Web hosting has evolved a lot over the years. Today there are so many options out there that it’s easy to get confused. And web hosting is no longer regarded as just a placeholder for a website. You can do so much with a hosting service. Naturally, there are different services, tailored for the various needs.
Two of the popular hosting services these days are cloud servers and dedicated servers. Both give you a lot of freedom and you can use them for a lot more than a website. You can run apps, store data and improve your overall business in a lot more ways.
The question would be which one to choose. So, let’s explore both and see what they are suitable for.
What’s a cloud server
The cloud server functions like a normal, physical server. The difference is that it’s a virtual one. It uses allocated resources from the main server. It can also use several different servers to combine their specific abilities.
As such cloud servers are easily reconfigured. Providers can add more resources, change configurations, upgrade and scale up at will. It’s also possible to run duplicates across multiple servers to ensure service availability.
It’s cheaper overall as resources are shared. This means that you share the actual physical machine with other clients. In 99% of the cases that doesn’t really matter. But sometimes it can lead to issues if one client uses too many resources or is under a hacker attack. This is rare, but it’s possible.
What’s a dedicated server
The dedicated server is an actual, physical server. The client rents the entire machine and gets to use it for whatever projects they want (within the Terms & Conditions of the provider of course).
It means the client doesn’t share the resources with anyone else and the entire server is at their will. The physical machine is in the same data center as the cloud servers. So, it gets to use the same infrastructure and protections. It’s generally a more expensive service than the cloud server for obvious reasons being dedicated to one client only. Being the only user of the machine means full control over it without any worries that you may suffer because of someone else’s mistakes.
When to opt for a cloud server
For most use cases the choice between a cloud and a dedicated server could be down to the budget and required features. A cloud server would be more “flexible” in this area.
New cloud servers can be created almost instantly and configured and reconfigured to suit certain client preferences. They generally have increased uptime and performance. Redundancy features are plentiful and it’s very easy to scale up.
Cloud servers also often allow for the ability to scale up only when needed. For example, when you expect increased traffic to your site because of a promotion or a sale you’re running. You can get the increased capacity during that period and then move back to a cheaper plan as needed. Thus, you pay for what you use.
When to opt for a dedicated server
Dedicated servers are great for projects where discretion is important. As the only user on that server, no one else will get to access it (unless you request the provider’s staff to do so).
One of the benefits of a dedicated server is using the full capacity of the CPU, RAM and other components. It’s also a way to get to use powerful, expensive hardware without upfront costs. Another possible benefit is the request of a custom configuration to your very specific needs. It can be cheaper in the long run, especially if you manage your usage well.
Best uses for cloud servers
The most obvious use is running your company website on it. But that’s far from the only potential use of such a service.
Other options would be for email servers, personal game servers, small business apps and services. It’s a great choice for e-commerce sites exactly, because you can easily scale it up when needed.
Best uses for dedicated servers
These machines are a good choice for uses which are more stable, i.e. they don’t see big fluctuations in the resources they use and are more predictable in that area. Dedicated servers are good for gaming servers, database storage and processing, VPS, analytics, internal apps and other similar cases. Sure, you can also set them up to run your company website, email and/or internal remote working apps and features.
Some say that dedicated servers shouldn’t be used for rapid response cases, because they take several hours to be ready. That is true with some providers, but not with others. Cloudware, for example, offers several different dedicated server configurations which can be available for the client within 10 minutes of the order.
Which one is cheaper
Both are. It all depends on what your usage will be. Generally, cloud servers start at lower monthly prices than an equivalent spec dedicated server. Prices for both can quickly rise depending on hardware configuration, additional services, usage.
A cloud server in general can be cheaper. Especially because of the abilities to change plans more easily and thus using the resources you are paying for.
With a dedicated server you have greater privacy and generally more at your disposal. It’s also slower (timewise), more expensive to upgrade when needed, but you don’t have to worry about someone else using more resources and overloading the entire server. So, this makes it more predictable and secure.
Resource management is key
How you use your system resources can be a difference maker and can guide the suitable choice for you. “Pay as you go” plans sound very tempting, but they can be an expensive pitfall if you’re not careful.
These types of plans usually start off very cheap to get you through the door. The first upgrade steps usually are also affordable. So, even if you occasionally need a bit more “juice”, you can easily pay a bit more for a while, then go back down and it won’t break the bank.
If you’re not careful, though, you can easily find yourself overusing your intended resources a lot more often and for longer periods. This way you can rise fast to the upper scale of payments and you can end up paying a lot more than you expected. This is very likely if you don’t pay good attention to the resources you need and the telltale signs, alerting you it’s time for a sizeable upgrade.
For example, if you keep needing more and more CPU and RAM, instead of constantly paying extra, it may be cheaper in the long run to just opt for a slightly more powerful base configuration. This way you will have more room for growth without constant recalculation of costs.
With a dedicated server you avoid all of these potential pitfalls. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constantly monitor the usage and look for ways to make it more efficient. Otherwise, you’d end up paying for a server which is either too weak or too powerful for what you need. Either way, you won’t be paying for the service you need.
Read the fine print
Often service providers will go to great lengths to attract attention to their offers. As a result, they can even be a bit “playful” with the descriptions. They can post incredibly cheap prices, but if you read the fine print it turns out they are valid only for a very limited package or for a limited time (the first month only for example).
Another risk would be that they have limiting terms, fewer upgrade and scale options. Or that a lot of the prominently advertised features are actually offered separately.
Other possible risks are unchangeable dedicated server configurations, limited cloud server configuration changes and so on. So, it’s very important to be patient and read the terms and conditions carefully.
It’s not a one-and-done decision
The good news is that you don’t have to make a choice between cloud or dedicated and then you are stuck with it forever. Quite the opposite. You can always migrate from one to the other in the same way you’d do for any other server. In fact, many providers offer both cloud and dedicated servers and can help you with that process.
Often clients usually opt first for a cloud server as it’s cheaper and easier. When their business grows and the need for more resources arises, they can easily scale up. Then comes the moment that cloud servers could be too expensive and/or they have more specific requirements. Here is where dedicated servers step in and take the reign.
So, if you have a small business with typical needs, it would most likely be better to start with a cloud server. It will provide you with everything you need to offer the best service to your employees and clients. Just remember to be mindful of the resource usage and monitor it closely. It will be your best guide to show you when it’s time to move to a more powerful offer.
For medium and large businesses and any specific, niche projects, dedicated servers are often the first choice. They provide more freedom with configurations and the ability to install different software.
Don’t fall for propositions that tell you “ah, it’s only the cloud” or “always opt for a dedicated server”. It’s just a seller’s tactic. If that was the case, then only one of these hosts would exist. Your specific needs and goals should dictate your choice. And remember that you can always change your choice if you find that you would be better served by a dedicated or a cloud server.
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