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The Real Value of a Dedicated Server

Posted on Aug 10, 2009 by Paul White

A few weeks ago I moved one of my larger clients to their own dedicated server.  So far it has been running flawlessly.  If I had known that a dedicated server was going to run this smooth, I would have done this a long time ago.  Then comes the realization of what a dedicated server really means, and it makes perfect sense for any organization that is serious about 100% uptime with no bottlenecks.

Most all websites start off on some sort of shared hosting.  Doesn't matter if its linux or windows. A shared box is a shared box.  Its the life equivalent of living in an apartment complex.  Now I know what you are thinking.  Thats not so bad.  Memories of you and your buddies living in an tiny apartment, where you had to play chicken for a parking spot.  Countless parties, some you remember, some you don't.  Good times right?  Only thing left of these good times is a few carpet stains that even a Rug doctor can't fix.  With a shared hosting account its kind of the same thing, without the glam.  Its your site on the same server as hundreds if not thousands of other sites.  If you are on really cut rate hosting, you don't even get your own IP.  You are constantly battling with websites for resources, and bandwidth on the NIC.  Uh Ohh,  looks like you new neighbor is running a Free Milf Porn Site.  Within a weak your new neighbor has hogged over 8TB of transfer on the NIC, and your poor site is taking 30 seconds to bring up your home page.

So you either finally move your hosting somewhere else, or upgrade to a VPS.  Now for those on a VPS initially you think you are god.  Root Access,  install what you want,  but you are still sharing hardware.  And the biggest problem with VPS boxes is on 32 bit operating systems, they are not reliable in managing the Kernel memory between virtual environments.  This results in frequent crashing, and having to call the datacenter for a reboot.  The nice thing is you can tell when your neighbors are hogging the hardware.  As the task manager doesn't just show your CPU usage, it shows the CPU usage on the entire box.  So sometimes you get to watch as the CPU usage of 8 threads stay at 100% for 10 minutes straight and your site struggles to load a single page. 

The biggest problem with all these environments is often the hosting company has setup the hardware to reduce costs.  This means they have dedicated Mail Servers, Stats Servers, MySQL Servers, SQL Servers, Web Servers, ext.  Each with their own box.  Your website running on the Web Server then has to make requests accross the datacenter to the DB server.  The way I look at it is when you have multiple boxes that are in one way or another, depending on each other, all it takes is for one box to go out, to pull them all down.  Even on environments where things are load balanced, such as cloud Hosting.  If the SAN has a massive failure it will take down everyone.  This type of setup to me is not logical. 

This is the reason I am a huge fan of just getting your own dedicated box.  The most common failure in dedicated servers is the Hard Drive. Even this type of failure only occurs maybe after 5-6 years of use.  So you setup your drives in RAID 1 ( mirroring ), So unless you have two drives fail at the same time you will not experience any down time.  Sure other hardware can fail too, but its rare.  The fact is with your own hardware, its not going to be overloaded like shared environments.  You know what is running on it, because you likely wrote the code.  One of the biggest surprises of getting a dedicated server, was seeing all the application errors I used to get, now gone.  For a while I thought that maybe I was a lousy programmer.  The truth is the server was trash. 

If you are currently on a shared server, or a VPS and are thinking of making the switch to dedicated, I highly suggest you checkout the dedicated servers offered by GoDaddy.  They don't hide prices.  You can custom build one on their server page, and see exactly how much it will cost.  If you are already used to the VPS environment, meaning you had no problem managing the installation of the software then you are ready for a Dedicated box with Godaddy.  Opt out of the Support plan, as you won't need it.  They offer reboots free of charge.  The server will come barebones, ready for you to install anything you want.  I found getting Windows Server 2008 setup was a breeze.  Seriously its worth it!

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