October 25, 2023

What is a Server?

A complete and accessible guide to understanding what a server is and how to choose the solution best suited to your needs.

Introduction

If you are a digital entrepreneur, system administrator or web developer, chances are you have already heard of Dedicated Servers. But what exactly does that mean? And, above all, when is the right time to switch to this solution? In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about Dedicated Servers, from definitions to advantages and disadvantages, to different options such as rental and colocation and the choice between Windows and Linux.

Before delving into the specific topic of Dedicated Servers, it's helpful to have a clear understanding of what a server is. Simply put, a server is a computer or system that provides resources, data, services, or programs to other computers, known as clients, over a network. In theory, any computer can act as a server, but typical servers have specific hardware and software designed to provide resources efficiently and securely.

Server Specific Hardware

Unlike a common home or office PC, servers are built with specific hardware designed to maximize reliability and performance. Here are some of the hardware features that often differentiate servers from standard PCs:

Disks in RAID

In the context of servers, it is common to use RAID configurations, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, to increase both the performance and resilience of storage systems. RAID allows you to combine multiple hard drives into a single array to improve read/write speed and provide a sort of “insurance” against hardware failure. In particular, a server should have at least a RAID 1 configuration, known as mirroring, which duplicates data on two separate disks. This ensures that if one disk fails, data remains accessible and intact on the other.

Double power supply

To minimize the risks associated with downtime, which can have serious repercussions especially in corporate environments where business continuity is critical, many modern servers are equipped with redundant power supplies. This configuration consists of having more than one electrical power supply working in parallel, so that, in the event that one of them were to fail due to a fault or other problem, the other can immediately take over and continue provide the energy needed to keep the system up and running. This redundancy in power is especially useful in high-availability scenarios, where every minute of downtime can mean financial loss or reputational damage. It acts as a sort of “safety net”, ensuring that critical-essential operations can continue without interruption even in emergency situations related to power supply.

RAM memories ETC

RAM with Error-Correcting Code (ECC) technology goes beyond the functionality of standard RAM, providing an additional level of security and reliability for critical systems. These memories are designed to automatically detect and correct specific types of data errors that can occur during read and write operations. Memory errors are rare, but can cause serious problems such as system crashes, corrupted data, and other instabilities if not handled properly.

Using ECC is particularly relevant in environments where zero error tolerance is essential, such as in the case of servers that handle financial transactions, highly available database systems, or any other application where data accuracy and integrity are of the utmost importance. priority. In such scenarios, a single erroneous bit of data could have catastrophic consequences, making the ability of ECC memories to automatically correct these errors a crucial element in maintaining the stability and reliability of the system as a whole.

Higher costs

Of course, all these additional features come at a higher cost than standard PCs. However, the increased reliability and high performance often justify the initial investment, especially for critical tasks.

Dedicated Server Brands

When it comes to choosing a dedicated server, some of the most popular brands include DELL, IBM, HP, and Fujitsu. Additionally, Supermicro is gaining traction as a provider of high-performance, highly customizable server hardware. The choice of brand can influence factors such as cost, availability of support and quality of components, so it is something to consider carefully.

Server Types

In the world of hosting, there are various server models, each with its own specificities and advantages. Starting with shared servers, these are environments in which multiple websites or applications share the resources of a single physical server. This option is generally the cheapest and can be ideal for small businesses or personal websites. However, sharing resources means that you will have less control over the server environment and may also encounter slowdowns due to other sites on the same server using resources.

A step up from shared servers are VPS servers, or Virtual Private Servers. In this model, each user has access to an isolated environment on a physical server that hosts multiple users. Each VPS runs a separate operating system and has resources and applications distinct from other users. This offers a higher level of control than shared servers, but keep in mind that the underlying server's physical resources are still shared, which may lead to some performance limitations.

For those looking for scalability and flexibility, cloud servers are an increasingly popular option. Hosted in virtualized data centers and distributed over a network of physical servers, cloud servers allow practically unlimited scalability. If you need more resources, it's easy to add more capacity. However, this flexibility generally comes at a higher cost than other hosting options.

Now that we've explored these different types of servers, it's time to look in detail at what makes i Dedicated Servers an often more advantageous choice for certain needs and contexts.

