Dedicated vs Co-located Servers
You've decided the time is right for either a dedicated
or co-located server and are trying to decide between
the two. This page may help in that decision.
First, let's define what each is.
A dedicated server is one leased
from a hosting company. They are responsible for the
hardware, the operating system, web server software,
and, within limitations, the software they load on
the server. If a hard drive should fail, it is their
responsibility to replace it, as with any other hardware
that the server is comprised of. Their responsibility
with regard to the software and the server in general,
is to make sure it functions when they turn it over
to a customer. Many hosts include a control panel,
often created by them, which allows many, even all,
administrative functions to be performed via web browser.
Some familiarity with the operating system and knowledge
of server management is called for, though it can
be moderate with the aid of a thorough control panel.
A co-located server is very different,
though it looks similar. The server itself is owned
by the customer, who is responsible for all parts
of it, from the hardware to the operating system.
Rack space and bandwidth are leased from the hosting
company, and their responsibility is solely the connection
to the Internet and related matters.
At the low end, there's not a big monthly difference
between dedicated and co-located servers at many hosts,
often $20-$30, and the minimal difference can be worth
it considering the responsibilities involved on the
part of the hosting company. Higher up the scale,
though, the price differential becomes much greater
and the savings with a co-located server can be substantial.
It would be easy to build or buy a web server for
the equivalent of two to four months worth of the
equivalent dedicated server payments.
Don't let a lower price get you in over your head,
though. At this level, you had better know your stuff.
This is what separates the masters from the students.
You will be completely responsible for everything
in your box (server), hardware and software included.
Assistance may be available, though it is often in
the range of $200 hourly, and may not be available
immediately, leaving your server and sites inoperative
for a time.
If a hard drive or any other piece of hardware should
fail, your server may be down until you can provide
a replacement unit and pay to have it installed. Since
many people will use a remote hosting company, and
the savings at the low end are minimal, those who
are contemplating a co-located server should seriously
consider multiple hard drives and a RAID system. This
can prevent the server from going down in some instances
and allow time to provide a replacement. It can also
prevent loss of data.
There is an alternative that can allow for a co-located
server with a moderate amount of knowledge. Some hosting
companies sell Cobalt RAQ servers, the same type made
for relative novices to use as dedicated servers.
They come with an easy to use interface. There is
a catch of sorts. Cobalt RAQ servers are limited in
scalability and, while they may be adequate for smaller,
low usage sites, they are unsuitable for more robust
If you are prepared to handle all the needs and requirements
of server administration, from hardware to software,
and are planning on running a multiple hard drive
server with a RAID array, you can save a considerable
amount of money with a co-located server. If your
skills and knowledge aren't up to the task, a dedicated
server may be more suitable for you, assuming you
have the less taxing skills and knowledge they require.
If your site's resource needs are not extensive and
you are on a tight budget, a co-located Cobalt RAQ
server may be the choice for you. Aside from responsibility
for replacement or repair, it's the same type server
leased as low end dedicated servers, interface and
For many, though, an Intel architecture dedicated
server will be the best choice. More memory and hard
drives can be added as needed, and administering one
can provide part of the experience needed for those
who may wish to move to a co-located server at some
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