Your own hobby website, a fan forum for your favorite band, or a comprehensive company database – if you want to provide information or applications via the Internet, you need a solid server basis that is tailored to the project. But just as different from the projects of the website operators are the hosting options with the specialized providers. Here, a server comparison helps to keep track. It is important to note how much server performance the implementation requires. While demanding projects such as online shops or database servers are slowed down by low-performance hardware, the expensive resources of professional hosting can significantly exceed the needs of simple websites such as blogs or forums. Server hosting can therefore be booked at different performance levels. The range of products usually ranges from dedicated servers and virtual machines to cloud-based hosting solutions.
Every web application relies on a server that provides data on the network and delivers it to client programs as required – for example, when a user accesses the web application with his browser. With a dedicated server, a hosting customer has hardware components specially provided for him at his disposal. Compared to other hosting options, the dedicated server is a closed physical device in the provider’s data center, the resources of which are only accessible to a tenantare. This ensures the freedom to make all configurations, including the choice of the operating system, according to your own ideas. Dedicated servers are particularly suitable for more complex web projects that involve predictable resource requirements. This hosting model can be found in ambitious developer projects, large online shops, and extensive software-as-a-service offers. Since, with correct administration, nobody else but the hoster and the tenant can access the server, dedicated servers offer a security advantage. Since a dedicated server is an independent physical machine, the server resources can only be expanded to a limited extent. If the web project grows beyond the performance maximum, the only option is to move to a more powerful server.
Virtual servers are also based on a limited hardware base, but this is not exclusively available to any customer. Instead, the resources are used by multiple customers at the same time. Virtualization software makes it possible to operate multiple virtual servers (vServers) on a powerful host server. The independence of the individual virtual machines is achieved through encapsulation. Each vServer has a fixed part of the hardware resources (hard disk space, RAM, and CPU) available. A tenant of such a vServer gets its own IP address and can freely choose the operating system within the scope of the given options. By accommodating several servers on one host system, the servers are significantly cheaper compared to dedicated servers. Upon request, the tenant is given root access to the virtual machine. The management of the host server falls under the responsibility of the hosting company. This type of server hosting is particularly suitable for beginners and web projects where high peak loads are not expected.
The cloud server is also a virtual server. However, it does not use the hardware resources of a single physical machine, but rather a server cluster. User data is therefore not stored on a closed system but is mirrored and distributed over several physical hard drives. Compared to classic hosting, the cloud server offers comprehensive hardware redundancy, which guarantees maximum availability and reliability. Faulty or defective components are compensated in real-time in the server cluster. Since all of the cloud server’s resources are provided by the cluster, users can scale them freely. The cloud server thus enables a business model in which the service usedcan be billed to the minute. Changing traffic loads are balanced in a user-friendly and cost-efficient manner. Cloud hosting is therefore particularly suitable for web projects whose utilization is subject to seasonal fluctuations, as well as a flexible test and development environment. The resource requirements of the cloud server can be adjusted in real-time, while a vServer only allows performance adjustments by choosing a different tariff package.
Exkurs: Root-Server vs. Managed Server
When comparing servers, you should pay particular attention to whether they are root or managed servers. While server offers with root access are usually aimed at professional administrators, managed servers are of particular interest to beginners.
- Root Servers: In web hosting, dedicated servers where the tenant gets access to the root account are called “root servers”. With root access, the customer has comprehensive access rights and thus receives extensive design options as well as full control over programs, services, access, security settings, and updates. However, this freedom also harbors the risk of making the wrong settings. Therefore, managing the root account requires basic expertise. Otherwise secure server operation is at risk.
- Managed server: If you do not have the necessary expertise to manage the root account on your own, it is advisable to rent a managed server. In this case, the administration of the server is taken over by the hosting provider. However, applications can still be configured individually. Due to the additional effort for the hoster, the provision of a managed server is associated with a surcharge compared to self-managed systems.