What is a Dedicated Server

A dedicated server represents one of the most powerful and flexible hosting solutions available on the market. Unlike a shared server or VPS, where hardware and software resources are shared among multiple users, a dedicated server is exclusively reserved for the use of a single customer. This offers an unprecedented degree of control and customization. For example, the user has complete freedom to select the hardware specifications of the server, including factors such as CPU, RAM and storage space, and can also decide which software and applications to install.

Exclusive access to server resources is one of the most significant selling points of this hosting option. It means you don't have to worry about other websites or applications consuming bandwidth, CPU power, or memory. This is especially useful for businesses or websites that require high performance and guaranteed uptime, or that handle large volumes of data and transactions.

Personalization is another aspect where i Dedicated Servers they shine. You have the ability to tailor every element of your hosting environment to the specific needs of your project. This ranges from configuring particular security settings, such as firewalls and encryption protocols, to installing specialized software that may not be supported in shared environments.

However, the benefits of having a server of your own come with some trade-offs. The first is the cost. Since all server resources are dedicated to your use, there is no way to amortize the costs by sharing them with other users. This makes the Dedicated Servers one of the most expensive options in terms of hosting. It's a significant investment, but for businesses that require a high level of security, performance and customization, the costs can easily be justified.

Another aspect to consider is server management and maintenance. Unless you choose a managed dedicated hosting package, which includes services like operating system updates and security monitoring, you'll be responsible for ongoing server maintenance. This may include tasks such as installing security updates, configuring backups and troubleshooting technical problems, which can be complex and require some experience in system administration.

Additionally, the technical complexity of a dedicated server can pose a challenge. The level of control and customization that a dedicated server offers is extraordinary, but it can also be a little overwhelming for those without a solid background in system administration. It is therefore essential to carefully consider whether you have the skills or resources necessary to manage such a server before taking the plunge.

Server Format. Tower, Rack and Blade

In the world of Dedicated Servers, the choice of format is a critical component that can have a significant impact on efficiency, scalability and resource management. The most commonly used formats are Tower, Rack-Mounted and Blade, each with its own peculiarities and advantages.

Tower Server - Rack Server - Blade Server

Tower format servers are structurally similar to desktop computers and are often used in office environments or small data centers. These servers take up more floor space than other solutions and are generally less scalable, but they offer easier access to hardware components, making maintenance and upgrades easier.

Rack-Mounted servers, on the other hand, are designed to be placed in rack cabinets, thus optimizing space and allowing better organization of cables and cooling. Conforming to industry standards, such as the 19-inch width according to the EIA standard, server racks are extremely scalable and are the most suitable solution for large data centers.

A further category is Blade servers, which represent a variation of the rack format. Instead of being a complete server in a single rack-mount chassis, A Blade server is a component that fits into a blade chassis. This chassis can accommodate multiple blade servers, allowing for even greater density than traditional rack servers. The benefits of Blade servers include better power efficiency and superior scalability, as additional blades can be added to the existing chassis without the need for additional cabling. However, it is important to note that Blade servers often require a larger initial investment, given the cost of the chassis into which the individual blades will fit.

Tower format servers are more suitable for environments with less complex needs and more space available. Rack-Mounted servers are the ideal choice for data centers or enterprise environments where scalability and efficiency are key. Finally, Blade servers offer even greater density and scalability, making them ideal for highly dynamic, rapidly growing data centers.

Dedicated Server: Rental vs Colocation

When it comes to Dedicated Servers, you have two main options: rental and colocation.

Rental

In the rental model, you have the option of renting a physical server at a data center operated by a hosting service provider. This option is particularly advantageous for those who do not want to make a direct purchase of a server. One of the main conveniences is that the responsibility for hardware maintenance, replacement of faulty components, security updates and constant monitoring of the server falls on the vendor. This allows you to focus on the core activities of your business, such as managing your website or applications.

In addition to this, the rental model offers unique flexibility in being able to access, even for a limited period such as a month or two, high-end servers that would have a purchase cost in the order of tens of thousands of euros. This is done without any long-term obligations or additional costs, making it an attractive option for temporary projects or small businesses that need high computational power for short periods.

However, renting also has limitations. For example, you have little control over the hardware and the configuration may not be fully customizable. Additionally, while upfront costs may be lower, monthly rental fees can add up over time, especially if you opt for additional services or more computing power. As an indication, costs for an unmanaged server can vary from around 50 euros per month up to over 500 euros for more powerful configurations. A managed service could add an extra expense of around 100-200 euros per month, depending on the specific requests and service level agreements (SLAs).

