Your business has a website. Your company might, in fact, be that website. That site needs to be hosted somewhere that has reliable uptime, doesn’t cost a fortune, and loads lightning fast.

Picking the perfect web host has many implications for a business that are far reaching. One constant does remain: every company needs a website and a fast server to host it on.

Even a one-second difference in page response can cost a company 7% of its customers.

In July 2018, Google will be updating their algorithm to including page speed as a ranking factor. Consider the implications if consumers are leaving your pages due to load time and your rankings are suffering.

Load-time is just one of many examples of the importance of web hosting, and its impacts on the company bottom line. The web host a company chooses is vitally important.

To understand the importance of web hosting servers, let’s break down the difference in the two major types of offered services: cloud hosting and dedicated servers.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages that may become more relevant to a company that is on a budget, facing time constraints or looking to expand. Here are the definitions and differences that you need to know.

The Cloud Ecosystem

The cloud is a technology that allows an infinite number of servers to act as a single entity. When information is stored “in the cloud,” it means that it is being held in a virtual space that can draw resources from different physical hubs strategically located around the world.

These hubs are actual servers, often in data center facilities, that connect through their ability to share resources in virtual space. This is the cloud.

Cloud servers use clustered filesystems such as Ceph or a large Storage Area Network (SAN) to allocate storage resources. Hosted and virtual machine data are accommodated through decentralization. In the event of a failure, this environment can easily migrate its state.

A hypervisor is also installed to handle how different sizes of cloud servers are partitioned. It also manages the allocation of physical resources to each cloud server including processor cores, RAM and storage space.

hosting service that provides server management with a man in front of screen

Dedicated Hosting Environment

The dedicated server ecosystem does not make use of virtual technology.  All resources are based on the capabilities and limitations of a single piece of physical hardware.

The term ‘dedicated’ comes from the fact that it is isolated from any other virtual space around it based on hardware. The hardware is built specifically to provide industry-leading performance, speed, durability and most importantly, reliability.

What is a Cloud Server and How Does it Work?

In simple terms, cloud server hosting is a virtualized hosting platform.

Hardware known as bare metal servers provide the base level support for many cloud servers.  A public cloud is made up of multiple bare metal servers, usually kept in a secure colocation data center. Each of these physical servers plays host to numerous virtual servers.

A virtual server can be created in a matter of seconds, quite literally. It can also be dismissed as quickly when it is no longer needed. Sending resources to a virtual server is a simple matter as well, requiring no in-depth hardware modifications. Flexibility is one of the primary advantages of cloud hosting, and it is a characteristic that is essential to the idea of the cloud server.

Within a single cloud, there can be multiple web servers providing resources to the same virtual space. Although each physical unit may be a bare metal server, the virtual space is what clients are paying for and ultimately using. Clients do not access the operating system of any of the base units.

Reliable Dedicated Servers

What is Dedicated Server Hosting?

Dedicated hosting has the potential to have just a single client on a physical server.

All of the resources of that server are available to that specific client that rents or buys the physical hardware. Resources are customized to the needs of the client, including storage, RAM, bandwidth load, and type of processor. Dedicated hosting servers are the most powerful machines on the market and often contain multiple processors.

A single client may require a cluster of servers. This cluster is known as a “private cloud.” 

The cluster is built on virtual technology, with the many dedicated servers all contributing to a single virtual location. The resources that are in the virtual space are only available to one client, however.

Mixing Cloud and Dedicated Servers – the Hybrid Cloud

An increasingly popular configuration that many companies are using is called a “hybrid cloud.” A hybrid cloud uses dedicated and cloud hosting solutions. A hybrid may also mix private and public cloud servers with colocated servers. This configuration allows for multiple variations on the customization side which is attractive to businesses that have specific needs or budgetary constraints.

One of the most popular hybrid cloud configurations is to use dedicated servers for back-end applications. The power of these servers creates the most robust environment for data storage and movement. The front-end is hosted on cloud servers. This configuration works well for Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, which require flexibility and scalability depending on customer-facing metrics.

selecting the right IT vendor for cloud services

Cloud Servers and Dedicated Servers – the Similarities

At their core, both dedicated and cloud servers perform the same necessary actions. Both solutions can conduct the following applications:

  • store information
  • receive requests for that information
  • process requests for information
  • return information to the user who requested it.

Cloud servers and dedicated servers also maintain differences from shared hosting or Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. Due to the increasing sophistication structure of cloud and dedicated solutions, they outpace shared/VPS solutions in the following areas:

  • Processing large amounts of traffic without lag or performance hiccups.
  • Receiving, processing and returning information to users with industry standard response times.
  • Protecting the fidelity of the data stored.
  • Ensuring the stability of web applications.

The current generation of cloud hosting solutions and dedicated servers have the general ability to support nearly any service or application. They can be managed using similar back-end tools, and both solutions can run on similar software. The difference is in the performance.

Matching the proper solution to an application can save businesses money, improve scalability and flexibility, and help maximize resource utilization.

The Difference Between Dedicated Servers and Cloud Computing

The differences between cloud hosting and dedicated servers become most apparent when comparing performance, scalability, migration, administration,  operations, and pricing.

scalability of data centers

Performance

Dedicated servers are usually the most desired choice for a company that is looking for fast processing and retrieval of information. Since they process data locally, they do not experience a great deal of lag when performing these functions.

