What is a dedicated server? [advantages, use cases and more]

What is a dedicated server?

As technology has evolved, the term ‘server’ has evolved with it. Today, you will see ‘server’ used in many different forms from virtual server to web server. 

What is a dedicated server?

Well, the name says it all. A dedicated server - also referred to as a dedicated bare metal server - is a physical, single-tenant machine dedicated to a single us­er or client, company or application.

Being ‘dedicated’ means the server is rented to you in its entirety—none of it is split or shared with other users or customers. It is solely dedicated to your use. 

In this blog, we’ll look in more detail at what makes up a dedicated bare metal server, the advantages of a dedicated server and how to decide if it's the right type of server for your business

What makes up a dedicated server?

At its core, a dedicated server is just a form of computer. The main difference between any type of computer (laptop, watch, phone, smart fridge) is the form factor (the physical space that a device takes up). 

What’s unique about servers - compared to other computers - is that the form factor is standardized. Laptops, for example, are categorized by the size of the screen. The form factor of a server today is categorized using the term U, which stands for units and represents the height of the server.  

So, when you buy or rent a bare metal server, you can select anything from a 1U server, all the way to 48U. The smaller number U, the smaller the server. Most people or businesses will only require a server between 1U and 3U. 

Similarly, the racks in which dedicated bare metal servers are housed, also come in Us. The most common server rack sizes are 42U or 47U but they are also often available in 40U and 55U. , the number represents the physical height of the rack and the higher the number, the taller the rack. 

The size of the dedicated server determines the number of components that can go into that server. Smaller 1U servers are less powerful because they have less space to accommodate components, including those needed for cooling. 2U servers are more powerful and are therefore physically bigger to allow for more space, air,and cooling. 

What are the advantages of a dedicated server?

Being ‘dedicated’ means a server is rented to you in its entirety—none of it is split or shared with other users or customers. 

The benefit of this is that you have full and exclusive access to the underlying hardware; giving you complete control over the specification and set up of the server. 

This control, as well as the ability to harness the full power of your own dedicated bare metal server has a number of key advantages, including:

advantages of a dedicated server

1. No noisy neighbors 

A shared server environment can have its benefits, particularly from a cost perspective if you are a startup. However, it also comes with a noisy neighbor problem. 

Customers in a shared environment share the server resource with others. There are a few issues with this as these example scenarios demonstrate:

  1. One of the other clients that shares your server suddenly gets busy and requires a much greater percentage of the resources. You are then left with access to much less server resource than you had before, which could cause issues with delivery of service to customers. 

  2. Another client on your server downloads a virus to that server or gets hit by a DDoS attack. When this kind of incident occurs, it’s not just that client who is impacted but every client on that server. 

The next advantage of having your own dedicated bare metal server is closely tied to eliminating noisy neighbors.

2. Stable performance

Ensuring consistency of service and experience for customers is crucial for any company. The reliability of your infrastructure is a key component of delivering that consistency to your customers. 

As mentioned above, dedicated bare metal servers offer more stability and reliability for your application because the server resources aren’t being shared with anyone else. You are not at the mercy of other people’s mistakes or resource demands. 

Let's take a look at how the stability of dedicated bare metal compares to a shared environment:

Dedicated bare metal servers

Shared server environment

Reduced load times, even during peak usage and traffic times

Increase in load times during peak usage and traffic times

Faster processing speeds

Slower processing speeds owing to other tenants running bad scripts

Not reliant on other clients on the server to ensure good security practices, therefore inherently more secure  

Increased security threats and compliance issues

Better uptime than any other form of hosting service

More frequent downtime and crashes

Dedicated server resource ensures the network isn’t overloaded

Network congestions and bottlenecks

Better, more consistent performance

Performance issues with IT operations owing to resources being eaten up by other tenants

3. Greater customization 

Dedicated bare metal servers offer more customization than shared or cloud hosting solutions. Because a dedicated bare metal server is yours alone, you can customize the specifications of that server to your exact requirements, depending on your use case. 

Bare metal customization options typically include:

  • Choosing which operating system (OS) you would like to run on your server 

  • Selecting a CPU provider as well as the number of cores and the performance of each of those cores. Note however that the CPU is fixed to a certain extent by the hosting provider as they may not have all CPU models in stock 

  • Specifying the amount of RAM and storage (up to the physical limitations of the server)

  • Choosing between network connectivity options

  • Installing your own control panel

4. Robust security

If your organization is security conscious, choosing to buy or rent bare metal servers is a good option for you. 

If a tenant is hacked or infected with a virus on a shared server, this can easily lead to server-wide downtime and a breach of security for other tenants on the server. Malicious actors can even gain access to your data via your neighbors.

The ability to customize your dedicated server enables you to adapt your security measures to meet growing or changing threats and deploy your preferred DDoS protection, antivirus and malware software. You can also set up firewalls, create custom disaster recovery plans, manage user permissions, add encryption and manage your own updates.

5. Operational simplicity

Compared with running your own equipment, there is much less administration required when you rent bare metal servers. 

Instead of having to manage relationships with multiple different suppliers, your hosting provider manages them for you. That includes managing procurement, legal processes, and accounting. By choosing to rent bare metal servers, you’ll only have to worry about your monthly fee and manage one business relationship with your hosting provider—saving time and money in the long run.

