When Should I Switch to a Dedicated Server?

Running your site on a virtual private server may be a great deal, but if your business is going great, and traffic is rocketing, your regular Web Hosting, usually Virtual Private Server (VPS) may not be able to handle it. So here are some things to consider when thinking about jumping to a dedicated server.

The Advantages of a Dedicated Server

Dedicated servers are better than a virtual private server in pretty much every way. That makes sense, since a virtual private server is just a private server divided up amongst several clients.

Configurability

However, there are some specific advantages to running on a dedicated server. Chief among those is configurability. Virtual servers often can only be modified to a certain extent. Beyond the provided control panel and server plugins, there isn’t much you can do. Tools like CPanel’s Fantastico let you install common software, but don’t expect to be able to install LUA as a scripting language. With a dedicated server, your actions won’t crash other sites on the same server. That means you will have more flexibility in what you are allowed to do.

Rapid Response

Virtual servers are still virtual. Not only is there overhead in running the virtualizing engine, but every packet needs to be routed to your server. A dedicated server has no such problem. When the packet arrives at the server, it is there. So for applications that need millisecond precision, a dedicated server is a must.

Reliability

Less software means less complexity. Virtualization software is incredibly complex, so having that running on top of whatever you do with your own device is courting memory leaks and the need to frequently schedule downtime.

A Dedicated server runs much cleaner, and it hosts only your content, so there is no overselling.

So When Should I Switch?

Many sites don’t need the added horsepower that a dedicated server provides. Small, simple sites load quickly enough by themselves. But if your site does anything that consumes lots of resources, whether it be transferring large files or managing thousands of connections at once, you need a dedicated server. It’s also probably a good idea to switch to one if your site is experiencing rapid growth.

You will also need a dedicated server if you plan on running any interesting software on your site. This could be something as simple as a server plugin to more complex software like a backup or update script. Anything that you cannot do through the provided control panel of a virtual server will require a dedicated server.

If you are building a webapp, you need a dedicated server. Webapps–and, really, any web 2.0 sites that use lots of serverside calls–need the fast response time and transfer rates that a dedicated server provide.

But if you’re just making a simple site to advertise your kid’s baseball team, or you don’t know what PHP is, stick with a virtual private server.

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