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Features to Look For When Choosing a Dedicated Server Hosting Provider

It’s the new year, and your business is starting to experience growth like it has never seen before. Or maybe you are in the field of business where the privacy and security of the client’s personal information needs extra protection. After all, a security breach of credit card information and even private contacts can be devastating to the victims, not to mention the reputation of the companies involved. If these are scenarios or concerns that you and your business are having, then you are probably interested in opting for a dedicated hosting service. What is a hosting service, and in particular, what is a dedicated hosting service?

Hosting by definition relates to the hosting of internet servers, which simply put, allows businesses as well as individuals to serve content to the Internet. This is a broad term for any services which can fall under Internet hosting. Let’s say the company you operate is an online dating platform. Then you can imagine the company hosting its website using web hosting services, and the administrator who answers the emails of all the heartbroken patrons would be using an e-mail hosting service. For any gamers reading this, a more relevant example would be the game servers which hosted your favorite games when you were playing multiplayer on Team Fortress, Counter Strike: Global Operations and Left for Dead (we all knew how much the high ping lag sucked). A dedicated hosting service just means that the client who leases the server is leasing the entire server without having to share it with anyone else.

In choosing a dedicated server hosting provider, there are a few things to consider before making the commitment for a provider’s services. There are many variances between companies that can’t be standardized, but there are always commonalities between the features of dedicated server hosting. We will discuss some of those in brief detail here. 

Hardware Choices

When it comes to choosing the hardware for your dedicated hosting servers, the choices available coupled with the always evolving trends and options in server tech can be overwhelming. Whatever the case might be, it is always important to make sure that your potential hosting provider provides you with all of the options so you can compare and choose the option which is pertinent to your requirements. That is, always be weary of that certain provider who is trying to sell you on the newest and greatest model. If you get the vibe that they are pushing a particular model with an agenda, chances are, they probably are. Intuitively, you want to get a hardware setup which is just right for your requirements, if not slightly above. You don’t want to overpay for a setup, but you definitely do not want to underpay for an inadequate setup as well. A provider who understands the needs of your business and field will facilitate the providing of options that can be upgraded and scaled up as you grow and expand. 

Servers undergoing the final inspection before deployment!
Servers undergoing the final inspection before deployment!

When it comes to the menu for hardware options, you typically want to have options for choosing the CPU model, the capacity of the hard drive, the type of RAM (ie. DDR3 or DDR4), the number of cores and processing speed, the type of hard drive (either solid state or HDD), the RAID capabilities for backup and bandwidth. 

Server Configuration

On top of your hardware configuration, you want to make sure that you can have full control in choosing your server. For example, you will have to decide if a full root SSH, or RDP root access is preferable for you and your company. Both of these are administrative level log-ons for the dedicated servers. Through either access, you will get the most authority in controlling your server. This means that you can add any new software you require on your server, as well as install third party applications which will enhance the capabilities of your site, blog, forum or web-based portals. Having “root access” to the server means exactly this. Having this access allows you to use the server for almost anything that you desire your server to do. Although having full control over the server seems like the way to go, there are instances where full root access is not included for certain hosting services. In these cases where you get the fully managed server, ensure that the web hosting provider provides you with full administrator rights to the server so that all of the content hosted within the server is accessible and under your full control. On a future blog post, we will discuss how to use root access, as they will differ for Linux-based servers and Windows-based servers.

Operating System Choices

The previous thought gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss another factor to consider when choosing a dedicated server hosting provider, and in particular, the server itself. That is the choice of the operating system. The server computers are computers that are only slightly different than the desktops that we use at home or work. That is, there are different operating systems to consider for your server. Often times, the limitations come not from the user interface or functionality, as would be the case for Mac’s vs. PC’s, but in the application requirement for your business. That is, the applications that your business needs (tax software vs. a HIPPA-compliant patient information database application) often dictate which operating system that you will have to acquire and adopt. The common servers used for dedicated server hosting operations include the Windows Server OS, or any of the Linux distributions. It goes without saying that the web hosting provider provides you with the operating system options of your choosing and are flexible to running either one for your business needs. 

Control Panel Options

Another important feature to consider in dedicated server hosting providers are the different control panel options that are provided for use with your dedicated server. Simply put, a web hosting control panel is an interface that allows you and other users from your company to organize and manage your servers, as well as any of the hosted services. In a future blog post, we will discuss the different control panel options, as well as when and where they might be appropriate for use with your servers. For example, Linux servers, as well as their users use cPanel and WHM, whereas the control panel Plesk is also available for use on Windows. Whatever the control panel options may be, it is important that they are easy to navigate, as well having management tools built in directly into the panels. 

Security

When it comes to your business, no matter what information you are storing on your servers, security plays a significant role in not only the reputation of your company, but also your day-to-day operations as well. We are sure that you have read news articles of companies, even big corporations getting hacked and having your company come to a screeching halt. As mentioned, the damage done, can be irreversible, especially if it means the loss of trust as a reliable and reputable operator. And we are willing to bet that the clients who had their information leak and their information being in the hands of identity thieves are not going to be happy to say the least, and will pursue legal action at the max. Whatever the case might be, if your company gets hacked, things will never be the same again, ever. 

