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    A dedicated server provides computing resources for a single enterprise that needs to host websites or applications. Dedicated servers are highly customizable appliances that offer businesses many choices for hosting and managing traffic.

    All organizations must store data, whether it be personally identifiable information (PII) of their customers, user credentials, or analytics. They also need to maintain access to their websites and business applications, such as email or customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Hosting these assets on a dedicated server meets those needs.

    What is a dedicated server?

    A dedicated server, also called a bare-metal server, is a piece of computer hardware that an organization has exclusive use of to host their websites, data, and applications. All resources on that server, including computing power, network bandwidth, and memory, are available for that organization’s websites and corresponding applications.

    Organizations may start their websites on a shared hosting service, but once the site has more visitors or site traffic suddenly spikes, they may not have the allocated bandwidth to manage all of the incoming HTTP or HTTPS requests. For businesses that have heavily-trafficked websites, or have noticed a sudden increase in web traffic, dedicated servers allow those organizations to have full control over their bandwidth, which dictates how many requests they can receive at one time. Having more bandwidth also improves page load speeds, making websites more attractive to visitors and helping them meet e-commerce demands.  

    Dedicated hosting vs. shared hosting

    Two types of hosting on hardware servers cater to different business needs: dedicated hosting and shared hosting.

    Dedicated hosting

    Dedicated hosting is a better option for large organizations that need scalability to handle large spikes in traffic to their website, or if they need to host multiple sites because they will have access to more bandwidth. And generally speaking, the larger the business, the more data they will need to store, which makes more storage space valuable.

    Unlike shared hosting services, dedicated hosting usually doesn’t provide maintenance, administration and security with standard plans. These added services can be purchased for a higher price but large organizations are more likely to have in-house resources and team members to manage it themselves. Overall, dedicated hosting is the more expensive option.

    Dedicated hosting offers the opportunity for businesses to choose the security features they want for their websites or applications. For businesses that need intensive security, dedicated hosting allows more flexibility. Businesses that are required to comply with data protection regulations particularly benefit from dedicated hosting because they don’t have to worry about potential regulatory breaches by the host or other organizations using the server. 

    Learn about web application firewall protection for sites: Top Web Application Firewall (WAF) Solutions 

    Shared hosting

    Shared hosting means that multiple organizations host their business assets on the same server. Each party is given a limited amount of disk space and bandwidth. Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, means an organization has full and exclusive access to all of the storage space and bandwidth that the server can provide.

    Shared hosting is typically used by smaller organizations that may not require extensive scalability or large amounts of disk space. Shared hosting services often provide maintenance, administration, and security for the servers which also makes it a good option for smaller organizations that don’t have the internal resources required for server management.

    In shared hosting, all the websites on a server typically share an IP address. If one organization is compromised due to inefficient security infrastructure, that can put all other organizations hosted on that server at risk.

    Dedicated hosting Shared hosting
    Greater bandwidth availability Limited bandwidth, shared with other organizations
    Limited or no maintenance from host Maintenance and administration offered by host
    More expensive Less expensive
    More security Less security

    Benefits of a dedicated server

    Beyond access to more bandwidth and disk space, dedicated servers also provide a number of other benefits:

    • Improved performance: Dedicated servers can offer better performance for applications because they are not stretched as thin by multiple workloads being used by different organizations. Enterprises whose applications and websites require regular e-commerce transactions or video streaming will benefit from having all the server’s resources available to them. They’ll also be less likely to lose business or revenue from slow page load speeds. 
    • Customizability: Having a dedicated server allows for more customization, such as microsegmentation of a network or deploying specialized software. The ability to customize security features is particularly useful. In contrast, shared hosting is more limited; not all organizations on the server may want or need the same customization.
    • Data security: There is a reduced chance of data breaches with dedicated hosting. An organization using a dedicated server will not compromise other businesses if their site is breached, nor will they be susceptible to another company’s breach.  

    Downfalls of a dedicated server

    Dedicated servers cost more than shared hosting services. Because they better serve businesses with significant web traffic and high bandwidth demands, they’re typically not a good choice for small businesses with low traffic. Smaller organizations that don’t need large bandwidth capacity may waste money if they pay for a dedicated server. Even for larger or more established websites, dedicated servers can be expensive.

    Dedicated servers also require additional technical knowledge and experience. Their customizability requires managing organizations to add the features they desire. For businesses that want their websites to be especially protected, dedicated servers can be configured with security features. But this also requires time and expertise. 

    Cloud hosting vs. dedicated hosting

    In recent years, cloud hosting has become a popular alternative to hosting on a dedicated hardware server. While dedicated servers offer more bandwidth and disk space than a shared server, they still have a limit. Cloud servers are far more scalable, as they can virtually expand to support larger amounts of traffic by diverting traffic to other data centers.

    Dedicated servers still offer more customization than cloud hosting, but one of the biggest reasons some organizations would opt for a hardware server is that they are able to support legacy applications and databases, unlike cloud. If a business is still using older programs that cannot be easily migrated, they may want to continue using hardware. 

    Dedicated server providers

    To learn more about hosting, read Best Website Hosting Providers.

    This article was updated Jan 2022 by Jenna Phipps.