How does a dedicated server work?

What are dedicated servers and how are they used on the internet?

A dedicated server is a physical server in a data center that is exclusively dedicated to one customer. They are mainly used to ‘host’ large, high-traffic websites, web applications, and other services where performance is paramount — such as machine learning and virtualization.

Many websites are small enough that they can be served from a machine that is shared by many customers i.e. shared hosting. But a bigger site, with a lot of visitors, could struggle against the speed, memory, or bandwidth limitations of the shared arrangement. 

On a dedicated server, the customer can have complete control over the server and its resources. This makes it the most versatile hosting solution. Dedicated servers are great when your business needs to run many different services to support its operations.

So, how do dedicated servers work?

How does dedicated server hosting work?

A dedicated server sits in the hosting provider's data center. It is connected to the internet via the host's mighty network infrastructure. It gets its power from the host's industrial-strength power lines backed up by batteries and generators. 

As the customer, you lease the machine and with it access to the datacenter's resources of internet bandwidth, electricity, air conditioning, and physical protection. You determine who has access rights, which ports are open, what services it runs, what programming environments are allowed, and what happens when things go wrong.

As such, a dedicated server is a good option if you have some technical experience and can manage and configure the server on your own or have personnel responsible for managing IT infrastructure within your business.

Why would you need a dedicated server?

When comparing against other types of servers, such as dedicated servers vs. VPS, here are the main points in favor of the dedicated solution.

Performance

Shared hosting means that your website is one of many websites. Even though you don't see them when you log in, they are there on the same machine as you, competing for the same resources as you. When one of them explodes in popularity or falls prey to buggy code, your website’s performance could drop significantly. 

The next step after shared hosting, a virtual private server (VPS), you still share the resources with other users but less than in a Shared Hosting situation. With the resources isolated on the OS level, the owners of the VPS are far less dependent. VPS provides root access, therefore when you have your own server, you don’t have to worry about invisible neighbors using up your resources..

While shared hosting and VPS hosting are great options for small and medium sized websites, dedicated hosting is ideal for bigger enterprises that need to guarantee their performance. 

Security

A dedicated server allows you to offer optimal security for your own website and any stored user information, such as confidential emails, credit card numbers, or customer information.  You’re completely in charge of your website’s security. This means you can optimize the features you need for the specific requirements of your website and stored files. 

Control

You get to configure your dedicated server down to the last detail. You control everything. You can install the software you want. You can create the user accounts you need. You can configure the services, the ports, the language, the resources allocated to various programs or directories, and the defenses against potential attackers. 

You also get to monitor everything going on inside when it is running: the exact network activity, server load, and memory usage. You can look at usage patterns of all the users on the machine. This level of direct inspection allows a kind of troubleshooting that would be impossible with other types of hosting.

If you have multiple shared properties, you also can bring all of your websites under one dedicated server. You will then have all the resources you need to maintain multiple high-performing websites.

Testing and development

A dedicated server is an ideal environment for development and testing. One reason is the amount of control you have over the system. It is easy to spin up virtual servers. You can install as many databases as you want. But another reason is that in the course of development, a buggy build might thrash your server. On a shared server this might result in costly overage. And on your dedicated server, you can turn everything off and back on again.

Versatility

From email to app backends, from media storage to content management, or from gaming to dev ops, there is nothing you can't do on a dedicated server. And because you control everything, you can even host a number of those features at the same time, if you want. Your dedicated machine can be the Swiss army knife for your networked computing needs.

Speed and SEO

There are a couple of ways that dedicated servers affect SEO. Responsiveness and loading speed are hugely important to search page ranking. If your website is laggy because your neighbors on a shared server are clobbering the resources again, you will sink down in the search results. If you happen to be on a shared server where some of your neighbors are using shady practices and the search engines detect them, then you will face a penalty just for being at the same IP address as them.

Slow pages will also lead to higher bounce rates. If a high-performing website is what you need, a dedicated server is anobvious choice. Choosing a Dedicated Server will guarantee that you have the bandwidth you need to enhance your page loading times.

Success

If you are serious about growing your business online and want more visitors, upgrading to a Dedicated Server will give you the required resources needed to handle thousands of requests to access your website. Also, if you have a lot of graphics and video content, it is better to upgrade as you will need more bandwidth and disk space.

Steps to set up a dedicated server

Choose a server level

How to choose a dedicated server? In this step, you have to analyze your needs and get a rough estimate of how much computing power (CPU), random-access memory (RAM), and disk storage you need. Namecheap allows you to browse by tier with three categories to guide your choice: Entry Level, Medium Level, and Advanced Level.

Choose a management level

Here is where you decide how much of it you want to do on your own. The OS patches, the troubleshooting, the security: very important work that just doesn't thrill some people. For them, there are two levels of management beyond full User Responsibility at Namecheap: Basic management and Complete management. At the Basic level, you get vendor updates, core software support, and assistance with server health. Complete includes SSL certificate setup, firewall configuration, weekly backups, and much more.

Choose an operating system

For the dedicated servers under consideration here, this step means choosing a version of Linux to run. The choice is entirely yours if you are operating under the unmanaged User Responsibility plan: Debian, OpenSUSE, Fedora Server, etc. However, if you have gone for either Basic or Complete management, you have to choose from among a couple of enterprise-level Linux distros, CentOS or CloudLinux at the time of this writing. The same goes for cPanel, a popular browser-based server administration interface.