This performance speed is especially important in industries where every 1/10th of a second counts, such as ecommerce.

Cloud servers must go through the SAN to access data, which takes the process through the back end of the infrastructure. The request must also route through the hypervisor. This extra processing adds a certain level of latency that cannot be reduced.

Processors in dedicated servers are entirely devoted to the host website or application. Unless all of the processing power is used at once (which is highly unlikely), they do not need to queue requests. This makes dedicated servers an excellent choice for companies with CPU intensive load balancing functions. In a cloud environment, processor cores require management to keep performance from degrading. The current generation of hypervisors cannot manage requests without an added level of latency.

Dedicated servers are entirely tied to the host site or application which prevents throttling on the overall environment. Dedication of this magnitude allows networking a simple function when compared to the cloud hosting environment.

In the cloud, sharing the physical network incurs a significant risk of throttling bandwidth. If more than one tenant is using the same network simultaneously, both tenants may experience a myriad of adverse effects. Hosting providers give many cloud-based tenants the option to upgrade to a Network Interface Card (NIC).

This option is often reserved for clients who are bumping up against the maximum available bandwidth that is available on the network. NIC’s can be expensive. But companies often find they are worth the extra cost.

Scale Your Business Hosting Needs

Dedicated hosting scales differently than cloud-based servers. The physical hardware is limited by the number of Distributed Antenna System (DAS) arrays or drive-bays it has available on the server.

A dedicated server may be able to add a drive to an already open bay through an underlying Logical Volume Manager (LVM) filesystem, a RAID controller, and an associated battery. DAS arrays are more difficult to hot swap.

In contrast, cloud server storage is easily expandable (and contractible). Because the SAN is off the host, the cloud server does not have to be part of the interaction to provision more storage space. Expanding storage in the cloud environment does not incur any downtime.

Dedicated servers also take more time and resources to change processors without maintenance downtime. Websites hosted on a single server that requires additional processing capabilities require a total migration or networking with another server.

disaster recovery and business continuity in the cloud

Migration

Both dedicated and cloud hosting solutions can achieve seamless migration. Migration within the dedicated environment requires more planning. To perform a seamless migration, the new solution must keep both future and current growth in mind. A full-scale plan should be created.

In most cases, the old and new solutions should run concurrently until the new server is completely ready to take over. It is also advisable to maintain the older servers as a backup until the new solution can be adequately tested.

Server Management: Administration and Operations

Dedicated servers may require a company to monitor its dedicated hardware.  Therefore in-house staff must understand systems administration more closely. A company will also need a deep understanding of load profile maintain data storage requirements within the proper range.

Scaling, upgrades, and maintenance is a joint effort between client and provider that must be carefully engineered to keep downtime to a minimum.

Cloud servers are more accessible to administer. Scalability is faster with much less of an impact on operations. 

Where dedicated platforms require planning to estimate server requirements accurately, the cloud platforms require planning to work around the potential limitations that you may face.

cloud hosting service server management

Cloud vs Server Cost Comparison

Cloud servers ordinarily have a lower entry cost than dedicated servers. However, cloud servers tend to lose this advantage as a company scales and requires more resources.

There are also features that can increase the cost of both solutions.

For instance, running a cloud server through a dedicated network interface can be quite expensive. 

A benefit of dedicated servers is they can be upgraded. With more memory, network cards and Non-Volatile Memory (NVMe) disks that will improve capabilities at the expense of a company’s hardware budget.

Cloud servers are typically billed on a monthly OpEx modelPhysical server options usually are CapEx expenditures. They allow you to oversubscribe your resources without additional cost. You now have a capital expenditure costs that may be written off over a three year period.

cloud vs dedicated hosting

Making a Choice: Cloud Servers vs Dedicated Servers

Matching the needs of your business to the configuration is the most crucial aspect of choosing between computing platforms.  

This computing platform needs to complement the operating procedures, be scalable, and cost-effective. These variables are critical evaluators when selecting between a cloud or dedicated server solution. 

Also, you are not able to take advantage of the new technological benefits as rapidly as you would in a cloud environment.

The value proposition for virtualization technologies is in the historical evidence that suggests most server workloads take advantage of a fraction of the actual physical resources over an extended period.  By combining workloads on a single hardware platform, one can optimize the capitalized expenditure of that hardware platform. This is the model cloud service providers use to create cheaper computing resources on their platform.

A dedicated server provides access to raw performance, both processor and data storage. Depending on the computing workload, this may be necessary.

There is a place for both. Utilizing a hybrid strategy, an organization can processor-intensive workloads on dedicated systems. While also running their scalable workloads on cloud infrastructure,  taking advantage of the strengths of each platform.

With the current maturity of cloud orchestration tools, and the ability to cross-connect into cloud environments, an organization can have multiple workloads in the various environments. Additionally, it can run physical infrastructure that interacts with these cloud services.

Which should you choose? Selecting one over the other based on a single metric is a mistake.

Consider the following:

  • The advantages of each solution.
  • The current needs of your business.
  • Your future scalability needs.
Have Questions?

Not sure which hosting option to choose for your business needs? Contact one of our hosting service experts.