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1/07/2014 – Should I Use a Dedicated or Virtual Server?

Posted by Jamison on 07 01 2014.

When deciding on a hosting solution, one of the first decisions to make is whether to use a dedicated server or a virtual server. Which you eventually choose can make a day-and-night difference given factors such as performance, reliability and cost. Know the differences between the two types of servers so you can make an informed decision about your hosting platform.


Dedicated servers


A dedicated server is an entire machine dedicated to just one organization, entity, customer, user, etc. There may be no other users of the server. A dedicated server may host only one website, for example. Traditionally it used to be a choice between a dedicated server and a shared server. Shared servers are popular for hosting simple websites on the cheap, while dedicated servers are typically more expensive but are far more powerful, flexible and useful than shared servers.


Dedicated servers take up an entire machine or computer to host websites and other web applications and services. This results in a costlier price tag. On the upside, dedicated servers are typically faster mainly because all computing power is dedicated to the applications in it. Dedicated servers are also more flexible; they can be configured, optimized and tuned in more ways. If you have specialized applications that require unique configurations then pick a dedicated server. If you need more CPU power, memory or hard drive space, a dedicated server’s hardware can easily be upgraded anytime. Lastly, maintaining and troubleshooting a dedicated server is usually easier because it can be brought down and taken offline for testing right away without affecting other users.


A dedicated server is still often regarded as the only solution to many kinds of applications and scenarios. Their high cost has remained a serious barrier to adoption, but it’s hard to get the same kind of performance and reliability they have.


Virtual servers


Virtual servers are a relatively new kind of server that got popular with the development of server and operating system virtualization. Suddenly, many of the features of dedicated servers became available to those with smaller IT budgets.


While a dedicated server is a “real” computer, a virtual server behaves in the same way and “looks” like a real computer to the user. However, under the hood, a virtual server is actually a logical virtual machine that simulates a “real” computer. In fact, most applications and software would not be able to tell the difference between a real dedicated server and a virtual server. From a performance, security, and reliability standpoint, virtual servers come very close to dedicated servers. It is the underlying architecture that differentiates virtual servers from dedicated servers.


Thanks to today’s more powerful processors, a single computer can run more than one virtual server. This makes virtual servers more cost effective than dedicated servers while retaining many of the key benefits of dedicated servers. This also means that virtual servers, despite offering many of the advantages of dedicated servers, cost only a fraction compared to full dedicated servers.


At the end of the day, the choice of dedicated or virtual server eventually depends on your specific needs, requirements, and more importantly, budget.