What Is Dedicated Hosting? How Does It Work? (Beginner’s Guide)

August 29, 2023
August 29, 2023
August 29, 2023

What is dedicated hosting?

Dedicated hosting is a type of web hosting that gives you access to an entire physical server. It is designed to give you the freedom to configure and install whatever you need to, to get your website/web app up and running. Out of all the hosting types offered by traditional web hosts (shared, VPS, dedicated), dedicated hosting gives you the most computing power, perfect for complex web apps, or websites with a lot of traffic.

You can compare dedicated hosting to using your own personal computer. Nobody else uses it and you're free to install and uninstall any programs that you want. Because nobody else is using your computer, you have all its power at your disposal to run a program, play a game, convert files, and more.

Note: Despite the power and freedoms found with dedicated hosting, I recommend contacting your hosting provider with your project's use case and requirements to ensure that you're purchasing the plan that is right for you. Hosting providers are all separate and competing businesses, so they're offerings will vary depending on the needs of their customers.

How does dedicated hosting work?

When you purchase a dedicated hosting plan, you're renting a server in a hosting provider's datacenter. A server is a computer that, in this context, you access remotely to setup and configure a website, web app, or other server application. Unlike other hosting types like shared and VPS where you need to share the server with some of the hosting provider's other customers, dedicated hosting gives you an entire server just for yourself. The hosting provider is responsible for keeping that server running through power outages, hardware failures, and network problems. Your responsibility is for everything on the server itself, including the programs you need to install and how they're configured. Sometimes you can purchase additional support from the hosting provider to help you manage the server's software - some hosting providers will include support for no additional cost.

When should I use dedicated hosting?

Dedicated hosting should be used for websites and web apps that have a lot of traffic (high bandwidth), need a lot of computing power (complex), and/or require a specialized configuration. Some projects need a high-level of security and may gravitate towards dedicated hosting just so they're not sharing hardware with any other customers like on VPS, or shared hosting. Dedicated hosting is typically sold as web hosting (websites and web apps), but because you have access to a powerful server sitting on the cloud, some people will use it for other server-based applications like game servers, or IT infrastructure - you can read more about this in the "Alternative uses for dedicated hosting" section below.

Is dedicated hosting good?

Dedicated hosting is good as long as you use it for what it's designed for, very high demand websites, web apps, and server-based projects. It is very high performance, but also very expensive in comparison to other hosting types like shared hosting. Some projects will work just fine under the constraints of shared hosting at a fraction of the cost, so it's important that you check if your project needs dedicated hosting before committing to it.

Choosing the best hosting type for you comes down to selecting the right tool for the job. In general this means...

  • Shared hosting for small-to-medium websites and web apps. You can read more about shared hosting here
  • VPS hosting for websites and web apps that have outgrown shared hosting, but don't need the full power of a dedicated server
  • Dedicated hosting for demanding websites and web apps (and other server applications) that are very demanding, or need specialized configuration(s)

Pros and cons of dedicated hosting

Like all other hosting types, dedicated hosting comes with its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. It's important to note that hosting providers are businesses that compete with each other and therefore some of the points listed below may not apply to you (ie your hosting provider may give you comprehensive support for free).

Advantages of using dedicated hosting

  • Freedom of configuration
    - You'll have the freedom to install, configure, and uninstall programs that you might need. You may even be given the choice of OS (Windows Server, Linux Server - various distros)
  • A lot of computing resources
    - If your project requires a lot of computing power, then dedicated hosting provides the highest amount of computing power out of the traditional hosting types (shared, VPS, dedicated)
  • Hardware insights and selection
    - When you purchase dedicated hosting from a hosting provider, they'll usually give you insights into the components they're using (ie type of CPU, amount of RAM, storage amount + speed). Typically hosting providers will keep some of these details under wraps (unless asked) for other hosting types like shared and VPS. Some dedicated hosting packages even let you choose from a pre-selected list of hardware options.

Disadvantages of using dedicated hosting

  • Added technical debt
    - You're almost always responsible for the entire server's configuration and maintenance. That means you'll need to perform OS and software updates as well as software installations - this includes testing if the updates work before making them live to avoid as much downtime as possible. These skills are often called "server administration" and they have an extremely high learning curve, with a big time commitment required to learn and implement all the things that keep your server working as intended
  • Increased expense
    - Dedicated hosting is the most expensive of the traditional web hosting types (shared, VPS, dedicated)
    - The expense increase can be quite considerable with shared hosting plans starting at ~$10CAD/month and dedicated starting at ~$100CAD/month
  • Less comprehensive or more expensive support
    - Hosting providers will often offer comprehensive support for their shared and managed VPS hosting plans. This offering is much more rare for dedicated hosting as you have free reign over the server, so they aren't experienced with your unique configurations
    - Some hosting providers will offer comprehensive support for their dedicated hosting at a premium hourly rate

Alternative uses for dedicated hosting

Servers aren't just used for websites and web apps, there are plenty of reasons why you'd want to have a computer sitting in the cloud at your disposal. Because you have virtually free reign over dedicated hosting, some people will use them for other use cases like hosting game servers, or IT infrastructure.

Important note: Dedicated hosting is typically sold as web hosting. If you are trying to use a dedicated hosting plan for something other than a website/web app, I recommend contacting the hosting provider to ask them if your intended use case is supported.

Examples of alternative use cases for dedicated hosting

  • Remote workstation
    - Sometimes you may need a workstation that is geographically close to a particular place. For example, you may have a developer located in Australia that constantly needs to upload and interact with servers in Canada. These interactions may be slow and timeout frequently, because of how far away they are from what they're working on. To remedy this, they could remote into a workstation (ie dedicated server running Windows) located in Canada, and perform those troublesome actions on there.
  • Video game server
    - Some games require, or have the option for you to run your own server (ie Minecraft). Your home computer may not be able to keep up with hosting a game server due to the computing requirements, internet speed, or even electricity required (if you live in an area with frequent power outages, the server will keep going down). Dedicated servers are typically powerful enough in computing power and have enough networking capability to keep up with you and your friends playing together.
    - You may need to limit the population of a game server if it gets too popular as some game servers are very demanding, with demand climbing considerably as new users log in.
  • IT infrastructure
    - Some of IT's systems may benefit from sitting on a dedicated server. While this is typically done on cloud hosting with providers such as Azure, some small-to-medium businesses may find that dedicated hosting is more budget friendly to run apps that IT is comfortable running on a dedicated server.
    - It's important to note that a lot of IT systems need a good amount of security, so an internal server, or secured Azure offering may be preferred
    - An example of an IT system that could work on dedicated hosting is a video streaming server. The power of dedicated hosting would allow for transcoding, and the increased storage space has room for high-quality 4K videos. If the videos are meant for marketing on a digital display (ie on a retail smart display), then security may not be an issue as the videos are already suitable for public-viewing.

Related Podcast Episode

If you want to learn more about dedicated hosting and other traditional hosting types like shared and VPS, we have a recent podcast that you might be interested in listening to titled "What Type of Hosting Should You Use? (Shared, VPS, Dedicated, Reseller, WordPress, NodeJS)"

You can give it a listen right here.

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Written by...
Matt Lawrence

When I'm not tinkering with websites and servers, I'm gaming it up....or writing something

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