Servers 101: What is a Dedicated Server?

Most of our clients are experienced users, but some are small business owners who come to us on the recommendation of one of their technical advisors, or they’re in charge of procuring and one of their programmers asked them to “go get a dedicated server”.   For these clients, sorting through the technical jargon can be difficult.  We’ll try to sort out some of that here.

What is a Dedicated Server?
A Dedicated Server is a computer running a server operating system, housed in a data center.   Clients pay a monthly fee for exclusive use of that server and the infrastructure, bandwidth, power systems and support that come with it.

What kinds of Dedicated Servers are there?
The most common categorization is between managed servers and unmanaged servers.   Fully managed servers usually involve the provider doing backups, operating system updates and software patches for the client.   Unmanaged servers leave all of that to the client.   Semi-managed servers, like the various offerings, do initial operating system updates and have their support team available to assist with such updates, but do not log in to a client’s server without pre-arranging it.

Why would I want a Dedicated Server?
Most Dedicated Servers are used for web hosting.   This can take many forms.  You may have many websites and shared hosting gets expensive in such cases.   You can host effectively unlimited websites on a dedicated server.   You may have a web application written in PHP or ASPX that you need to run.  Most shared hosting runs into roadblocks quickly when you’re running such software.

What can I do on a Dedicated Server that I can’t do with Shared Hosting?
The main thing you get is root access.  This lets you have full administrative access to your server, and all aspects of that server.  You have full access to permissions, you can install software, and you can configure firewalls.   There really is no material difference between what you can do on a Dedicated Server and what you can do on a computer sitting in front of you at home.  With Shared Hosting, you are limited to whatever rights the server owner grants you, and you are limited to whatever performance is left over from all the other people sharing the server.

What can I do on a Dedicated Server that I can’t do with a Cloud Server?
Nothing, but whatever you do will probably run better on a Dedicated Server.   Here’s a more complete listing of the differences.

Why shouldn’t I run my server at home in my basement, or in my office?
Four main reasons:  bandwidth, power systems, monitoring and support.   The odds are you don’t have multiple fiber optic lines on the Internet backbone (they cost tens of thousands per month, each), or huge diesel generators and UPS systems protecting you from power outages or blips, and the odds are you don’t have monitoring systems that check 24/7 if your server is up, and even if you do, you probably don’t have people there 24/7 to fix the problem when it goes down. has all of those things and more, which lets you focus on your core business instead of worrying about servers.