Perhaps you're wondering what dedicated servers are and whether you need one.

Or perhaps you already know you need a dedicated server but are stuck when it comes to choosing a host.

Whatever the case, here are a few guidelines to help you make a decision.

Do You Need It?

When renting server space from a host, you basically have two options: rent shared server space or rent a dedicated server.

With a shared hosting arrangement (often referred to as virtual hosting), your Web site shares server space and network connections with other Web sites. But if you rent a dedicated server, you get an entire server and a network connection to yourself.

Shared servers are cheaper to rent than dedicated servers. Because the host does most of the server administration, you don't need a lot of technical skill. This is why shared servers are usually the best choice for entry-level Web sites or for small businesses with low traffic levels.

But shared servers are not necessarily a good option for large or high-traffic Web sites.

A dedicated server is more expensive to rent and more difficult to operate technically. But if your business depends on steady service, you should seriously consider renting a dedicated server. Here's why:


Server response times in a shared hosting arrangement vary depending on what's happening with the server's other sites. For example, your own site's load time will be affected if another site suddenly receives a surge in traffic.

These interruptions are beyond your control if you're using a shared server.

With a dedicated server, you are responsible for managing and estimating traffic levels and other events that affect server response times.


Shared servers give limited access to the operating system, and available software applications are limited to those provided by the host.

If you want to install and run advanced or customized e-commerce or database applications, you will probably need a dedicated server.


As your site grows, as traffic increases, and as your applications become more demanding, you'll need to upgrade your server.

If you're using a shared server, your upgrade options are limited. Shared hosts usually allow increases in disk space, but that's all. You won't be able to upgrade the hard drive, RAM, operating system or software applications yourself.

If you use a dedicated server, you can do all these things.


Shared hosting is not as secure as dedicated hosting. If the security of another site on the server is breached, your site could be affected.

A dedicated server can provide a firewall for which you control all password access. If you store highly sensitive information on your server, this increased security will be a high priority.

Shared hosting gives you a chance to test the waters when you're just starting out. But as your business grows and your site evolves to include more complicated features, such as e-commerce functions, a dedicated host makes more sense.

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