Your website has been growing. That’s great news! It’s exactly what you hoped for when you first launched. But the growing traffic and storage needs are starting to put a strain on your bandwidth.
If your visitors have to wait for the page to load—or worse, it doesn’t open at all for them— your business will take a hit. If you can’t load all the design elements, media, and pages you need, you’ll keep hitting up against the limitations of what your website can do. And as your sales and reputation grow, the stakes for potential security threats loom larger.
As your website grows, at a certain point you’ll face the question: Do I need dedicated hosting?
What Is Dedicated Hosting?
Every website requires web hosting to be accessible to visitors online. In order for people to see a website in the virtual world, it has to be hosted on a server stored somewhere in the physical world. Any website that invests in this type of hosting has one of these servers entirely to themselves.
There are a couple of different forms that a server can take. A business that has a strong IT department staffed with people who know how to properly manage and care for a website hosting server may own their own server and store it on their property.
But more commonly, businesses turn to managed dedicated hosting, which means that you rent a full server from a web hosting provider that takes care of all the storage and maintenance of the server for you.
How Dedicated Hosting is Different from Other Options
It’s easier to understand what dedicated hosting is and why you might need it if you have a solid understanding of your other options.
Many websites start by getting shared hosting, the most affordable web host option. For smaller websites that don’t get that much traffic, shared hosting means you share one server with many other websites—sometimes dozens or even hundreds of websites on one server. While that sounds like a lot, one server can handle a good amount of bandwidth and for many small businesses or personal websites this option works just fine.
But with this option, your website’s performance is slightly dependent on what’s happening with the other websites on the server. If one or more of the websites you share the server with has a day of abnormally heavy traffic, your website could face downtime or slow loading times.
As a website grows in popularity or complexity, sharing the resources of one server with so many others won’t make sense. The next step up is a VPS hosting plan, where you still share the server with multiple other websites, but there are fewer sites on the server and your portion of it is blocked off from theirs. This way, you’re no longer affected by what’s happening on the other websites. But your website’s performance can still be hurt by your own site having higher traffic and storage needs than your portion of the server can handle.
When your website grows to the point where a VPS plan no longer suffices, that’s when you need to upgrade to a dedicated server.
What is Dedicated IP Hosting?
Dedicated IP hosting sounds similar to dedicated hosting, but it’s a different type of service.
While your domain address is the main way you identify your site and the way your visitors find you, your website also has an IP address. All computers, mobile devices, and website servers have IP addresses. An IP address is a sequence of numbers divided by periods that devices use to communicate with each other and the larger web (they look something like 111.222.333.444).
With normal shared hosting, the websites that share a server will also share an IP address. If you want your website to have a unique IP, you’ll need to specifically get dedicated IP hosting. Here are the benefits of dedicated IP hosting:
- You can get a SSL certificate. Any website that accepts sensitive information through the site, especially financial information like credit card numbers, needs an SSL certificate to ensure their visitors’ information will be properly encrypted. Without an SSL, your business looks less trustworthy and you put your visitors at risk—especially for ecommerce businesses. A dedicated IP is one of the main ways to ensure your website will qualify for an SSL certificate. (Note that it used to be the only way, but in recent years some services offer Server Name Indication as an alternate option).
- You don’t have to worry about the email blacklist. Sending spam emails doesn’t just risk annoying the recipients, it can also get you blacklisted by email providers. When they notice a lot of emails marked spam coming from a particular IP address, they’ll often remove the IP from their safe list and stop delivering the emails. Usually that’s good for consumers and gives businesses a good reason to play by the rules, but if you happen to share an IP with another website that breaks the rules—you could be penalized. With a dedicated IP, you don’t have to worry about being held accountable for another company’s bad email behavior.
You can get dedicated IP hosting without investing in a dedicated server. So if these are the main reasons you’re considering dedicated hosting, save some money by just upgrading to a dedicated IP with your shared hosting plan instead.
Both of these benefits are also included with dedicated hosting though, along with the others we’ll discuss.
How Much Does Dedicated Hosting Cost?
The main reason dedicated hosting isn’t for everyone is the cost. Where shared server hosting can start at less than $3 a month, dedicated hosting costs start at around $80 a month and goes up to over $100 for most reputable web hosting providers and plans.
If you don’t actually need dedicated web hosting for your business, then that price tag won’t make much sense. But for businesses that have reached the point where dedicated hosting is warranted, the cost will be well worth it.
How to Know If You Need Dedicated Hosting
So now we get to the main question at hand: how do you actually know if you need dedicated web hosting for your website? There are three main warning signs that may suggest it’s time to upgrade to a dedicated server.
1. Your website is loading too slowly.
Website speed matters. A lot. And if you want your visitors to keep coming back, you need to be aware of the different ways to speed up your website. Over half of your visitors will leave if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and many won’t even wait that long. Oh, and a slow website will hurt your SEO rankings on top of that, which means fewer visitors to begin with.
One of the biggest factors in site speed is your choice in hosting provider and plan. If you’re trying to run a hugely popular website on shared hosting, then your server will be overwhelmed and your visitors will suffer for it. To keep your website speed up to the expectations of your visitors, you need a website hosting solution that’s appropriate to the level of traffic you get. If you’ve outgrown shared web hosting and VPS hosting, then it’s time to switch to dedicated hosting.
2. You’re running out of storage space.
Small businesses that have just a few pages will never have to worry about this. But as a website grows to include thousands of pages, media features like video and audio files, hundreds of high-resolution product images, or advanced features like creating a website forum—you’ll find yourself hitting up against the amount of storage space allowed on shared and VPS plans.
If you still have big plans for ways to grow your website, but only limited space to work with on the plan you have now, then consider going with a dedicated server instead.
3. You’re worried about vulnerability to hackers.
While many shared and VPS hosting server plans backed by respected web hosting providers are secure, a step up to a dedicated server is a quick and easy way to increase your website’s security even further. When you share a server with other websites, your site becomes more vulnerable if one of their websites is hit with a DDoS attack or otherwise accessed by hackers.
While most good web hosting providers have firewalls in place to avoid that and strategies to resolve the issue quickly if it occurs, the more popular and profitable your website gets, the more important it is to reduce all risks and keep your website working efficiently and securely 100% of the time.
A dedicated server reduces your vulnerability so you can count on a site that’s up and running more of the time, without any problems.
Managed Dedicated Hosting Makes Things Easy
Any type of dedicated server will provide the benefits described here, but if your business doesn’t have the proper facilities to store a server, or the expert staff needed to maintain it, trying to manage a dedicated server on your own will cause more problems than it solves.
You can get the same convenience that businesses using shared hosting do by outsourcing that work to a web hosting company that’s already invested in the facilities and professional staff required to efficiently and effectively keep a dedicated server running perfectly.
And you can count on proactive security updates and customer support that steps in the moment a problem arises to help you solve it.
If it’s time for your website to upgrade to a dedicated server, HostGator offers plans that start at $119 and pack in all the most important features enterprise websites need to thrive. Let us be your go-to service provider for all of your web hosting needs.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.