What is a dedicated server? A few definitions:
A dedicated hosting service, dedicated server, or managed hosting service is a type of internet hosting where the client leases an entire server not shared with anyone. This is more flexible than shared hosting, as organizations have full control over the server(s), including choice of operating system, hardware, etc. Server administration can usually be provided by the hosting company as an add-on service. In some cases a dedicated server can offer less overhead and a larger return on investment. Dedicated servers are most often housed in data centers, similar to colocation facilities, providing redundant power sources and HVAC systems. In contrast to colocation, a dedicated hosting service provides system administration and owns the server itself.
A dedicated server is a single computer in a network reserved for serving the needs of the network. For example, some networks require that one computer be set aside to manage communications between all the other computers. A dedicated server could also be a computer that manages printer resources. Note, however, that not all servers are dedicated. In some networks, it is possible for a computer to act as a server and perform other functions as well. In the Web hosting business, a dedicated server is typically a rented service. The user rents the server, software and an Internet connection from the Web host.
If one was to treat web hosting as a spectrum of web hosting needs then the spectrum would begin with shared web hosting at the low end of the spectrum and dedicated server web hosting at the high end of the spectrum. When an individual or business pays for a dedicated server from a web hosting company, they are paying for exclusive use of that server for their web hosting needs. In other words, the server is dedicated to their use and none other.
Strictly speaking, if a server is not dedicated for a single organization’s use, it is a shared platform. Server platforms vary just like the computers you can buy in the store. Some servers come with more or less RAM, more or less hard drive space, and faster/slower CPU’s but the server is dedicated to the use by one organization and it is a dedicated server solution. Shared web hosting, reseller web hosting, and virtual private server web hosting plans are all offered by web hosting companies and provide more or less features on the spectrum of web hosting. What they have in common is that they are all sharing the resources of a single server. A web host incurs certain costs of buying the hardware and maintaining the hardware on a network. If they have 100 shared hosting accounts on that single server then they 100 sources of revenue for that single server. They might decide, alternatively, to put 80 reseller hosting accounts on the server or 40 Virtual Private Server accounts on that server. VPS is more expensive than Reseller hosting which is more expensive than Shared web hosting. You should get the idea.
With dedicated server web hosting, a server is “rented” to a single user. Since the cost of the hardware and the maintenance of the server (admin, environmentals, bandwidth, etc) is passed on to one customer (plus profit of course) the price of a dedicated server platform is much more expensive than the shared alternatives.
Dedicated server prices can vary widely depending upon the hosting provider and the services needed. At the most basic level a dedicated server consists of the server platform and a guaranteed connection to the internet. The price is based upon the capabilities of the platform, the amount of data transfer (bandwidth) per month, and the amount of management required. The server platform can vary from a single CPU with 512MB RAM, and a single hard drive to a power platform with multiple CPU’s, gigs of RAM, and a RAID array. Prices for different platforms can quadruple in price depending on the power of the platform. The more powerful the platform, the more that can be supported. Companies that specialize in dedicated server platforms can usually recommend the amount of power a customer will need.
While a dedicated server solution is typically not for a novice and is more complex, it is not necessary to have system administration knowledge to benefit from a dedicated server platform. Many companies offer managed dedicated server platforms. Some dedicated server solutions limit help to keeping your server on and performing limited touch labor to keep your server working – the rest of the detailed system administration must be managed by the customer. Other dedicated server platforms come with the operating system and hosting management software installed for the user. The fully managed plans allow the user to enter trouble tickets for any type of issue necessary with the exception of custom program installation. For example, as my bio indicates, I’m comfortable with IT but I’m no expert on Linux. I’ve learned a lot managing my own server but I have neither the time or interest to manage it all myself. I leave the more sophisticated sysadmin to techs when I have problems.