This is a question that comes up rather often, which is not surprising given how difficult it can be to find a good server host that will meet your needs, day in and day out. The truth is that there is no “best dedicated server” and no “best dedicated host”, however, there may well be a “best host for you”. In this article we go over the differences between different types of host, and point you in the right direction for selecting your best dedicated server host.
Although you may expect we’d recommend ourselves as the best host (something our customers have done from time to time), the truth is that we’re only the best host for some potential customers, definitely not all of them. The rest of this article gives you some ideas about how to pick the best host for you specifically.
Managed, or unmanaged
The first decision you need to make is between a managed or unmanaged server. Unmanaged hosts typically just give you a server with the OS installed, remote access configured, and the rest is up to you. If you have problems with the hardware or network, they’ll generally help out, but if you have problems with the software you’ve installed, your web server, email, whatever else, you’re expected to handle that yourself.
For those types of issues (software, configurations, etc), an unmanaged host’s support will vary between minimal and non-existent, whereas a managed host should help you with just about anything. The advantage to an umanaged host is cost, as a typical server will cost between $100 and $300 / mo, whereas an identical server at a managed host will cost between $300 and $1000 / mo.
As an unmanaged hosting provider, IOFLOOD does expect customers to try to solve software configuration issues on their own before contacting us. We do try to be more helpful than a typical unmanaged host, happy to help with the occasional question or special request. That said, there are definitely big differences between us and a fully managed hosting provider. This is of course reflected in the price as fully managed servers from reputable providers are significantly more expensive.
So who should use managed dedicated hosting? Simply, anyone who doesn’t have the in-house expertise, or the time and attention needed to set up, configure, or maintain their dedicated server. Obviously this can be expensive, so typically larger companies or high value services will use managed servers. “Brick and mortar” businesses in particular are likely to rent fully managed dedicated servers, as the higher cost is seen to be a good value compared to hiring skilled technical staff.
The next question often asked is what location would you like your server to be in? To a new dedicated server customer, it can be confusing why this is being asked at all. The location you are looking for can help narrow down the many options for dedicated servers that you have. This is because a server closer to your users will have better performance. We’ll go over this in more detail in a later post, but for now, the most important thing is just to make sure your server is in the same country as the majority of the people who will be accessing it.
If most of your users are in the USA, then a server hosted in the US will be your best option. If most users are in Western Europe, then a server located in the UK, Germany, France, or the Netherlands will often be best.
Obviously, budget can be an important factor. Although paying more does not guarantee better service, there are features you may or may not be interested in that can affect the price of your dedicated server. By knowing what your budget is, you can narrow down the range of hosts who can meet your needs.
In particular, things such as HIPPA compliance, PCI-DSS compliance, very strict SLA guarantees, and other regulatory compliance / standards certifications will typically only be available at higher cost hosting providers. If those things are not particularly important to you, you can save a significant amount of money, but for some customers these things are mandated by law and are not optional.
As well, a low budget host may be less flexible with offering support, or may have longer setup times for your server, or possibly have lower quality network uplinks. Although these things may be very important to some customers, in other cases you may not notice the difference and see no need to pay extra. By being honest about your budget up front, it makes it far easier to decide which tradeoffs are appropriate for you, and therefore which host is best for you.
Although most websites and servers do not receive DDoS attacks, if yours is one of the unlucky few that does, you’ll want to host with someone who offers advanced DDoS protection. We’ll go over this in more detail in a future article, but for most customers, a host with either basic ddos protection or no protection at all is appropriate. This is because DDoS protected servers are very expensive, and most customers don’t receive attacks. As well, hosts offering advanced protection tend to attract the kinds of customers who receive large attacks, which may negatively impact your reliability.
Depending on what kind of use you’re looking to get out of your server, additional features may be needed. Whether these are backups, software licenses, specific software installations, etc, there are many hosts who offer one or all of these additional services. Sometimes this would be included in the price, and sometimes not. If you don’t need any of this, or you plan to handle it yourself, that can save you money and allow you to choose from a wider range of providers.
One type of specialized host is one who offers support explicitly for a specific type of software. For example, “wordpress hosts”, “minecraft hosts”, “drupal hosts”, etc, all have their own specialized area, and you would expect to receive better support for their area of specialty than you could get from a generic host. At the same time, at a specialized host, you would expect to get less helpful support for anything outside of their area of expertise.
If you plan to use your server for just one thing, a specialized host can be a great way to narrow down your choices, as you can be sure that whatever problem you may run into is something they’ve dealt with dozens of times before.
Reputation and reviews
No matter who you host your server with, it pays to check reviews. Unfortunately, most reviews sites are little more than paid advertisements, ranking hosts higher who pay more money for placement. The only place I know of with honest reviews would be webhostingtalk.com. There are lots of honest reviews there you can search for, to evaluate any host that you’re considering.
It is worth not taking any single opinion too seriously however, as what is important to one customer may not be things that you personally care about. On the other hand, webhostingtalk does have a lot of smart and experienced participants, so if you tend to see 4 out of 5 people saying the same thing, chances are it’s correct.
So who is the best host?
There is no one host that is best for everyone. Of course, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t suggest that IOFLOOD is a great choice for our target audience. If you’re a business owner who manages your own servers, who has the occasional question or special request, and you want to do business with someone who understands your needs, IOFLOOD is for you.
Of course, this description doesn’t match everyone, and so there are a great number of dedicated server hosting customers who would be better off hosting with someone else. This is completely normal, as it is impossible for any one company to be the perfect host for everyone.
Selecting a host is not an easy task, and so I hope that this article helps point you in the right direction in your search for your next dedicated server.
If you’d like any further guidance, or if you’re interested in an unmanaged dedicated server from IOFLOOD.com, please email our friendly staff at sales [at] ioflood.com with any details about your needs.
If you contact us, we will do our best to recommend a solution that will work for your — even if that means recommending a competitor.