A dedicated server is exactly what you think, a server which is rented or purchased for use by one client/organisation. There are many reasons why companies upgrade to dedicated servers, the majority of which tend to revolve around increased online traffic and sales. There are ways and means of enhancing performance and optimising your dedicated server to make sure everything runs smoothly and securely.
1. Consider cost when configuring your dedicated server
In a perfect world we all want to have the best technology, the latest software and the fastest hardware. With just a click your customers can quickly secure their dream purchase. However, it is essential to find a balance between high spec dedicated server configuration and, simply, what you can afford.
Carefully consider the specs of the operating system, memory, bandwidth, type of storage, CPUs and disk space. Don’t get carried away. Once your dedicated server is configured to the size of your business the performance will be more than adequate. This ensures that more of your budget is left over to invest in the actual business as opposed to hosting. Performance optimisation is the key. However, this needs to be done with one eye on affordability, requirements and the expected future growth in your business. In some ways overspending on dedicated server configuration is akin to buying a Ferrari keyring but not the car.
The subject of different types of storage tends to revolve around HDD and SSD options. One example, solid-state drivers are much quicker than the traditional hard disc drives. This can cost up to 6 times more than HDD hardware. And unfortunately they also come with less capacity. So, business entrepreneurs may well have to make a decision to balance hardware speed/reliability against cost/affordability.
2. Take control of previously managed areas of your dedicated server
Online businesses with interests in dedicated servers ought to have knowledge of how servers work and how to manage them. So, where possible it makes sense to take a hands-on approach to different areas of hosting. Previously, this may have fallen under managed hosting at a cost. It makes sense to take in issues such as:-
- Disaster recovery
- Regulation compliance
- Load balancing
- Security patches
- Performed optimisation
- Antivirus and malware scans
- RAM requirements
You start to get the picture. By no means is this an exclusive list. Still, it gives clarity on some of the common managed services you may be able to take on yourself. Quite simply, the more services you can look after yourself the less you would expect to pay for managed services. You do need to find a balance between saving money and doing tasks for which you may not be experienced. At the end of the day, the key is your website. It needs to be up (accessible) as much as possible, safe and secure and earning you money.
Many people also take on basic manage hosting plans. These plans give the customer a greater degree of freedom. Allowing them to manage the more basic elements such as monitoring, security and updating tasks. These are fairly specialist areas where a hosting company is likely to acquire the latest software for all of their managed accounts, etc. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, make it work for you. It is cost-effective and ensures that your website is live as much as possible. So, why not take it?
3. Service level agreements
Every second that your website is down is lost money, lost reputation and ultimately you will lose customers. For example, in 2017 Amazon Web Services went down for just three hours. The cost to businesses was a staggering $150 million. Even though many hosting services still advertise 100% uptime, surely this is unreasonable and unachievable?
A 99.9% uptime promise equates to an average of around 45 minutes downtime per month. Not ideal, but certainly nothing which will ruin your business. As a consequence, despite many companies taking on dedicated servers, managing as many of the different components as possible there is still great interest in what are known as service level agreements (SLAs). This is a legally binding agreement with your web hosting company to ensure that your dedicated server/website is up 99.9% of the time. In order to achieve this they may promise to replace hardware/software which is corrupted or damaged and basically ensure that your website is alive and kicking as much as possible.
4. Security, security, security
Those who follow our blog will be well aware of the focus on security, security and more security. While it is fairly easy to estimate lost business if your website is down, or maybe you been hacked, it is not so easy with regards to reputation. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression and if that oppression looks insecure then Internet surfers will simply move onto the next company, your competition.
When adding different hardware components or the latest software to your dedicated server it is essential that security is always considered. There is no point investing in what can be expensive hardware and the latest software but not adding the degree of security required. Even though the vast majority of cybercrime in the world of corporate goes unreported (estimated to cost $400 billion a year) that does not mean you should ignore security. If you are a large enough business to allocate members of your IT team to keep firewalls and SSL certificates active and combat DDoS attacks then fine. If not, you should look towards at least a partially managed agreement which would take in DDoS attacks, the upkeep of firewalls and SSL certificates.
A lack of security investment for your dedicated server is akin to spending a fortune redecorating your home but leaving the door wide open for someone to ransack it. Just doesn’t make sense…..and don’t fall into the trap of thinking “it will never happen to me” because for many people it has.
5. Plan ahead for future scalability
While sometimes hackers are one step ahead of security, website owners have to be one step ahead of their next growth phase. In the early days, you may go for a shared server with the financial benefits and the performance drawbacks. Slowly but surely, as your website traffic increases and your business blossoms, you may move towards a Virtual Private Server, a cloud account and then potentially your own dedicated server. For many people a dedicated server is like a badge of honour, you have built up a website to a level when shared hosting services just don’t cut it.
It is therefore essential that when choosing your next server option or managed account you leave enough room for expansion. The idea of moving from server to server as your business expands and growth increases can be fraught with danger. Certain elements may not be compatible with the new server, codes may need to be updated and you may experience significant downtime. So, when looking at your next server option, and with the idea of moving up to a full dedicated server, visualise scalability in your mind. Talk to your web hosting company; tell them of your plans and hopes for the future. Any web hosting company worth its salt will work with you in the longer term as opposed to racking up the bills in the short term then losing you.
6. Take help when offered
The vast majority of dedicated server accounts come with some form of managed support with assistance often available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Remember, it is in the best interests of the web hosting company to ensure that your website is up and running as much as possible. When downtime begins to increase it is only natural for customers to consider other options even if the web hosting company was not to blame – it happened on their watch.
So, if a degree of management of your dedicated server is not offered during discussions then mention it. Ask if they would consider a dedicated server deal with an element of management for the more specialist, often time consuming operations. Remember, there is a fine balance between saving money and quite simply putting the uptime of your website in jeopardy.
Checklist when optimising your dedicated server
Here is a simple checklist when considering optimising your dedicated server:-
- Balance hardware and software investment against the size of your business
- Where possible remove certain responsibilities from a managed account list to save money
- Service Level Agreements (SLAs) place a legal responsibility on web hosting companies to ensure your site is live for, example, 99.9% of the time
- You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari and keep the door open. Don’t invest in a dedicated server and ignore investment in security
- Consider scalability going forward and server configuration/optimisation changes needed for the future. Where possible avoid transferring from server to server and the challenges this can bring
- Many web hosting companies’ offer 24/7 support services – make use of them!
In many cases it makes sense to speak with web hosting companies and let them know your current requirements, plans for the future and budget. Modern web hosting providers offer an array of services. These hosting services tend to be extremely flexible and suitable for vaying budgets. Published fees and specifications are not always set in stone – if you need something different ask.
Many businesses are now looking towards the dedicated server option with a more hands-on ability to maintain and improve reliability and security. This will include important elements such as performance optimisation, load balancing to control traffic and the use of solid state drives (SSD) and other types of storage. However, without adequate IT capacity certain elements of a dedicated server agreement ought to be the host’s responsibility.
Let’s not forget, the whole idea of switching to a dedicated server is to enhance security, speed and reliability. The chances are that your time and effort will be better spent growing the business. As opposed to monitoring various actions and performance software which can easily be done by your host company. If you haven’t learnt to delegate yet, learn quickly!