Colocation

In the colocation option, however, you purchase your hardware and then have it hosted in a professional data center. This option gives you maximum control over every aspect of your server, from choosing hardware specifications to configuring the operating system and applications.

Colocation is the ideal option if you plan to use a server for an extended period, such as at least 4 years, and you want to amortize the initial investment over time. For example, by purchasing a 2000 euro server, you avoid the recurring cost of monthly rental, which in the long term could be more expensive than the initial investment in purchasing the server.

Colocation offers many advantages, including total independence in server management and the ability to customize it to your specific needs. Plus, since you own the hardware, you have the freedom to upgrade or modify it as and when you want.

On the other hand, colocation comes with more responsibility. You are entirely responsible for maintaining the server, from hardware to software. This means you will need to have a good level of technical expertise and be prepared to handle any issues that may arise, unless you hire separate management services to take care of these tasks.

Colocation can be a smart choice if you are lucky enough to live near a data center, and want to save on machine rental costs, taking care to pay the data center only for the operating costs which mainly cover the cost of network connectivity, internet bandwidth, electricity and essentially the colocation service, i.e. placement at their facility.

Windows Dedicated Server vs Linux Dedicated Server

In the panorama of the Dedicated Servers, one of the most crucial decisions is the choice of operating system. The two most popular alternatives are Windows and Linux, both with specific perspectives of advantages, disadvantages and ideal use cases.

Windows

As regards the Dedicated Servers Windows, one of the biggest attractions is undoubtedly the ease of use. The user interface and system management are designed to be intuitive, which can be a benefit for those less familiar with server management. Additionally, if your business makes extensive use of Microsoft applications and services like Office 365, choosing a Windows server may offer smoother, more consistent integration. However, this ease and integration comes at a cost, as licenses for Windows software tend to be more expensive. Windows servers are often used to host business applications, SQL Server databases, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions.

Linux

In contrast, Linux is a popular choice for those looking for a more customizable environment. Being an open-source operating system, it offers great flexibility and a wide range of scripting and automation tools. This makes it particularly suitable for web projects that require specialized configurations, or for companies looking to keep costs down without sacrificing performance. But this flexibility comes at a price: the learning curve for Linux can be steeper for those new to systems management. Linux servers are frequently the preferred choice for solutions such as Apache or Nginx web servers, MySQL or MariaDB databases, and container-based applications such as Docker.

Typical Uses of the Dedicated Server

I Dedicated Servers they are incredibly versatile and can be used for a wide range of applications. Here are some of the most common use cases:

Hosting of High Traffic Sites

Google Analytics Traffic

Managing a website with a high volume of traffic can be a significant challenge, and in such situations, a dedicated server can be extremely useful. With its wide range of dedicated resources, including CPU, RAM, and storage, a dedicated server can handle thousands or even millions of visitors at once. This means that your site will remain responsive and fast, even during peak usage, thus ensuring a high-quality user experience.

Business Applications

In the business context, the use of resource management (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) applications is often crucial to operational success. These software, which can be quite resource-intensive, benefit greatly from the processing power and reliability that a dedicated server can offer. With such a robust environment, businesses can be confident that their critical operations will always be available and running at their best.

Storage of Large Amounts of Data

Businesses faced with managing large volumes of data will find Dedicated Servers a particularly suitable solution. With large storage capacity and the ability to configure custom backup solutions, a dedicated server offers a secure, scalable environment for data storage. This is especially useful for companies that must adhere to rigorous compliance standards or that need highly reliable data recovery procedures.

Other Specific Cases

It flies, i Dedicated Servers they are not only useful for high-traffic websites and business applications; they also find application in a number of very specific use cases. For example, game servers that need extremely low latencies and fast response times benefit greatly from using Dedicated Servers. The same goes for database clusters, where the need for high reliability and advanced customization options can be effectively met through a dedicated server. In these and many other scenarios, the versatility, power and customization that a dedicated server can offer are invaluable assets.

When to Choose a Dedicated Server

The decision to upgrade to a dedicated server is often a combination of factors that vary from case to case. Here are some signs that may indicate it's time to consider this option:

Traffic Growth

One of the biggest signs that it may be time to consider a dedicated server is significant growth in traffic to your website or application. If you begin to notice that the resources of a shared server or virtual private server (VPS) are no longer sufficient to handle the growing volume of users and requests, then a dedicated server could provide the processing power, memory and bandwidth of additional bandwidth necessary to maintain a high quality of service.

