Remember how you felt waking up the first morning after moving into a house that’s all yours, without roommates or parents? Every decision was yours and yours alone to make — from how loud and late the music is played to what type of midnight snack you can chow down on. More responsible adults control which alarm company to trust with your security and safety, along with whether to hire a housekeeping or lawn service or do all domestic maintenance yourself.
Having your own space means having all the room to do whatever you want — and bearing all the responsibility should something go wrong. The same can be said for dedicated server hosting.
Unlike shared or VPS hosting, dedicated server hosts give you all the control over resource consumption, software installs, and monitoring tools for your server, and you are solely responsible for the costs and management.
A dedicated server is just like any other kind of server, but only one individual or company is hosting websites or applications on it. Rather than sharing bandwidth, storage, RAM, and other resources as you would in a shared hosting scenario, you get all of the computing power when you sign up for dedicated hosting.
For the sake of total clarity, virtual private server (VPS) hosting is when a single server is partitioned to act as several mini dedicated servers. You’re still essentially sharing with neighbors, but if any of them misuses the hosting environment, you’re not in danger.
The first decision to make is whether you want to run a Linux or Windows operating system on your dedicated server. Most hosts give you a choice, while some specialize in one or the other.
Which one is right for you depends on what kind of languages or databases you plan on using. If you’re still unsure, we like to say there’s a 99.9% chance you should go with a Linux dedicated server.
Best Linux Dedicated Server
Flexible and favored among many hosting customers, Linux is powerful and performance-oriented. The best hosts for Linux will include the operating system as well as support for Linux-friendly applications like Apache, MySQL, PHP, and various other programming languages.
We recommend InMotion Hosting for Linux dedicated servers. The company includes enterprise-grade CentOS hardware, rebootless kernel updates, a free cPanel/WHM license, and 99.999% uptime.
Best Windows Dedicated Server
Liquid Web offers your choice of operating system, and the company isone of our favorite Windows hosts. If you choose Windows hosting, you should have a specific reason for doing so — you know need to run a software that is solely compatible with Windows. The Liquid Web Heroic Support team offers incredible reliability for both you and your server.
It’s human instinct to hone in on the cheap deals during any shopping trip, but heed my advice: Hosting is not something you want to skimp on. The good news is you can get high-quality but affordable services in the dedicated hosting market. Just know that you’ll get what you pay for if you aim for the cheapest in existence.
Don’t Buy Into “Free” Dedicated Servers
Repeat after me: There is no such thing as a free dedicated server — not one that can handle all the things that dedicated customers typically need their server to process, anyway.
If you fall into one of the free dedicated hosting traps, you’re going to wind up so frustrated by the resource limitations and downtime issues, or your credit card is going to be charged out the you-know-what when the free trial expires in a week. Turn your attention to low-cost, high-quality options instead.
Do Choose a Quality, Affordable Web Host
You’re not wrong to want a reasonable cost for hosting your resource-intensive project. Lots of the best web hosts offer affordable dedicated servers that aren’t cheap quality!
Hosts like InMotion Hosting, for example, pack plenty of RAM, CPU power, storage, and allocated IP addresses into each dedicated server plan, and package pricing starts right around $100 a month. No, this is not the lowest price tag you’ll find in the hosting market, but remember, dedicated hosting is the expensive hosting niche. You’re not sharing any of your server’s compute power or storage or bandwidth with anyone else, so you’re the only one paying for it all.
To give you some perspective, we’ve seen some of the dedicated servers from the best hosts in the industry go for $2,000 a month or more. Basically, if you’re happy with the support, hardware reliability, and processing power, and your monthly costs are still in the double digits, you should be a happy camper.
Whoever said “quality over quantity” was right most of the time, but not necessarily in hosting. Our experience tells us you can get a laundry list of features and resources for a low price point.
Storage, Power, and Traffic
The main perk of a dedicated server is not having to share with any hosting neighbors. If you’re shopping for a dedicated host, you probably need more disk space and processing power than, say, a shared host can offer.
