A dedicated server does exactly what it says on the tin. Think of it as the opposite of shared hosting – it’s a server that’s dedicated to you, and only you. So rather than sharing your space with other users, a dedicated server is for your project alone.

Whether you’ve outgrown your shared hosting plan or you’re putting together a large-scale project with intensive demands from the start, it’s well worth getting to know a little more about dedicated servers before you invest. Let’s take a look at exactly how dedicated servers work, their core benefits and what you can use them for.

What is a dedicated server?

A dedicated server is a type of physical server that is rented by a single user or business. Unlike shared servers, a dedicated server provides the user with exclusive full root access to the server’s components such as storage, memory, network and more. Unlike cloud servers, a dedicated server is a physical server dedicated to a single tenant.

What are dedicated servers used for?

Typically, a dedicated server is used to host websites with high volumes of traffic, demanding web applications, gaming servers, file storage and other hosting services that require heavy amounts of resources.

How do dedicated servers work?

dedicated servers work by providing a physical server housed within a data centre (set by the hosting provider of your choosing). The server provider will grant a user or business with full root access and the freedom to select which OS (operating system) and hardware they require, as well as their network bandwidth, RAM, CPU and GPU. This allows a customer with a dedicated server to have full control of their environment and really tailor their needs, whether it’s to house an e-commerce site or a competitive gaming server.

How does a dedicated server compare to other servers?

We already know that shared hosting stores your website on a server alongside an unprecedented number of others too. While this is great for things like personal blogs or portfolio sites, performance won’t be optimal for something more demanding like an e-commerce site. This is why some opt for dedicated servers to house their sites, as they’ll be able to configure the server to their requirements.

Alternatively, a VPS is also a possible (and popular) solution, particularly if you’re after an isolated spaced on a shared server. A VPS boasts high uptime and performance, plus the same ability to configure it to your liking. While this is all good and well, a dedicated server has many advantages over a VPS, including BIOS-level controls and can accommodate large traffic volumes from the get-go.

What are the advantages of dedicated servers?

Dedicated servers come with a whole range of benefits that, depending on the specific needs of your project, could really help give you a boost. When your site begins to show signs that it’s struggling to deal with traffic, or your project isn’t performing as it should, it’s worth thinking about the following benefits:

1. Security

Having your own dedicated server means that you know exactly who you’re sharing your space with – no one. That means there’s no risk of malicious sites occupying the same server, which is very important for businesses dealing with financial transactions through SSL or FTP. Plus you get to manage your own security and software updates, so you’ll always know it’s locked up tight how you need it to be.

2. High capacity

It sounds pretty obvious but when you have your own space, there’s more, well, space. A dedicated server gives you the full benefits of having exclusive access to your server’s storage – they come with larger storage capacities, with your space being all yours to do with what you need to. And with Storage Servers, you get even more room for bigger projects.

3. Dedicated performance

We’ve mentioned dedicated storage, but you’ll also get resources like CPU, RAM and bandwidth all to yourself too. This means you can forget competing against “noisy neighbours” for site performance and enjoy the full power your server’s hardware has to offer.

4. Speed

One of the main reasons you might switch to a dedicated server is that you’ve noticed things aren’t moving as smoothly as they should be. The more traffic you receive, the more strain you’re under. With a dedicated server, you can bump up page speeds and project performance, making for a far more positive user experience for your visitors and users.

5. Unique IP address

When you operate in a shared server, you don’t know who else is in there with you. If you happen to share a space with a spam or adult site, this will affect how you rank in search engines. Having your own unique IP address means that this is no longer a concern, which is particularly important if you need SSL for credit card processing.

What are the disadvantages of dedicated servers?

But it’s not all roses with dedicated servers. There can be some drawbacks compared to the alternatives that are worth being aware of when you’re weighing up your options.

1. More expensive

As you’d expect, a dedicated server is more expensive than a shared server. The range of advantages that a dedicated server brings to the table pushes up its value, so budgeting is crucial in working out what you can afford, and whether it’ll be worth it for your project.

2. More complex to set up

To set up and maintain a dedicated server, you need to be a lot more tech savvy. Owning one comes with a range of daily maintenance tasks, data management, and other duties which you don’t need to worry about with a shared server.

3. More responsibility

While on paper dedicated servers are more secure due to increased control, securing your server will be your responsibility. Although hosts can provide advice and guidance on security measures, it ultimately comes down to you to make sure your project is secure.

What can you use a dedicated server for?

Dedicated servers offer a ton of advantages and can be useful in all sorts of situations. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways people use their dedicated servers.

