Launching a business-focused website is no simple affair, as you must build your online destination with commerce, search engine optimization, security, and other factors in mind. But if you want a no-brainer website foundation that can withstand high traffic volumes and let you install your own scripts, sign up for a dedicated server.
Unlike a shared server, which powers multiple sites, a dedicated server hosts just one site. Website stability and reliability are the twin benefits of investing in a dedicated server—your site leverages a server's full CPU, RAM, and storage resources, as it doesn't share them with other sites. You shouldn't underestimate the importance of these benefits in terms of site speed and reliability.
Building your website on a shared server means that your pages may be affected by a neighboring site that devours too many server resources. For example, if that site receives a huge spike in traffic, your pages might load slowly—or not at all. Investing in a dedicated server greatly reduces this potential problem, plus it gives system administrators greater control over the apps and scripts that they can install on the server, too. Shared hosting is far more limited when it comes to what you're allowed to do, because everything you do could potentially affect the other sites with which you share the server. When you've got the server all to yourself, your scripts and apps won't impinge on anyone else's bandwidth and RAM.
Dedicated servers sound pretty great, right? They are. That said, you should be aware of their relatively high prices. Setting up shop on a dedicated server will likely cost you more than $100 per month; shared servers, on the other hand, can be leased for under $10 per month. In addition, you'll need to handle firewalls and maintenance yourself unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more.
Dedicated Web hosting isn't cheap, so you should only consider it if you need that level of server power. If you plan to create a personal blog or a business website that does little more than list your location and hours of operation, shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, or VPS hosting are sufficient—and more wallet-friendly—options.
You can save a nice chunk of money if you sign up for a year or more of dedicated hosting at a time. For example, you can rent a GoDaddy dedicated server for $129 per month, but if you commit to a 12-month contract, the price drops to $79.99 per month. Chances are, if you're serious enough about your site that you think it needs a dedicated host, you're probably planning for it to be up for a year. Of course, that's where the money-back guarantees come in, and some sites definitely offer more than others in that regard, so do your research. All our web-hosting reviews cover these guarantees.
A cursory glance at the many Web hosting services we've listed here reveals many similar-looking offerings, but the discerning eye will identify some subtle differences. You'll want a dedicated server with significant amounts of disk space—preferably 1TB or more—for storing files. You can typically choose either a traditional hard drive or a solid-state drive as your website's storage medium. There's a trade-off, however. Solid-state drives are often faster and more reliable than HDDs, but they cost more money and have smaller storage capacities. Traditional hard drives, on the other hand, have large capacities and lower prices but aren't quite as resilient as their SSD counterparts. Unless you truly need blazingly fast storage, a traditional hard drive will get the job done.
Ample RAM (5GB or more), e-commerce options for selling products, 24/7 customer service, and unlimited monthly data transfers are highly sought-after features, too. Many Web hosts cap their dedicated monthly data transfer offerings at 16GB, which is probably fine for most users. Some Web hosts offer unlimited monthly data transfers, but they are few and far between, and you need to read the terms of service very carefully to understand just what "unlimited" means to the host in question. In addition, companies that offer dedicated Web hosting typically offer daily backups, security options, and malware detection and removal—all very important factors in your website's day-to-day operation.
Additionally, you'll want a Web hosting service that offers Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) if you plan to sell products. Here's why: An SSL connection encrypts the data that travels between your site and users' Web browsers, thus safeguarding the transmission of purchasing information. You've probably seen a green padlock in your Web browser's address bar while logging into your online bank account or making online purchases. It's a symbol of trust. Some companies include a free SSL certificate when you sign up for a hosting plan, while others charge close to $100. You can save some money by shopping around for the services that offer the cheapest SSL plans.
You'll also want to consider how long you'll need dedicated Web hosting. If it's a short-term project—say, less than a month or two—you'll typically receive a refund should you cancel your hosting within 60 days. Some companies offer 30-day money-back guarantees, while others offer 90-day money-back guarantees. Once again, it's beneficial to do your homework.
All the aforementioned features are valuable to the Web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
Recently, we've added more formal uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most Web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. If they don't, they suffer for it in our scoring. Even if they get everything else right, sites with uptime problems aren't eligible for high scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to address the problem are penalized accordingly.
Dedicated Web hosting is an attractive option for people and companies who require a rock-solid website foundation. Sure, it's more expensive than shared Web hosting, but you get greater reliability and more flexibility in exchange for the additional money that you pay. We've reviewed many dedicated hosting services and included our nine favorites in this guide. The chart above gives you a quick overview of the features you can find with each service. It includes pricing, hardware specs, data caps, and other pertinent information. If you want a more in-depth look at dedicated Web hosting services, take a look at the blurbs—and links to full reviews— below.