Even in an age of on-demand cloud capacity, there’s still plenty of life in the dedicated server hosting market. Whether it’s for the security assurances or the extra degree of control, many firms continue to rely on this model to host websites, applications, databases and backups.
That said, every hosting provider is different, and it can be difficult to choose the right option for your business if you’ve never used a dedicated server before. With that in mind, here are five factors to consider when choosing a dedicated server hosting service.
1. Quality of hardware
Once you’ve ticked off your basic requirements in terms of processing power, memory and storage, look at the hardware used to deliver it all and how this stands to affect reliability. It’s worth checking for branded equipment for additional peace of mind, and while features like SSDs and dual power supplies may not be must-haves, they can add a lot of value for customers with demanding performance and uptime requirements.
It can sometimes be tempting to choose a dedicated server hosting service based on whether the provider is offering the most desirable, cutting-edge hardware. Be aware this can limit your options somewhat, and won’t necessarily deliver a massive performance improvement.
For the most part, it’s a better idea to ensure your basic requirements are met and work with a provider that looks after their hardware, which means realistic refresh periods rather than a relentless pursuit of new tech. Indeed, if you're prepared to look around, you may be able to find some very good deals by using perfectly serviceable (and well and truly soak-tested!) hardware.
2. Managed vs unmanaged servers
Another key factor to consider is whether you need a managed or unmanaged server. Generally, a managed service will include security updates, management tools like cPanel, and an overall higher level of support from your provider. Customers opting in for this model should check how much is included in their fee and ensure the support is easy to access, with rapid response times and no hoops to jump through.
If, on the other hand, you require an unmanaged server, it’s important to check the degree of customisation on offer, and that you’ll have the ability to configure and manage features like firewalls, remote backups and anti-DDoS protection.
3. Quality of support
For customers that go down the managed route, the cost and accessibility of support are vitally important factors to consider - but so, too, is the quality of that support.
There’s a lot of value in having a direct line of communication with senior technical staff, and even more so if they take the time to understand your business and your unique requirements, so be sure to ask your provider about the setup they have and who’ll be on hand to answer the phone or pick up support tickets.
4. Bandwidth and connection speed
As with any hosting service, the bandwidth allowance and connection speed of your dedicated servers will have implications for performance. Bear in mind that connectivity is complex and not as simple to quantify as some providers would have you think: your overall connection speed will be affected by factors like the location of their data centre, the quality and diversity of their carrier list, and more.
5. Quality of data centre
In fact, the location and quality of the data centre where your dedicated servers live will have a wide-ranging impact on factors as diverse as security, compliance, reliability, and performance, so there’s a strong argument it should be close to the top of your list when it comes to sourcing considerations.
Take reliability, for example. No matter how top-of-the-range your server hardware, a power failure in your provider’s data centre means downtime for their customers - so be sure to check for measures like UPS redundancy to protect against outages. And, as above, the presence of a high-quality and diverse carrier list will ensure better connection speeds and more resilience in the face of network outages.
In the colocation market, it’s long been accepted that a data centre isn’t just a convenient place for your hardware to live, but a business-critical asset in itself. This is also true for customers of cloud and dedicated server hosting: you may not have to spend time on the premises yourself, but the quality of your data centre can still make all the difference between a service you can rely on and one you’d be advised to avoid.