You’ll want to look for a dedicated hosting plan with the following basic essentials:
- Hefty amount of RAM and multiple storage options
- Bandwidth to match your expected traffic
- Seamless scaling from VPS or cloud
If you’re currently hosted on a VPS or cloud server, that last point is crucial. Ideally, you’d be able to scale up to a dedicated server with your current hosting provider, but if, for whatever reason, that’s not a worthwhile option, your new host should make it easy for you to make the move to their services — or handle the transition for you.
Hardware, Security, and Monitoring
Dedicated hosting customers have resource-intensive projects to host. High-traffic sites tend to also power important business missions, so if the site goes down, the site owner loses thousands of dollars or more.
Dedicated servers must accommodate the following points, at the very minimum:
- Modern hardware with an expert team supporting it
- Choice of operating system (or the one you’re looking for)
- Advanced monitoring and security solutions
Since you’re probably expecting upwards of 100,000 monthly visitors, your hardware needs to be able to deal with that. Don’t skimp on CPUs or RAM!
Uptime, Support, and Reliability
Lastly, and we can’t stress this enough, think long and hard about the reliability and support you’ll get from a potential dedicated host. You want an always-online network backed by an always-there-for-you support team. Whenever you hear that the support technicians are all Tier II SysAdmins or Red Hat certified or anything along those lines, that’s a good thing! It means they know what they’re doing.
Keep these features in mind when evaluating a host on their reliableness:
- Uptime! (Typically 99.99% or better)
- Support you would trust with your life (or at least your business’s life)
- Trustworthy network and your choice of datacenter location
One last note on this: True 100% uptime is impossible. At the very least, you have to schedule downtime for maintenance. The most reliable hosts ensure that any downtime is minimal and has as tiny or nonexistent an effect on their customers.
I touched on this earlier, but dedicated server pricing can range anywhere from $75 to thousands of dollars per month. Where your project should fall in that huge cost spectrum depends on your expected traffic, in-house IT expertise, and storage needs.
If you want top-of-the-line servers running a Linux operating system and plan on managing the network yourself, InMotion Hosting is a good option in the $100 ballpark. The company offers excellent support and exceptional server power. If you prefer to have your web host manage your servers for you, InMotion Hosting offers managed services, as well.
For a mid-range price, SiteGround offers some of the best support in the industry. The company is not the most expensive and not the cheapest, but the performance of their dedicated hardware only matched by the team’s superior customer support.
Finally, if you want what premium hosting with white-glove service and your choice of self-, semi-, or fully managed servers, Liquid Web touts premier dedicated hosting — at a surprisingly affordable rate. If limitless resources and guaranteed uptime are necessities for your business, and you’re willing to pay what it takes to get that peace of mind, Liquid Web is your winner.
Managed hosting services will cost you a bit more, but it’s probably worth it. If you don’t realize that now, you may experience the painful epiphany when your system goes down over the weekend and you don’t know why (or worse: how to fix it).
Managed hosting minimizes the amount of hands-on IT work you have to do. The level of management can vary from provider to provider. Some hosts offer your choice of semi- or fully managed services — and one host’s fully managed plan may be entirely different than another provider’s. All in all, management services may include hardware monitoring, software updates, security patches, and bug fixes.
The main idea is that your host worries about your hardware while you worry about your business, website, and customer relationship. Liquid Web, Bluehost, and InMotion Hosting offer some of the best managed hosting services you’ll find in the industry.
The best advice I can give on the subject of selecting a dedicated server is to consult someone who knows more than you do on the matter. Ask colleagues, friends, and long-time hosting customers about their experiences with various hosts. Scope out what services other companies in your niche are using.
Do your homework — specifically on the features I’ve harped on in the last 1,000 words or so. The bottom line: Now that you know what to look for, scroll to the top of this page and evaluate the best dedicated hosts to get started!