How to choose a dedicated server

January 16, 2009 by heri in: Web Hosting Articles

Choosing a good but affordable dedicated server can be a complicated and time-consuming task. But making the right decision will pay off in the long run.

Here’s the iWeb guide to choosing the right dedicated server, taking into account your technology, budget and business requirements.How to choose a dedicated server

1. Technology

Consider these criteria to in order to assess your technology requirements:

  • OS: If you are looking to host ASP.NET code, MS SQL Server or to use Microsoft IIS, you need a Microsoft Windows Dedicated Server. If you wish to use an open source stack such as Apache/php/mysql (LAMP) or Ruby On Rails, a Linux server is the best choice.
  • Web Server and Database Server: Depending on your technology stack, you might need a server with plenty of RAM, especially if the architecture builds upon Windows, Java or Ruby, all of which are known to be power hungry.
  • Performance: For SQL, video-transcoding, virtualization, or specialized applications like game or chat servers, you may need a multi-processor server, such as a dual Xeon server.
  • Bandwidth: If you plan to host images, multimedia like flash videos or an Asterisk VOIP server, the bandwidth and uplink speed provided by the hosting provider are key criteria.
  • Management: If you do not have the expertise of a system administrator to manage your server, consider managed services. A good web hosting company should be able to offer you expert advice on how to do load balancing, clustering or any tailored environment, as well as good support.
  • Network: You should look closely at the location of the data center and compare it with the location of your  target demographic, But also the quality and consistency of the provider. iWeb’s network is audited by Netcraft and consistently achieves 100% uptime, which is how we guarantee you 100% uptime in our SLAs.

2. Budget

Here are the kinds of costs that you will encounter when you are shopping for a dedicated server, and what to check in order to fully understand the Total Cost of Ownership:

  • Monthly price – Check the monthly traffic included in the price.
  • Setup fees – Some hosting providers, like iWeb will advise you and configure your servers for free.
  • Software licensing fees such as proprietary operating system, database or virtualization software. If you use an open source environment, this criteria shouldn’t impact your choice as much. You may need to enter the sales process to see these prices.
  • Price of upgrades and parts such as additional memory or additional hard drives. Also keep in mind the maximum upgrade capacity of the initial chassis and motherboard. You may need to enter the sales process to see these prices.
  • Management plans and additional services - Most hosting providers offer packages that include several hours or unlimited support per month Additional support is usually charged at an hourly rate.
  • Price of extra traffic – Some providers will offer unmetered traffic, but in this case traffic is usually limited in other ways (like bandwidth). Check how much traffic is included in your monthly price, compare it to your expected traffic, then see how much extra it might cost you if you surpass your traffic limit.

You also need to consider these other costs, which are often overlooked:

  • Scalability costs - can your environment scale up to handle more traffic?
  • Downtime costs – it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of hardware failure but you can hedge against it. Compare the cost and risk of downtime to the cost of a high-availability solution.
  • Training for your staff
  • Backup and recovery – Your hosting provider will usually charge for back up and data protection separately as not all their customers need it.
  • Migration and decommissioning costs - will it cost you to migrate to your new server, or to cancel your subscription once you are finished with the server. Migration and cancellation are free with iWeb.

Once you have calculate these prices, you may find that prices between hosting providers differ greatly, perhaps by as much as a factor of 10.

Understanding the expected duration of your hosting needs, the extra expenses you may incur during that time helps you understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which is the key to finding the best value for your money.

As well understanding the prices, make sure that you understand what is included in the price. That means not just the stated limitations but the limits to traffic and performance imposed by RAM and bandwidth amongst other factors.

Finally, remember that there is value in doing business with a trusted and proven web hosting company. Consider how much you are prepared to pay to reduce risk and give you peace of mind. And remember that reliability, maintenance and investment in new technologies mean longer term value and less shopping around in future.

3. Business requirements

You may have some special requirements relating to your industry or activities. Here are some common considerations:

  • E-commerce: secure access to  dedicated servers and integrity of data
  • Security: including firewalls, protection against Distributed DOS attacks or the possibility of setting up a VPN
  • High availability
  • Disaster recovery
  • Scalability, factoring in the expected growth of your business and web services
  • Services such as emails and calendaring
  • Management of large-sized files
  • PCI compliancy

Once you have listed your technology requirements, business requirements and the prices and costs to check, you are ready to shop for a dedicated server.

Let’s take the example of a small software company launching a resource reservation website, which uses Ruby On Rails and other open source software:

Requirements
Technology requirements
Operating System CentOS Linux 64bits.
Other Software Apache, passenger, MySQL, Ruby, Monit, runsv.
Performance and RAM Ruby’s bottleneck is the RAM, so the web developer plans for 2Gb of RAM. For the processor, an Intel Core2 is more than enough.
Bandwidth 100 Gb planned per month, up to 1000Gb after 3 months.
Management Self-Managed, with configuration and administration done with SSH access.
Pricing
Monthly base price Around $80 per month.
Potential setup costs Should be $0.
Software licenses The technology used is Open Source.
Costs for updates, accessories and parts Requirement: RAM upgrades should be low price.
Hourly costs for service Total costs for services should be less than monthly base price of server.
Cost for bandwidth overuse The website serves mostly HTML webpages, so bandwidth is not an issue.
Business requirements
Security There are no potential security issues for this website. Basic Security is sufficient.
Scalability Provisioning new identical servers should be easy and quick.

From this set of requirements, a Linux dedicated server as listed here as “Intel Dual-Core Core2 Duo 2.93GHz“ (Core2 Duo 2.93Ghz, 4GB RAM, 1000GB SW RAID 1, 20TB bandwidth) seems a great fit, available at $89/month, with CentOS 64bits, ssh access, etc.

A. Dedicated server: Intel Core B. Dedicated server: Intel Dual Core C. Dedicated Server: Intel Quad Core (single or dual processor) D. Dedicated Server: Dual Intel Xeon E5 or Quad Core
LAMP (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, Movable Type) dedicated server BEST Good choice, with room for future growth Good choice for high-traffic blogs and websites Good choice for Drupal resellers / hosters
Django Good choice BEST Good choice Good choice for large Django websites, such as media websites
Ruby On Rails Potential RAM bottleneck BEST Good choice, with room for additional software such as proxies or monitoring software Good choice for large web applications
E-commerce Good choice BEST Good choice Good choice for large e-commerce websites
Java or ASP.NET dedicated server Potential performance issues BEST BEST Good choice for enterprise applications
SQL Dedicated Hosting Underpowered Potential performance issues BEST Good choice
Resellers, shared hosting or equivalent Underpowered Good choice, with 8Gb RAM and more BEST Good to best choice, depending on software stack
Virtualization Underpowered Underpowered Potential performance issues BEST, with 32GB RAM
Large Enterprise Underpowered Underpowered Underpowered BEST, with other solutions such as load-balancing and protection against DDOS

For tailored advice and free setup, chat live with us on iWeb.com or contact us with more information.

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Comments

  1. Why does iWeb not have any virtual private servers? It seems to be a big leap from shared hosting to a full dedicated server.

  2. scott, you can get a dedicated server from $69 per month from iWeb. We believe it’s a better value for a web developer than a VPS which is seen commonly at $50 or $60 from other web hosters.

    With a dedicated server for instance, there’s no sharing resources and you get also more RAM, and much better options for upgrades

  3. We have VPS in mind.

  4. Looked at iWeb. I’m not going to do business with a company where I have to jump through hoops to get someone to speak to me in English when I call.

  5. We definitely provide service in English. You should not have a problem communicating in English with our sales or support staff. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. http://iweb.com/contacts/