What Do I Need?

Shopping around for a dedicated host server can be intimidating and confusing, so here's a quick guide to help you understand the basics and figure out what to look for.

Dedicated Versus VPS

If your site has grown beyond the limited capacity of shared hosting plans, you're ready for dedicated hosting. There are two choices: using physical dedicated servers, or virtual private servers. Either option will provide far more storage, bandwidth and overall control than a shared hosting plan, but there are still differences between the two.

Physical Servers

With dedicated hosting, you'll have total access to your physical server and all its resources. This provides nearly endless possibilities as far as configuration, security, and customization options. You're not sharing any resources with any other customers, so you'll have access to more power than if you were to use virtual servers. It's worth mentioning, though, that very few sites can truly utilize the full potential of a dedicated server all to themselves. Physical servers also cost a bundle.

Virtual Servers

With VPS, you have control over a virtual machine, which is on a server that likely plays host to several other virtual servers. Although you're sharing a physical CPU, you'll have dedicated access to a certain amount of RAM and storage space which is determined by your hosting plan. VPS offers the flexibility of expanding your resources so your site (or sites) can grow easily, without the added cost of paying for a bunch of extra space you might need in the future but aren't using right now. You can also move a VPS to a new physical server any time for even better performance. Possible customization levels are similar to physical servers, but may be limited by your hosting provider. This is important to understand: the technology isn't what's limited; it's your service contract. If you feel a lack of freedom, it's probably because you're with the wrong hosting service, not because VPS can't handle the tweaks you'd like to make. And finally, VPS is way, way cheaper than dedicated.

Features

As far as the customer is concerned, dedicated and VPS work pretty much the same; the main difference is whether it's running on an actual physical machine or on virtual hardware. Administrative access, control level, and software features are all comparable. A typical hosting plan will include the same basic things: content management, development tools, backups, and necessary security certificates.

So Which One?

The real difference boils down to cost, and that can be a significant difference. The needs of the average site are easily met by virtual dedicated server hosting, though there is definitely a time and a place for physical dedicated servers.