looking at Ferraris and Lamborghinis, do you? The same applies to looking for dedicated servers.
Don’t get wrapped up in finding the newest, latest, and greatest. Take a look at your current hosting configuration and estimate how much reasonable growth you can expect over the next year or two. Use those specifications and projections when comparing servers. Some of the factors you’ll want to consider:
- Operating system
- CPU cores and processors
- Disk space
- Type of storage (HDD or SSD)
Each component comes with associated costs. For example, solid-state drives are noticeably faster than hard-disk drives—but they can cost up to six times more than HDDs and come with smaller capacities. Similarly, open-source Linux distributions are cheaper than Windows Server licenses.
2. Save Money by Taking More Responsibility Over Your Server
As you’ve probably experienced with VPS hosting, many hosts pride themselves on giving customers a hands-free hosting experience. Managed services can mean different things to different hosting providers, but can include some combination or all of the following:
- System monitoring
- Software and operating system updates
- Security patching
- Automated backups
- Load balancing
- Automatic scaling configuration
- Disaster recovery
- Compliance with regulations
- Performance optimizations
- Antivirus and malware scans
- Dedicated SysAdmin time
For example, HostGator includes several premium services as part of its managed support plan: system monitoring, security patches, a control panel, and offsite backups.
Although server management can take quite a bit of time, patience, and expertise, you could easily choose a cheap dedicated server and manage it yourself to save a bit of money. IT teams and experienced developers will still enjoy semi-managed plans, which often assume responsibility for basic monitoring, security, and updating tasks.
3. Reliable Hosts and Strong SLAs Help You Avoid Costly Downtime
The cost of downtime is prohibitive—companies lose upward of $26 billion in revenue each year because of unplanned IT downtime, and a datacenter outage alone can cost $5,600 per minute. When the Amazon Web Services storage platform was offline for three hours earlier in 2017, major enterprises lost $150 million.
Just as moving to a dedicated server can unlock new levels of speed and performance, many hosts reserve their best uptime guarantees and service level agreements for their highest-tier customers.
Some hosts will go as far as guaranteeing 100% reliability, but we’ve honestly found that HostGator’s uptime guarantee of 99.9% represents the standard worth searching for. Customers can expect to see fewer than 45 minutes of downtime each month, which is quite miniscule.
4. Protect Your Brand by Not Scrimping on Security
Ultimate control over your dedicated hosting can be a double-edged sword: You can optimize and configure your server in a way that supports your business, but the added responsibility can expose organizations to risk if the server isn’t sufficiently protected.
Companies lose an estimated $400 billion each year from hacks, with a significant portion of cybercrime going undetected or unreported. Criminals can steal data or hold sensitive information hostage until a ransom is paid. Beyond money, data breaches can cost a company customer confidence.
When trying to save money with dedicated servers, don’t cut corners on security. Look for hosting providers that include DDoS protection, firewalls, and SSL certificates. Robust monitoring and backup tools will help you identify an attack and restore your data quickly.
5. Methodical Scalability Ensures Predictable Pricing
Although cloud hosting holds the edge for flexibility and scalability, costs can quickly skyrocket. The threshold for provisioning new computing resources is much smaller in the cloud, meaning modest traffic increases can bring about a higher invoice.
We actually prefer scaling dedicated environments. By carefully selecting your server from the start, you can allow your site a comfortable space to grow. You can more predictably prepare to add more resources or servers as your traffic grows to specific thresholds. Each element comes with fixed costs, allowing administrators to keep total control over their environment.
6. 24/7 Support is Usually Free—And Can Make All the Difference
Any host worth your business will offer 24/7/365 support through phone, chat, and email tickets, with some giving premium attention to their highest-paying customers. Especially if you opt out of managed services, you’ll want the peace of mind in knowing that experts will always be available to help you in times of crisis.
When consulting with prospective hosts, ask for their average support response times or how long it typically takes to resolve an issue. Also, keep an eye out for resources beyond the typical technical support: A knowledgebase, video tutorials, and community forums can show a host’s dedication to customer success.
Control Your Server Customizations to Leave Room for Upgrades
By only paying for what you actually need, you can invest some money in features that improve your performance and security:
- Supercharged DNS
- DDoS protection and mitigation
- Load balancing
- Caching tools
- Content delivery network
- Dedicated IP addresses
- Firewalls and VPN access
- High availability and disaster recovery
The dedicated server market grows by $237 million each year, and hosting customers come to appreciate the reliability, speed, flexibility, and isolation of their own hardware. Understanding that you don’t need to automatically look for the most bandwidth, storage, and computing power, decide which features are worth prioritizing and splurging on for your website’s success.
Laura Stamey writes, designs, and develops for HostingAdvice.com as a Contributing Editor for Digital Brands, Inc. The HostingAdvice team boasts more than 50 years of combined experience building and scaling personal projects and industry-leading websites and applications.