If you're running an e-commerce or database-driven site, or if you need greater access to software choices and the hardware itself, you're probably shopping for a dedicated host.
A dedicated host is a server devoted exclusively to your Web site that you rent from a Web host.
In addition, the Web host you rent the server from gives you control over maintenance and software configurations.
But once you've decided you need a dedicated server, how do you go about choosing the right host?
Here are five factors to consider when choosing a host for your dedicated server.
Platform Obviously, the platform, or operating system, you choose will depend to a large extent on the applications you use and the skills and knowledge you already possess.
The two most well-known operating systems are Windows NT and UNIX (which includes the Linux and Solaris platforms).
Windows NT, the more expensive option, is regarded as the most user-friendly and the easiest to install, especially for those who use Windows on their PCs.
UNIX is cheaper, but people unfamiliar with the text environment experience a much steeper learning curve.
Choose a host that uses a platform most compatible with the systems you're used to. This will simplify the setup, and you'll save time and money by not having to convert to new applications and operating systems.
Data Transfer Most dedicated server providers allow you to choose among data transfer levels, usually in gigabytes per month.
Because you pay more for higher levels, do not purchase more than is realistically needed. You can always increase the amount as needed.
Data Backup If you run a site that is constantly updated, you'll need to back it up frequently. This can be a hassle to do yourself.
Look for a hosting provider that offers back-up services. You'll probably have to pay an added fee, but the convenience will be worth it.
Monitoring Your server must be monitored constantly to prevent service interruptions.
Check to see if your host can provide such monitoring and how frequently it occurs -- every five minutes, for example.
Ask what measures are used to handle problems when they are detected.
Automation As mentioned, running a dedicated server requires a greater level of technical knowledge than shared hosting.
However, those lacking technical expertise can still operate a dedicated server if the host offers some form of Web-based automation to simplify the management process.
If you want full control over your server, make sure your host can offer such automation.