Dedicated server

Posted Posted by Patrice Guay in Web hosting     Comments 1 comment
Mar
2

dedicated serverA dedicated server is a physical server on which you have a total control of the resources. The CPU, memory and disk IO characteristics of your server are directly related to your choice of hardware at purchase time. As as result, the performance of a dedicated server is highly predictable. The performance of a web site running on a developer workstation will be similar to the performance of a dedicated server with equivalent specifications.

Cost

The cost of a dedicated server is the highest in the web hosting line of products. It will usually cost 60$ per month for a minimal configuration. The price will scale up depending on hardware configuration (CPU, memory, disks, etc.) and bandwidth consumption. The web hosting company expenses for the electricity, cooling and space of your dedicated server can no longer be shared between multiple customers. The higher cost of a dedicated server reflects this reality.

Resource allocation

CPU time is under the sole control of its owner on a dedicated server. A few years ago, the clock speed was a good metric to evaluate the performance of a CPU. Now, with the advent of multi-core CPUs, a high clock speed is not the only parameter to evaluate. For example, a quad-core CPU with a lower clock speed will outperform a single-core CPU on a multi-threaded application like a web or a database service. Improved multi-thread support will accelerate the processing of simultaneous tasks on your server.

Memory (RAM) of a dedicated server is also an important element since it provides caching space for regularly accessed data. While a Linux operating system will require a minimum of 256MB of RAM to run without a graphical interface, a Windows server will require a minimum of 1GB of RAM to function properly.

The size of hard drives grew rapidly during the last years and a dedicated server with a storage capacity of a few terabytes is no longer expensive, especially if it is built with SATA drives. However, using SATA drives instead of SAS or SSD drives will result in lower disk Input/Output performance for your dedicated server. A dedicated server equipped with SAS 15k RPM drives will provide twice as much I/O performance compared to SATA 7.2k RPM drives. Higher disk I/O performance is desirable for databases while the required storage capacity is usually low. The use of low capacity SAS or SSD drives will serve you better than SATA drives for such configurations.

A dedicated server contract will typically include a monthly bandwidth commitment. Excess usage is charged at a flat rate per GB. If you expect a high level of traffic for your web server (10Mb/s or more), you should make sure this level of traffic will be available for your server by talking with your web hosting company. Since your dedicated server will most likely be connected with other dedicated servers on a shared public switch, your actual bandwidth with the Internet can fluctuate depending on your neighbour usage. For example, if you share a 100Mb/s public switch with 20 other dedicated servers and your switch is connected to the web hosting company routers with a 100Mb/s uplink, the actual bandwidth of your server will fluctuate between 5Mb/s and 100Mb/s. The use of a dedicated public switch solves this possible issue. This expensive solution can be justified if you host multiple dedicated servers on a single datacenter.

Uptime

There are several factors that will influence the uptime of your web solution:

  • application stability
  • server hardware stability
  • network uptime
  • electrical power uptime
  • air conditioning uptime
  • datacenter operator skills

The stability of your web application is your sole responsibility if you choose a dedicated server plan without support. If you decide to add a support plan for your dedicated server, the web hosting customer service will be able to help you solve your application issues up to a certain point. Verifying the competence and diligence of the customer service is important if you need support for your web hosting solution.

The hardware stability of your dedicated server is also a relevant factor for the uptime of your web solution. If your server hardware fails, the server will have to be replaced in order to restore your web presence. Disk failure is a critical event and should be planned by opting for a redundant RAID configuration at purchase time and taking regular backups of your sensitive information.

If the network connection between your server and the Internet is broken, your web solution will be unavailable for your visitors. Unless you made a modification to the network parameters of your servers, a network connectivity problem is usually the symptom of a problem in your web hosting company network infrastructure. Verifying the uptime of your web hosting company homepage on Netcraft may give you a good indication of their network infrastructure health.

The uptime of the electrical power delivered to your dedicated server will also influence the global uptime of your web solution. A serious web hosting company will use uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and generators to maintain electrical power to your server and their network infrastructure during blackouts.

Air conditioning is also a crucial element for datacenters with a high density of equipment. A failure of the air conditioning system will most likely cause your dedicated server to overheat and shut down. This type of outage is critical since the overheat of your dedicated server may break some key components like your CPU, your disks or the motherboard of your server.

Error during manual maintenance by the datacenter operators can cause downtime to your dedicated server. A datacenter with unlabelled servers or network equipment is most likely exposed to such human errors.

Monitoring probes are a great tool to continuously check for the uptime of your web solution. The support plan for your dedicated server may already include such a service. In case of a downtime, the web hosting customer service and yourself could be advised automatically. If your support plan does not include such a service, you should seek this service elsewhere to protect your web presence and reduce the length of downtime.

Scalability

If your web solution can not run properly on a single dedicated server, you will need to scale up by adding new dedicated servers to your setup. The first step is usually to host the web and the database services on two different servers. You can scale up further by duplicating your web and database servers to provide redundancy and an higher throughput.

The possibility to interconnect your dedicated servers on a private network is also an interesting feature if you plan to scale up. The network traffic on such a connection is generally free of charge if the dedicated servers are on the same data center.

Support

There are basically four layers of management on a web hosting solution:

  • datacenter layer: electricity, cooling, physical security, fire protection, building maintenance
  • networking layer: Internet connectivity, activity monitoring, IP addresses provisioning
  • server equipment layer: server installation, cabling, hardware maintenance
  • application layer: OS installation, OS updates, application installation and configuration, monitoring

For a dedicated server, the datacenter, networking and server equipment layers are all fully supported by the web hosting provider. The application layer could also be fully supported if you choose a complete management plan and use a supported operating system (OS) and application stack. If you require support for your dedicated server like monitoring, service configuration and rapid troubleshooting, you are advised to choose a web hosting provider offering such a support package.

To save money, you could opt for a partial or no management plan at all. With such a support plan, you could install a control panel on your server to simplify its management. Mail accounts, web applications, databases and user management are simplified by the use of a well designed control panel.

Conclusion

A dedicated server is the high end of web hosting products. The CPU, memory and disks chosen at purchase time will be available for your sole usage without any compromise.

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