1. High-traffic sites

Increased traffic is one of the main reasons you might choose to upgrade your hosting. As your project grows, and your traffic climbs, you’ll probably reach a point where your shared hosting won’t be able to properly support the rate of visitors you’re getting. This will result in slow page speeds and poor user experience for all your new visitors. With its first-class CPU and unlimited bandwidth, a dedicated server will give you the slack you need to welcome in all the new customers you like.

2. Gaming

Dedicated servers are good for gaming, particularly as you need instantaneous, uninterrupted communication between devices for a smooth and lag-free gaming session. That’s why getting the server right is absolutely crucial. With most online multiplayer games, the player who set up the game will normally host and play simultaneously. This comes with a load of issues, including lag, crashes, and slow loading times for everyone involved, which, if you ask any gamer, is hell on earth. Plus, dedicated servers provide a stronger hosting alternative, with the room to install your own mods and maps, set your own rules and get away from griefing.

3. Databases

The security of your databases is a top priority. When storing huge amounts of sensitive info, you need to know that it’s safe and secure. A dedicated server will help protect against security breaches, taking away the risks of sharing space with unknown entities. Plus, the extra power allows for rapid writing, processing and access to your stored data.

4. Client sites

If you’ve got a lot of sites to host, a dedicated server lets you host and manage all sites at the same time, in the same place. It gives you complete control of your customisation and scalability, across every part of your project. And you can keep clients happy with performance that can handle all their sites.

What to consider when choosing a dedicated server

When choosing a dedicated server, you need to think about what you actually want to get out of switching. There’s a range of options, each tailored to serve a different purpose. So, what should you keep in mind when choosing your dedicated server?

1. Security

A dedicated server protects you from malicious software and spammers, and allows you to implement your own security measures. Different dedicated servers will also allow you to customise your security preferences to different extents. The power is in your hands.

2. Operating system

One of the first decisions you'll need to make is choosing the operating system you want to use on your dedicated server. The two most popular options are Windows and Linux, with each boasting some unique advantages. Linux dedicated servers will offer more control and customisation; but will require more technical knowledge to set up and operate. On the other hand, Windows dedicated servers are more user friendly, but lack the same level of flexibility, and come at a higher cost.

3. CPU

The CPU of a server is crucial to its performance. There are two key factors to consider with a CPU: frequency, and how many cores it has. The more cores there are and the higher the frequency, the more powerful the CPU.

The two main CPU manufacturers are Intel and AMD. Both are industry-leading companies renowned for their tech but it’s always worth looking up the differences between them.

4. RAM

Another important factor to consider is RAM. The more RAM a dedicated server can offer, the faster it’ll be able to run. Choosing a server with RAM capable of supporting the amount of traffic you expect is vital, but you also have the option to upgrade RAM post-purchase with a lot of servers.

5. Scalability

Where do you believe your project is heading? Choosing a server that will support the level of growth you predict to see over the next few years is essential to ensuring that what you’re buying can actually keep up with your project in the long term.

6. Tech support

Beyond the raw technology itself, you can’t underestimate the value of customer support. Being in the dark when things go wrong can be unbearably frustrating, so choosing a provider that will always be on hand to support you is definitely something to consider.

7. Budget

The main drawback of a dedicated server in comparison with shared hosting is ultimately the cost. However, it can be a valuable investment, so thorough analysis of budgets and costs will make sure you get what you need, and can afford it. If you shop around you’ll usually find industry-leading hosting providers offer deals like getting a % off your server hosting for the first few months.

Frequently asked questions about dedicated servers

Does your web project need a dedicated server?

As your business grows, your computing needs will change, too. It’s common for established businesses to run into capacity constraints with cheaper hosting options such as shared hosting or on-premises hosting as they expand. In many cases, one of the first services to be moved off-site is the company website. And until the website begins to generate significant traffic, a low-cost shared hosting package will typically do the job just fine.

But as the use of resources increases, you'll begin to experience problems, such as slower response times and loss of overall performance. This is when you may decide you need a dedicated server. A dedicated server, as the name suggests, is an entirely physical machine that is passed over for the sole use of the customer. The CPU, RAM and storage is exclusive to one user, and will never be shared. It’s the perfect next step for a growing business.

Do you have to pay for a dedicated server?

Yes, dedicated servers cost to run and are usually paid for monthly. They start from just £25 a month and can be scaled up, depending on the additional resources you require. You can also choose between an AMD dedicated server or Intel dedicated server, giving you flexibility to make a choice on your server’s CPU depending on preference.

Is a dedicated server always better than other types of server?

This depends entirely on your needs and your budget. Typically, dedicated servers offer faster loading times, customisation options and bandwidth; all of which suit uses such as high traffic ecommerce sites. However, if your project isn't so intensive, or demand fluctuates heavily, you may be better off choosing a VPS or a cloud server.

Thinking a dedicated server might be for you but have some questions? Our sales team can help you figure out which server is the right fit for your project.