Customization needs

Another crucial factor is advanced customization. A dedicated server environment offers much more complete control over the system, allowing you to install specific software or make particular configurations that would not be possible in a shared environment. This level of customization is often vital for projects or companies with very specific technology requirements.

Security Requirements

Security concerns are another reason to upgrade to a dedicated server. By having full control of the server, you have the ability to implement sophisticated security measures, such as custom firewalls, multi-factor authentication protocols, and other strategies to protect sensitive data. This is of particular importance for organizations that must comply with strict regulatory standards or that handle highly sensitive information.

Uptime and Reliability

For businesses or web services that require near-perfect uptime, close to 100% or above 99,9%, a dedicated server hosted in a professional data center is often the most prudent choice. These data centers offer redundant infrastructures and disaster recovery protocols that minimize the risk of downtime, thus ensuring service continuity.

Bandwidth and Latency

If your operations require high bandwidths with low latency, the data centers that host Dedicated Servers they can offer bandwidth rates from 100 Megabits per second up to 1 Gigabit and, in special cases, up to 10 Gigabits per second. This is especially useful for services like media streaming, high-frequency trading platforms, or any other application that needs fast and reliable data transfers.

What to Consider When Buying a Dedicated Server

If you've decided that a dedicated server is the right choice for you, here are some things to consider:

Technical Specifications

Before proceeding with the purchase of a dedicated server, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your needs in terms of technical specifications. This includes CPU power, amount of RAM, storage options (e.g. SSD vs HDD), and available bandwidth. For example, if you plan to host a high-traffic website or resource-intensive business applications, you should opt for a configuration with multiple CPU cores and a large amount of RAM. Likewise, if you plan to handle a large volume of data, make sure your storage options are large and easily expandable.

Technical Support and Customer Service

Technical support is another critical aspect when choosing a hosting provider for your dedicated server. If you don't have a lot of experience managing servers, it's crucial to choose a provider that offers excellent customer service and 24/7 technical support. This will give you peace of mind knowing that if you have any problems or concerns, you will have a team of experts ready to assist you.

Cost and Additional Charges

In addition to the basic cost, which can be charged on a monthly or annual basis, it is important to be aware of any hidden or extra costs. These can include services such as system backups, performance monitoring, security updates, and even charges for exceeding bandwidth limits. Being aware of all the potential costs will help you make a more informed choice and avoid unexpected surprises in the future.

Scalability and Flexibility

Finally, scalability is an essential factor to consider when purchasing a dedicated server. The needs of your project or business may change over time, requiring more resources such as CPU, memory or storage. So make sure the provider you choose offers the flexibility to upgrade or scale your resources without having to go through complex processes or bureaucracies. This flexibility is vital to ensuring your hosting environment can evolve with your operational needs.

By keeping these four key factors in mind — technical specifications, support, cost, and scalability — you will be better prepared to make an informed choice and find the dedicated server that best suits your needs.

Datacenter

In the process of selecting a dedicated server, a fundamental aspect not to be overlooked is the quality of the data center in which the server will be hosted. Ideally, you should opt for a data center that has multiple, redundant carrier connections, thus ensuring high reliability and ample bandwidth — on the order of at least 100 Gbit, preferably greater than 1 Terabit. This ensures that your applications and services always remain online and responsive, even in conditions of traffic peaks or unexpected events. Furthermore, it is important to consider network latency: a quality data center should offer very low latency times, ideally in the order of 10 ms, to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted user experience.

But the internet is only part of the story. The physical security and resiliency of the data center are equally critical. You should look for a data center that is monitored 24/24, with rigorous security protocols, constant monitoring and advanced fire detection and suppression systems, such as oxygen deprivation fires. The infrastructure should also be supported by robust diesel generators, gensets and uninterruptible power supplies to ensure uninterrupted operation even in the event of power supply interruptions.

Finally, certifications can provide an objective measure of the quality and reliability of a data center. Certifications such as ISO 27001 are a good indicator of the level of data security, while a TIER 3 or, better yet, TIER 4 classification can provide further guarantees regarding the reliability and resilience of the infrastructure as a whole. By considering all these factors, it will be possible to make an informed and optimal choice for your project or business.

Conclusions

Choosing a dedicated server is a significant step that can have a direct impact on the performance, security and scalability of your online or business operations. From carefully evaluating the technical specifications needed for your project, to considering the type and level of support you may need, every detail is crucial. No less important is the total cost of the investment, which goes beyond the simple monthly or annual price and may include various other additional costs. Finally, flexibility and scalability are essential aspects that can greatly influence your experience in the long term.

