A dedicated hosting service, dedicated server, or managed hosting service is a type of Internet hosting where the client leases an entire server not shared with anyone. This is more flexible than shared hosting, as organizations have full control over the server(s), including choice of operating system, hardware, etc. Server administration can usually be provided by the hosting company as an add-on service. In some cases a dedicated server can offer less overhead and a larger return on investment. Dedicated servers are most often housed in data centers, similar to colocation facilities, providing redundant power sources and HVAC systems. In contrast to collocation, the server hardware is owned by the provider and in some cases they will provide support for your operating system or applications.
Availability, price and employee familiarity often determines which operating systems are offered on dedicated servers. Variations of Linux (open source operating systems) are often included at no charge to the customer. Commercial operating systems include Microsoft Windows Server, provided through a special program called Microsoft SPLA. Red Hat Enterprise is a commercial version of Linux offered to hosting providers on a monthly fee basis. The monthly fee provides OS updates through the Red Hat Network using an application called up2date. Other operating systems are available from the open source community at no charge. These include CentOS, Fedora Core, Debian, and many other Linux distributions or BSD systems FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD.
Support for any of the operating systems above typically depends on the level of management offered with a particular dedicated server plan. Operating system support may include updates to the core system in order to acquire the latest security fixes, patches, and system-wide vulnerability resolutions. Updates to core operating systems include kernel upgrades, service packs, application updates, and security patches that keep server secure and safe. Operating system updates and support relieves the burden of server management from the dedicated server owner.
Bandwidth refers to the data transfer rate or the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second) and is often represented in bits (of data) per second (bit/s). For example, visitors to your server, web site, or applications utilize bandwidth as the traffic moves from your server to the Internet and vice versa. Connectivity refers to the “access providers” that supply bandwidth, or data transfer rate, through various connection points across a network or footprint to one or multiple data centers where dedicated servers are housed.
Bandwidth measurements are defined (per telecom standards) as the following:
95th Method: Line Speed, billed on the 95th percentile, average or peak usage, refers to the speed in which data flows from the server or device. The measurement can be compared to mph (Miles Per Hour), or how fast something travels. Line Speed is measured using bits per second, kilobits per second, megabits per second, and gigabits per second.
Unmetered Method: The second bandwidth measurement is Unmetered service where providers cap or control the “top line” speed for a server. Top line speed in unmetered bandwidth is the total Mbit/s allocated to the server and configured on the switch level. For example, if you purchase 10 Mbit/s unmetered bandwidth, the top line speed would be 10 Mbit/s. 10 Mbit/s would result in the provider controlling the speed transfers take place while providing the ability for the dedicated server owner to not be charged with bandwidth overages. Unmetered bandwidth services usually incur an additional charge.
Total Transfer Method: Some providers will calculate the Total Transfer, the measurement of actual data leaving and coming from the server, measured in bytes. Measurement between providers varies and includes one of the following equations:
One of the reasons people choose to outsource dedicated servers is the availability of high powered networks from multiple providers. As dedicated server providers utilize massive amounts of bandwidth, they are able to secure lower volume based pricing to include a multi-provider blend of bandwidth. To achieve the same type of network without a multi-provider blend of bandwidth, a large investment in core routers, long term contracts, and expensive monthly bills would need to be in place. The expenses needed to develop a network without a multi-provider blend of bandwidth does not make sense economically for hosting providers.
Many dedicated server providers include a service level agreement based on network uptime. Some dedicated server hosting providers offer a 100% uptime guarantee on their network. By securing multiple vendors for connectivity and using redundant hardware, providers are able to guarantee higher uptimes; usually between 99-100% uptime if they are a higher quality provider. One aspect of higher quality providers is they are mostly likely multi-homed across multiple quality uplink providers, which in turn, provides significant redundancy in the event one goes down in addition to potentially improved routes to destinations.
Bandwidth consumption over the last several years has shifted from a per megabit usage model to a per gigabyte usage model. Bandwidth was traditionally measured in line speed access that included the ability to purchase needed megabits at a given monthly cost. As the shared hosting model developed, the trend towards gigabyte or total bytes transferred, replaced the megabit line speed model so dedicated server providers started offering per gigabyte.
Prominent players in the dedicated server market offer large amounts of bandwidth ranging from 500 gigabytes to 3000 gigabytes using the “overselling” model. It is not uncommon for major players to provide dedicated servers with 1Terabyte (TB) of bandwidth or higher. Usage models based on the byte level measurement usually include a given amount of bandwidth with each server and a price per gigabyte after a certain threshold has been reached. Expect to pay additional fees for bandwidth overage usage. For example, if a dedicated server has been given 3000 gigabytes of bandwidth per month and the customer uses 5000 gigabytes of bandwidth within the billing period, the additional 2000 gigabytes of bandwidth will be invoiced as bandwidth overage. Each provider has a different model for billing. As of yet, no industry standards have been set.
To date, no industry standards have been set to clearly define the management role of dedicated server providers. What this means is that each provider will use industry standard terms, but each provider will define them differently. For some dedicated server providers, fully managed is defined as having a web based control panel while other providers define it as having dedicated system engineers readily available to handle all server and network related functions of the dedicated server provider.
Server management can include some or all of the following:
Dedicated hosting server providers define their level of management based on the services they provide. In comparison, fully managed could equal self managed from provider to provider.
Administrative maintenance of the operating system, often including upgrades, security patches, and sometimes even daemon updates are included. Differing levels of management may include adding users, domains, daemon configuration, or even custom programming.
Dedicated server hosting providers may provide the following types of server managed support:
Note: The provider will continue to maintain security on the network regardless of support level.
Providers often bill for dedicated servers on a fixed monthly price to include specific software packages. Over the years, software vendors realized the significant market opportunity to bundle their software with dedicated servers. They have since started introducing pricing models that allow dedicated hosting providers the ability to purchase and resell software based on reduced monthly fees.
Microsoft offers software licenses through a program called the Service Provider License Agreement. The SPLA model provides use of Microsoft products through a monthly user or processor based fee. SPLA software includes the Windows Operating System, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint and shoutcast hosting, and many other server based products.
Dedicated Server Providers usually offer the ability to select the software you want installed on a dedicated server. Depending on the overall usage of the server, this will include your choice of operating system, database, and specific applications. Servers can be customized and tailored specific to the customer’s needs and requirements.
Other software applications available are specialized web hosting specific programs called control panels. Control panel software is an all inclusive set of software applications, server applications, and automation tools that can be installed on a dedicated server. Control panels include integration into web servers, database applications, programming languages, application deployment, server administration tasks, and include the ability to automate tasks via a web based front end.
Most dedicated servers are packaged with a control panel. Control panels are often confused with management tools, but these control panels are actually web based automation tools created to help automate the process of web site creation and server management. Control panels should not be confused with a full server management solution by a dedicated hosting provider.
Adult content is disallowed by many providers as it may either be of questionable legality or consume large amounts of bandwidth.