6. Cloud-like scalability

Dedicated bare metal servers have historically been slow to scale. That’s changed and today bare metal hosting providers can spin up new servers in under an hour. 

Importantly, they can also be scaled down easily when demand decreases. And short-term contracts ensure that companies are not tied into fixed contracts that inhibit their ability to shift with market changes. 

7. Predictability

Today’s businesses are operating in a very unpredictable landscape. So, finding predictability where you can is important. Dedicated bare metal hosting providers can offer that.

If you have rented server resources through hyperscale cloud providers, you’ll know that bills can be inconsistent, regularly coming with surprise additions. 

With dedicated bare metal servers, you know exactly what you’re getting and how much it costs per month. Bills are simple to understand and there are no surprises. 

8. Control 

Typically, in a shared environment, companies can only host applications that the hosting provider allows. You also won’t be allowed access to the operating system, meaning that you can’t make OS-level changes. 

 Of course, for some, you may not want the responsibility of managing changes to the OS. In which case, this benefit will depend on what stage you are as a business and the maturity of your IT team.

What is a dedicated server?

How much traffic can a dedicated server handle?

This is dictated by the network adaptor on the dedicated server.

Generally, network adaptors are available in 1Gbit/s, 10Gbit/s or multiples of these. These numbers define what the server can handle from a network point of view. This is an important point because it doesn’t mean that the server can necessarily handle that much traffic if the application you put on it is poorly optimized.

The challenge with any server is to get the closest possible balance of CPU, RAM, storage and networking. And this is why close collaboration between the customer and dedicated hosting provider is vital - to understand what needs to be prioritized in order to deliver the best possible server performance and get a clear overview of the server capacity.

How secure is a dedicated server?

A dedicated server is only as secure as the weakest link, which more often than not is a person.

For example, you could live in an apartment with a fully comprehensive, state-of-the-art security system on your building preventing unwanted access. But if a neighbor leaves the gate open, then it’s not going to protect your home.

Similarly, your dedicated bare metal server could be highly secured by firewalls but if the IP password has been written down and left unsecure, your server becomes vulnerable.

Because a dedicated server isn’t shared, you aren’t at the mercy of other people’s behavior. So, when comparing the security of a dedicated server versus a shared server, a dedicated server is inherently more secure.

Choosing between an unmanaged or managed dedicated server

When looking to rent bare metal servers, you can choose between unmanaged or managed dedicated servers but most good providers will only specialize in one, not both.

With a managed solution, your provider will do a lot of the configuration and bare metal management for you, such as selecting and installing software, backups, and monitoring security threats. Different providers will offer different levels of managed hosting, so ensure you check exactly what is and isn’t covered and make sure it suits your needs.

Unmanaged hosting in comparison, comes with less ‘out of the box’ configurations, giving you more control over the hardware and software.

With both options you'll have root access, but with managed solutions you’ll sacrifice control and customization for convenience, and pay more in most cases.

Use cases: when and why you need a dedicated server

Infrastructure requirements vary between industries. And for some those requirements are best met by dedicated servers. Let’s explore some examples.

  1. You’re a performance-sensitive gaming platform: gaming platforms need infrastructure that provides consistent low latency and minimal packet loss. Dedicated servers for gaming offer high clock-speed CPUs that enable single-threaded applications to run effectively. And since resources are dedicated to a single tenant, server performance won’t be compromised by other users.

  2. You’re a streaming platform with a global audience: streaming high-quality video content to global audiences requires high-performance, low-latency, stable infrastructure. With dedicated streaming servers, platforms can enjoy high-capacity, high-quality bandwidth dedicated to its application and the scalability to pivot alongside unpredictable demand.

  3. You work in a security conscious sector: organizations processing large amounts of sensitive data can benefit from the heightened security of dedicated servers. Many trading and iGaming platforms, for instance, rely on dedicated servers to remain compliant. The best trading servers come with configurable firewalls that enable organizations to admit or deny access and protect against DDoS attacks.

  4. You’re a scaling Web3 business: the Web3 industry is growing fast and requires highly scalable infrastructure as a result. Dedicated node hosting helps Web3 businesses scale fast and add additional protocol-optimized nodes quickly.

  5. You’re an adtech platform looking to optimize costs: dedicated servers provide the flexibility of cloud without the margin crippling bills. For adtech platforms looking to optimize costs, choosing dedicated servers is a great way to maintain top performance whilst avoiding the margin-crippling bills of the hyperscale cloud providers.

What to consider when looking to buy or rent bare metal servers

There are so many options for buying or renting servers, whether dedicated or shared. To help you decide whether dedicated bare metal servers are right for you, here are a few questions to consider.

  1. Is the speed and reliability of your applications critical to the success of your business now or in the future?

  2. Do you run processor-demanding and/or disk I/O-intensive workloads?

  3. Do you anticipate a significant lift in demand for applications in the near future?

  4. Do you need to decrease load time and reduce lag?

  5. Do you need rock-solid security?

If the answer is mostly yes to the above, then a dedicated bare metal server is likely a good choice for your business.

Ready to upgrade to a dedicated server?

We can provision and deploy a dedicated bare metal server in any of our global data centers in 40-minutes or less. You choose the model and configuration of a server and we’ll do the rest. Get in touch with our team to find out more, or if you’re ready to go, head on over to our portal.

Last Updated: 28 September 2023

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