Dedicated Hosting Purchasing Guide
A four part series on purchasing the best dedicated web hosting plan for your needs.
What is it? How it works.
Dedicated web hosting is basically renting a whole server solely for your use (dedicated). It is much like having your own server but the biggest difference is you do not need a large initial investment to set it up. Dedicated web hosting comes in two forms. Managed and unmanaged.
Commonly, unmanaged hosting plans include hardware, operating system, web server and Internet connection. Managed plans however include the basics and pretty much everything else that the only thing you need to worry about is your web site and content.
Knowing this, you should carefully review your organizationís setup to see if you have the financial & physical resources to manage your servers. For most organizations, the higher monthly cost of a managed plan works out to be more cost effective overall. There would be occasion an unmanaged plan works best. In these scenarios the organizations already have a good support department but would rather not have hardware and certain software maintenance concerns.
Without needing to share space & resources you gain many benefits. Your web page will run better and faster because resources are used to serve only your web site and you can optimize the server and database for your web site. Another benefit of server customization is you get to install and run the programs that your web site needs, not re-programming your web site to fit the server.
You also have full access to storage, which is certainly a perk for a growing web site. Managed dedicated hosting customers also generally enjoy a better level of service. Many web hosts assign a personal representative who also supports a handful of other accounts. Managed plan customers get the freedom to build the web site the way they want it without having hardware, operating system, certain software, middleware, security, Internet connection, backup, power backup, staff, casualties & loss prevention even insurance responsibilities.
Hardware & Connection
As with choosing the operating system or software, hardware requirements depend a lot on your web siteís current and future needs. Weíll give you some good basics to look for.
Intel is recommended for large web sites because itís emits less heat. You should choose Celeron for small web sites and Pentium 4 for medium web sites. Dual Xeons are highly recommended for high traffic web sites to give you the processing power; more so if your web site uses a lot of server side scripting. On the average, processor speeds of 2 to 2.4 GHz are good choices.
Your server should have at least 512MB of memory for serving up your pages in a reasonable time. If your web site makes heavy use of server side programming languages (PHP, CGI, ASP) we highly recommend a 1024 MB minimum and high traffic web sites should have 2048 MB and thereabouts.
Between IDE and SCSI hard drives, most would like to have a SCSI drive. They are very robust, and use little if no processor power making them very fast; an ideal situation for anyone but the cost is prohibitive. If budgets permit, an 18 GB SCSI hard drive is very sufficient for most. If you choose IDE, choose a 7200-RPM drive with about 40GB of storage. You might wonder why you need so much since your shared hosting plan only has a fraction of that and you still have left over space. Do not forget, with a dedicated server, you need space for software to run your web site. In a shared environment that software space is owned by the web host and not added towards your hosting plan.
Web hosts calculate your usage using one of these three methods. Per use, capped, or 95% use. Each one is quite different so be sure you understand your requirements versus the method used in the plan. Youíll need to first understand the basics. Data transfer is measured in bits or bytes. Hereís a simple equivalents chart:
8 bits (b) = 1 byte (B)
1024 byte = 1 kilobyte (kb)
1024 kilobytes = 1 Megabyte (MB)
1024 Megabyte = 1 Gigabyte (GB)
Data transfer is the measure of bits or bytes traveling over time. So, if you are told 1 Mbps it means 1 Megabyte is being transferred in one second. If your hosting plan has 600 GB per month you can transfer as much as 600 GB of data in one month.
To calculate usage, your host relies on usage reports such as Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG). The report shows your web siteís average incoming and outgoing traffic. The following formula is then applied:
( Monthly Average incoming + Monthly average outgoing data ) /8 x 60sec x 60min x 24 hrs x 30.5 days = Total monthís bandwidth
Per Use Method
In this method, a web host calculates your usage in a month and bill you the price per Gigabyte, Megabyte or Kilobytes. Some web hosts charge in blocks of 10 or 100.
Using this method, your web host will allocate a certain amount of transfer a month. If you exceed it, your web site will either be inaccessible or is considerably delayed. While this sounds like a bad option, most use this method because itís a fixed cost. You should get the plan with a little more transfer than you expect to use.
In this method, your web host looks at your total bandwidth usage for the month. The top 5% of use is discarded. The remaining 95% of will be used to calculate your usage. If you have occasional usage spikes, this might be a good method for you because the peaks will not be calculated.
Knowing this, you need to go back to your current web hostís control panel to find out what your average use is. Add on a certain percent for growth you expect, and then look for a plan matching those requirements.
Choosing A Dedicated Web Host
Having a dedicated server is expensive and not as easy to migrate as a shared server environment. So making sure the host is right is ever more important. Some of the utmost concerns you should have when choosing a dedicated web host is of course the company reliability and support. You should expect better, more responsive support than a shared web host. You shouldnít settle for anything less than 24 x 7 telephone support preferably toll free. Find out how quickly the average response is in the event of hardware, connection or certain software failure. If they never had a failure, do they have a contingency plan in place? Check their network reliability. Verify information, as best you can; donít take the web hostís word at face value. Take your time, ask around and talk to their customers.
If purchasing a managed plan, ensure server monitoring is included and your web host stays on top of security patches. Try to stay away from long term contracts and choose a month to month option at least until you know how satisfactory the web host is going to be.
Ask this pertinent information about your plan before signing up:
What it costs for additional storage space or transfer
What it costs for additional IP addresses. How many does it come with
What it costs for memory upgrades
Is there an uptime guarantee
What method is used to calculate bandwidth
Is there a money back guarantee
Dedicated hosting and other high-end plans are more profitable for the web hosts; so web hosts have the tendency to accommodate you. Negotiate and you might end up getting additional IP addresses or setup at no cost.
This is a AskWebHosting Exclusive Article
Written by Boris Mordkovich and Christophe Jacquet for AskWebHosting.com