It is therefore imperative to carry out a detailed and thoughtful assessment of your specific needs, the services offered by different providers and the associated costs, to ensure that the solution chosen is not only adequate for your current needs, but also capable of adapting to changes and growing future needs. This is not a task to be taken lightly, but with the right information and planning, it is possible to find a solution that offers an optimal balance of performance, reliability, support and cost.

Contact us for a no-obligation consultation

If you are looking for expert advice to find the hosting solution best suited to your needs, do not hesitate to contact us. We are a company specializing in systems and servers, with experience dating back to 2005. We offer a wide range of options, from Dedicated Servers to customized solutions, to adapt to the specificities of your project or business. Get in touch with us for a no-obligation consultation; our team of experts is here to guide you in choosing the most suitable configuration for you, evaluating all the technical and operational aspects to ensure maximum performance and the best possible efficiency.

Do you have doubts? Don't know where to start? Contact us!

We have all the answers to your questions to help you make the right choice.

Chat with us

Chat directly with our presales support.

0256569681

Contact us by phone during office hours 9:30 - 19:30

Contact us online

Open a request directly in the contact area.

INFORMATION

Managed Server Srl is a leading Italian player in providing advanced GNU/Linux system solutions oriented towards high performance. With a low-cost and predictable subscription model, we ensure that our customers have access to advanced technologies in hosting, dedicated servers and cloud services. In addition to this, we offer systems consultancy on Linux systems and specialized maintenance in DBMS, IT Security, Cloud and much more. We stand out for our expertise in hosting leading Open Source CMS such as WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Prestashop, Joomla, OpenCart and Magento, supported by a high-level support and consultancy service suitable for Public Administration, SMEs and any size.

Red Hat, Inc. owns the rights to Red Hat®, RHEL®, RedHat Linux®, and CentOS®; AlmaLinux™ is a trademark of AlmaLinux OS Foundation; Rocky Linux® is a registered trademark of the Rocky Linux Foundation; SUSE® is a registered trademark of SUSE LLC; Canonical Ltd. owns the rights to Ubuntu®; Software in the Public Interest, Inc. holds the rights to Debian®; Linus Torvalds owns the rights to Linux®; FreeBSD® is a registered trademark of The FreeBSD Foundation; NetBSD® is a registered trademark of The NetBSD Foundation; OpenBSD® is a registered trademark of Theo de Raadt. Oracle Corporation owns the rights to Oracle®, MySQL®, and MyRocks®; Percona® is a registered trademark of Percona LLC; MariaDB® is a registered trademark of MariaDB Corporation Ab; REDIS® is a registered trademark of Redis Labs Ltd. F5 Networks, Inc. owns the rights to NGINX® and NGINX Plus®; Varnish® is a registered trademark of Varnish Software AB. Adobe Inc. holds the rights to Magento®; PrestaShop® is a registered trademark of PrestaShop SA; OpenCart® is a registered trademark of OpenCart Limited. Automattic Inc. owns the rights to WordPress®, WooCommerce®, and JetPack®; Open Source Matters, Inc. owns the rights to Joomla®; Dries Buytaert holds the rights to Drupal®. Amazon Web Services, Inc. holds the rights to AWS®; Google LLC holds the rights to Google Cloud™ and Chrome™; Facebook, Inc. owns the rights to Facebook®; Microsoft Corporation holds the rights to Microsoft®, Azure®, and Internet Explorer®; Mozilla Foundation owns the rights to Firefox®. Apache® is a registered trademark of The Apache Software Foundation; PHP® is a registered trademark of the PHP Group. CloudFlare® is a registered trademark of Cloudflare, Inc.; NETSCOUT® is a registered trademark of NETSCOUT Systems Inc.; ElasticSearch®, LogStash®, and Kibana® are registered trademarks of Elastic NV This site is not affiliated, sponsored, or otherwise associated with any of the entities mentioned above and does not represent any of these entities in any way. All rights to the brands and product names mentioned are the property of their respective copyright holders. Any other trademarks mentioned belong to their registrants. MANAGED SERVER® is a registered trademark at European level by MANAGED SERVER SRL Via Enzo Ferrari, 9 62012 Civitanova Marche (MC) Italy.

Back to top