Log on to your server

When your payment has cleared, you will have access to your server. Log on to your server with the passwords given. You're home! 

Secure your server

The first thing to do is to make sure that you understand how your server's defenses are set up. Make sure you have a firewall with reasonable rules. Enable sensible logging at the OS level and the web-server level. Start thinking immediately about your backup procedures. If you are running an email server, make sure you have anti-spam and anti-phishing measures in place. Install your SSL certificates. Encrypt sensitive directories. 

Install the software you need

In this step, you use the operating system's tools to download and install software packages that are not included in the Operation System distribution you are running. These might be web-server extensions, game engines, project-management tools, or media servers.

Which servers do Namecheap offer?

If you intend to purchase a Dedicated Server at Namecheap, you will have a choice betweven two variants:

New Dedicated Servers

Outlet (Clearance) Servers

Outlet Servers are previous-generation Dedicated Servers that are provided at a discounted price. Taking it into account, such an option is very beneficial from a budget perspective.

For more details, check out our Outlet Servers article.

Purchasing a Dedicated Server with Namecheap means you enhance the security of your business, as all our Dedicated Servers are located in our US PhoenixNAP datacenter, which provides the highest standards of security and stable connectivity for any website or application you may be running.

As we mentioned already, a Dedicated Server allows you to set up any custom configurations you need. This includes: choosing an operating system (OS), type of server management, CPU, the type of a disk drive, the number of dedicated IP addresses, etc. 

We have a dynamic stock and we only display servers that are currently available. This means you can rest easy knowing that we will provide you with the server and configurations you choose. Receive your welcome email and start creating, managing, and hosting your website.

More details about the features and options we offer with Dedicated Servers can be checked on our Dedicated Servers homepage.

Dedicated server use cases

More than a million visits

If you are running a feature-rich website that gets a million visits per month, you should start considering a dedicated server. For example, a blog with photos and videos, a nice template, the typical plugins, and monetization. With all these features, it could easily need a megabyte or two to store session state for a visitor. 

A serious hobby

Some want to teach themselves how to program and administer a computer. Others want to host a game world that is exactly how they and their friends want it. Yet others want a place to store a media collection. Each of these people is dedicated to a hobby that has a strong technical component. They aren't afraid of looking under the hood and doing the work to get the most out of a setup.

A dedicated server makes complete sense to people who just love tinkering with computers, of course. Gamers who want to set up a game server for their friends will face high demand for CPU and RAM. For many game engines in 2021, performance starts lagging if there is less than 250 MB of RAM per player. So for every 4 players, you need an extra GB of RAM. After a dozen players or so It will be cheaper to upgrade your dedicated server than to lease more RAM for your VPS plan.

E-Commerce

If you are running an online store, a dedicated server is a great solution. You get the increased security and control that empower you to give your customers the safest and most pleasant experience possible. You get the boost to your SEO. You also get to fully use your CPU resources and disk storage to help you do the data mining that is key to building a business these days. You can monitor customer behavior and link AI-driven tools to analyze all the data you collect. You can also install software to track social mentions around the clock and automate some responses. 

WordPress development 

WordPress's philosophy encourages customization. You create themes and plugins to deal with your particular needs. You might have an idea for a responsive print format or an audience analysis method. There are quite a few independent developers making money selling themes and plugins on the official WP marketplace. It is a fun environment to work in.

Some shared server or cloud server arrangements allow you to tinker with WordPress on your virtual server. It's not a good idea. If there is resource leakage in the software you’re developing, or unexpected surge of traffic thrashing the CPU, the RAM, or the storage, you might get a surcharge on your next bill. You might also get a strike against you. Get too many strikes and you will be shown the Terms of Service.

On a dedicated server running WordPress, if your plugin crashes and thrashes, you can watch everything it is doing, you can stop and restart services, and reboot the machine, if it comes to that. Nobody will be mad at you, nobody will bill you for extra CPU, RAM, or storage. 

WordPress is a great, inexpensive publishing platform, a content management system for the masses. Normally, Namecheap would try to steer you to EasyWP, its hosted WordPress offering. Again, above 500k visitors per month, you will want a dedicated server. This is about developing for the WP platform.

Options for growing businesses that don't include building a datacenter

When you started your business, you never thought it would become so complex: your little agency has developers and marketing people and planners and tech support and they all have tools scattered around. To rein in the chaos, you have options. You can go with more cloud subscriptions from the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft, or Atlassian. Or if gaining customer trust rests on showing technical skill, you can deploy similar tools on your own Linux server.

What is best for you?

Now that you know the advantages of dedicated servers, you can decide if setting up a dedicated server is worth the investment. With a range of cheap dedicated server options, Namecheap has got you covered from entry-level to highly advanced configurations. You will obviously need more technical know-how on staff, but your business's horizon of possibilities will be greatly expanded.


Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez

More articles written by Ruth.

Join Our Newsletter

Stay inspired

Get all the latest offers, articles, and industry news straight to your mailbox every month.

Need help? We're always here for you.