Dedicated Web Hosting: The Executive Summary
by: Rodel Garcia
What is Dedicated Web Hosting? Dedicated web hosting can alleviate the need to share hardware or software with any other sites or web pages. Webmasters are given the autonomy to decide on applications that are installed on the server to create specific configurations for their web needs, and have the ability to provide a secure environment for their site. As compared to a shared-server environment, dedicated web hosting offers a peace of mind that a site will be delivered in a reliable and secure manner.
There are major benefits of dedicated web hosting, as discussed below. However, the major disadvantage, cost, is quickly being overcome. Because of continual growth in the dedicated web hosting industry, the rates for dedicated server plans are rapidly declining. A competitive environment drives up the level of service and decreases cost. This reduction is powered by an increase in small and medium-sized businesses gaining an online presence and the rapid proliferation of web hosting providers.
Advantages: Dedicated server hosting is favorable because of 2 major assets: control and reliability.
Since a dedicated web administrator has more control over a dedicated server, it tends to be more secure, compared to a shared web server. By knowing what exactly is installed on a dedicated server through full root access, a system administrator is able to confidently make decisions on the software and application updates necessary to maintain the dedicated web server and keep it running in its most optimal configuration.
Increased reliability is another major asset of dedicated server web hosting, as a server administrator has the self-sufficiency to optimize page loads by tweaking variables such as page load speed and general server resource allocation. This server reliability translates to customer satisfaction and an increase in the bottom line goals of a web site’s presence.
Disadvantages: While the benefits of dedicated web server hosting is apparent, the bottom line consideration, especially for business purposes is cost. Dedicated web hosting is significantly more expensive compared to shared or virtual web hosting, and until recently, could most commonly be quoted at several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per month. Although cost may still be exorbitant, most businesses are able to justify the use of dedicated servers through a true web analysis to weigh the resources necessary to run applications and code.
Another drawback is the need to be able to monitor, install, upgrade and configure programs, add sites, deal with potential hacks, and troubleshoot systems. Therefore, the necessary system administration skills, if one does not possess them, may definitely inhibit the successful implementation of a web site hosted on a dedicated web server.
Benefits: The direct benefits of a dedicated web hosting plan surround the ability to totally administer a web server. The advantage to be able to effectively maintain a dedicated server lies in one’s ability to control the variables associated with reliability and stability. In a dedicated environment, server overload, malicious scripts from other users, and too many installed applications are variables which can be controlled, as compared to this loss of management in shared server hosting.
Furthermore, a dedicated server allows one to only install applications or software that applies to the major hosting goal at hand. Conversely, shared web hosting has installed software that may or may not be related to the web hosting goals.
Reliance on the web host repair services and time delays of platform repairs can be minimized, as one may intervene and provide solutions to existing problems with dedicated web hosting. Having the option to add patches, upgrade software, or tweak performance is invaluable and allows the dedicated server administrator to work with 24 hour access to perform adjustments, corrections, or updates.
Lastly, speed of downloads can be determined through the amount of bandwidth that is dedicated to just your website. Statistically, visitors will quickly leave a site if the load time was long. Dedicated servers allow quick delivery of web pages, which increases the probability of keeping web site visitors on a site that may convert them to paying customers. Furthermore, quick loading pages enhance the company’s image and may encourage existing customers to refer your web-based services to others.
What is the best application of a dedicated web hosting service provider? Utility of a dedicated server environment is best suited to those with a working knowledge of server operating systems and those who don’t mind troubleshooting problems which may arise.
Server administrators must be able to apply kernel upgrades, service packs, and software patches, as well as provide ample security, monitor traffic, update server applications, balance server loads, and configure email, FTP, and DNS services.
In exchange for competency in the above functions, the best uses for a dedicated web server environment would be:
- mission-critical sites requiring custom server management and software implementation.
- dedicated hosting resellers, web developers and designers who need greater flexibility, reliability and security for their clients
- backbones of corporate intranets
- robust and dependable servers for streaming media, online gaming, and e-mail or chat applications
- complex application sites with high traffic and secure information such as ecommerce, database, and multimedia sites.
- enterprise-level web sites
- Web sites which may have content restrictions if hosted elsewhere (e.g. adult targeted sites.)
How to decide: Overall, the cost, security of data and equipment, bandwidth availability, the knowledge and integrity of the web-hosting provider, uptime, hardware maintenance, and any technical support offered by the dedicated web host are important deciding factors. Although your specific dedicated web hosting needs may be unique in a few ways, generally, one can make a decision on a dedicated web server provider by considering the following things:
Data Transfer Rates: Data transfer will need to be determined based on the amount of information that will be downloaded, as well as the type of content a site will be sharing (general text vs. high resolution graphics and multimedia). A dedicated web host will generally have various packages that will allow one to choose the data transfer level, normally measured in “gigabytes per month”. Higher levels of data transfer rates normally mean more cost, so utilization of the first few months to correlate data transfer rates and traffic patterns is key.
Platforms: The two most common systems available are Windows based servers versus some flavor of UNIX (Linux and Solaris). Windows is historically more expensive, but is generally regarded as more user-friendly, especially with the ubiquitous presence of Windows-based pc’s and administrators. Linux, on the other hand, is less expensive to install, but harder to maintain, as a steeper learning curve exists for those unfamiliar with it. Therefore, the operating system installed on a dedicated web server should depend on a couple of factors.
First, the platform should be conducive to the coding in which the website and necessary applications are developed. Next, since administration of the dedicated server will be done by the subscriber, the necessary skill base to support the platform must be in place. Commands and administration techniques are definitely platform-specific.
Monitoring: Dedicated server monitoring works to prevent service interruptions. The web host will provide a service that can, at a pre-set frequency, check a website to see downtime.
Automation: Although dedicated web servers may require a greater degree of skill, certain dedicated web hosting companies may offer software that will automate common procedures, thus lessening the high level knowledge necessary to maintain servers and implement new services.
Data Backup: Some dedicated web hosting providers assist the web hosting subscriber with data backups. Finding a dedicated server provider who will assist in this process could alleviate the hassle of doing it yourself and can allow one to devote time to other things.
Scalability: Dedicated web hosting providers should be able to account for major growth. Progressive expansion can be accounted for by asking a web host if modules of extra space, bandwidth, or better yet, larger packages can be purchased to allow easy transition to better hardware and software.
Service Level Agreements: More dedicated web hosts are publishing their SLA’s, which thoroughly documents what they will do in exchange for what the customer is responsible for. For instance, some dedicated server hosts are offering features such as: 100% uptime guarantees, unlimited live answer technical phone-based support, free upgrades of patches, hot-fixes, personal Dedicated Sales account managers, maintenance staff with spare parts for all server configurations, and more. A full understanding of the commitment that a dedicated web host is offering will help in a decision to utilize that service.
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