A couple questions a business should seriously consider when building their Internet presence is how important is stability, is there room for growth and what is their purpose on the net. If your business is strictly looking at a brochure type website then a shared hosting account at a reliable provider is the correct answer. If you are only displaying a few informational pages so people can learn a little about you and how to contact you then shared hosting is the way to go.
Now if you are proactive at your growth planning and are looking at harnessing the power of the Internet then you really need to consider a dedicated or colocated server. Let’s start by looking at the difference between the two.
Collocated Server: If you have an IT person or staff then this option is appealing. You store(colocate) your server at the provider’s datacenter. It i’s your hardware, your software, and your data. The provider gives you rack space, power and typically IP addresses. They provide the essentials to power and “see” your server on the Net. You own and manage the rest. This allows the most freedom to do pretty much as you wish with your server and the data on that server.
That freedom has a trade off. You and you alone will be responsible in the event of a hardware, software and data failure. If anything goes wrong other than your Internet feed you will be solely responsible. This is the main reason to only consider this option if your an experienced IT professional or are technically savvy enough to stomach that risk.
Dedicated Server: A dedicated server is like a hosting account, only you have complete access to the server and the freedom to install whatever applications and data you need. The benefit over a shared hosting account is you are not competing with all the other sites on the server for hardware resources. It only takes one poorly coded site or a high traffic site to impact the performance of the other sites on the server. Including yours. A dedicated server provides you a much higher degree of stability and reliability over the shared server.
If it’s important that your site be accessible as well as functional at all times then a dedicated server should be considered. The hosting company will provide the hardware and in the event of a hardware failure will replace the failed component or server. The hardware liability is on the shoulders of the provider, not yours. Granted, hardware failures are not common but who wants to scramble around at 2AM looking for a spare stick of RAM or a hard drive that matches the one in your server. That kind of issue is covered in your monthly fee.
The downside is that you do not own the hardware and if you decide to move to a different provider you will have to migrate your data to the new server vs. simply moving the server. This could potentially be a serious time consuming undertaking.
The advantage to both options over shared hosting is numerous. Your data is housed in a secure location with redundant power with failover capabilities. Your server is in a location monitored and run by specialists in that field. Your accountants son’s best friend that knows how to run a game server is not running the show. You free up resources at your location, home or business, that otherwise would be taken by the equipment necessary to run a server.
The provider is responsible for the security of the location. Is your home or business monitored by security camera’s? Is there dual factor authentication to get into your location? In addition to security there are natural disasters to consider. A provider will should have generator backup, gas fire suppression and the necessary equipment and procedures in place to ensure your server is accessible. Your provider will have dual internet backbones at the very least. This allows your service to be uninterrupted in the event one of it’s internet providers goes down.
What kind of things require a dedicated or collocated server? That’s really another article but in addition to your website you could house applications for access from anywhere in the world, your B2B portal, your own email server, and more. Your only limited by your imagination. The Internet is not just for web sites, remember that. -Bill