Now, we didn’t mean to scare you, but we wanted to emphasize how important it is to consider security when choosing a dedicated server hosting provider. When it comes to security, there are many things to consider than the reputation of the company that you are wanting to do business with. If a company with solid business operations were hosting your servers in an open room with cheap fans and where random people can walk in and out would not be a very secure hosting setup at all. It is monumental that the data center where the servers are hosted is not only robust in its power redundancy or ventilation, but also the presence of physical security as well. Having guards being present 24/7 is an absolute must in addition to CCTV surveillance. Also, having lax security in terms of entry and exit of the premises should definitely a red flag. You never know whoever might be targeting your business with malicious intent, or carelessness!

On top of physical security, there are other secure measures that you can take but only if your server hosting provider has a means set up to provide it. These include: protection against intrusion, viruses, malware, security for web apps, and. next-gen firewalls. Additionally, DDoS mitigation should be an option that is provided on all dedicated servers, as well as different packages for differing levels of protection and from the different types of attacks. Depending on what services you are obtaining, the provider should also have options for dedicated IP addresses, spam filtering, as well as providing SSL certificates. 

Server Management

Let’s face it, things happen, but you can’t always make it in good time during your work hours, and through traffic to the data center. Or even more relevant, let’s say that the data center is only accessible by flight. Sure, a good server hosting provider will allow you to access your servers at any time, but if you needed to update the OS, then is it really worth the flight?

These services, often referred to as “remote hands,” can be a lifesaver if you need something done in a pinch, but the trip would just be unrealistic and unfeasible. These include remote reboots, patching, installing new apps, and monitoring your servers. After all, it would be really great to know if your servers were operating suspiciously or were making weird noises, wouldn’t it? Many dedicated server providers offer such services known as remote hands. However, all prices for these packages are not created equal. For example, some server hosting providers charge by the hour, while others charge by task. What qualifies for a “task” can be left for interpretation by the provider, and the prices can sneakily rise up, even without your anticipation. And we all know of the mechanic who takes 4 hours to do a 30-minute task, all to provide the illusion that labor was, well, more laborious than it actually was. Make sure that your provider is fair and transparent when describing what they can and can’t do, either for free or at a price. (We think that charging for every simple reboot is ludicrous, but that’s just us). Also, when it comes to server management, make sure that you choose a server hosting provider that understands your business and your line of work. Another complication that you do not need is having to describe step-by-step, with excruciating details that the data center technician should know. And on top of that? To get charged for it too!

Superior Availability

Previously, we discussed the downtime that can arise from malicious activity such as hacking and deliberate DDoS attacks. But what if the causes of such downtime were not malicious by nature? Whatever the source of downtime, one thing is clear. Your servers are most likely running crucial applications for your business and you cannot afford to have it go offline. When you shop around for server hosting providers, you will often see a soft guarantee of how much the servers can remain online, followed by a percentage. What determines this number is typically based on the good operating principles of the company, as well as its redundancy. That is, if an unexpected outage were to occur, the backup of what was running before the failure would take over, and the failed components can be changed out without a dent in your productivity. When choosing a server hosting provider, it is important to choose one that promises high availability (preferably guaranteed by the SLA), and one that is always reliable, and always online. 

Superior Technical Support

It should go without saying that having superior technical support is just as important if you were buying an Apple computer, or an apple from the grocery store. But in terms of your dedicated server hosting, having top-notch technical support could not be more important. As previously mentioned, there are times when your server needs a simple reboot, or some patching work done. But other times, if there is a hard drive failure, then appropriate action must be taken immediately to ensure that your operations do not get hampered. The availability should be present for all forms of communication: phone, email, website live chat, ticket or Messenger. The faster the response time, the better. Be careful of these so-called 24/7 superior hosting providers who are answering their calls from a mobile business app and answering their chats from their pajamas at home. A superior server hosting company will have a technician present at all times. Essentially, a hosting company with 24/7 support is never asleep, so that you, the customer can. A great provider of technical support, especially in the server industry is not just a button pusher either (although a simple reboot might be just that). They will have the expertise from years of experience to help you with any technical questions that you or your CTO might have, as well as walk you through any troubleshooting that you might have while working on your servers. 

Our data center technician, Chris is installing the servers into freshly racked cabinets.
Our data center technician, Christian Enriquez, deploying a new cabinet.

Conclusion

We hope that we were able to simplify the features of dedicated server hosting, as well as the various options associated with them. In future posts, we hope to dive into many of the features and options mentioned here in greater detail, as well as discuss the pros and cons as it applies to various business types, models and structures. If any of the mentioned features resonated with you, and if you are looking to dedicated hosting options to start or grow your business, then we highly recommend you emailing us at dedicatedservers@layerhost.com. We have been challenging ourselves in providing the highest level of customer care and we never rest on our laurels either. If you need a server hosting solution, then feel free to ask us. Oh, and everything in between the question and the solution? We can take care of it together. We look forward to hearing from you!

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