How to Know if You Need a Dedicated Server for Your eCommerce Site
The eCommerce industry is currently thriving, with the vast majority of Americans conducting a significant portion of their shopping online. Consumers appreciate the convenience of digital shopping, which grants them access to a variety of products and services that were once regarded as out of reach. However, with continued growth comes the need for improved performance and security, especially given the large amount of sensitive information that today’s online businesses are often required to handle. Unfortunately, many companies neglect to invest in necessary web security tools and protocols, thereby leaving data vulnerable to a variety of hazards.
Beyond security issues, common concerns faced by modern eCommerce businesses include slow website speeds and limited scalability. These and other problems can be resolved easily through the use of a dedicated server. This approach is common among today’s most successful eCommerce companies, which enjoy improved performance and reliability, along with positive feedback from pleased website users. Other organizations, however, could stand to level up their web presence via dedicated servers, which can dramatically improve performance while also addressing an array of security concerns.
The failure to pursue dedicated hosting for eCommerce applications often derives from a complete lack of understanding of how dedicated servers function – and why they’re so reliable. Below, we’re clarifying both issues and highlighting the key differences between dedicated hosting and alternative approaches.
What Is a Dedicated Server?
As its name suggests, a dedicated server is purely intended for use by a single organization or business. This differs considerably from shared or cloud hosting, in which several websites operate on the same server. However, both methods allow data to be stored and maintained off-site – a preferred approach for businesses lacking the time or resources necessary to handle on-site hosting.
At the most basic level, dedicated servers operate much like standard computers, and contain processors, storage, and memory. Unlike PCs, however, which feature consumer-level components, dedicated servers include enterprise-grade elements that deliver far better performance while also proving less prone to failure. For example, the random access memory (RAM) in a dedicated server features high-quality hardware that is resistant to data corruption from electrical interference and other sources. In general, an off-site dedicated server should be in a data center where it is protected regardless of inclement weather and local power or internet outages.
Dedicated servers come in multiple forms. Many businesses opt for self-managed setups, which grant them greater control but also place the responsibility for monitoring, patching, and other essentials firmly on their shoulders. Others prefer managed hosting, in which the provider takes over most administrative duties. Depending on the host, the dedicated server may be managed by default or via a service plan. Some dedicated hosting companies also offer rapid deploy plans, which promise significant time savings via pre-configured setups. These can help get websites up and running almost immediately.
Top Signs That a Dedicated Server Might Be a Viable Solution for Your Website
Today’s businesses can take advantage of a variety of hosting setups, each featuring its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. While no one solution is necessarily ideal for every type of company, certain websites call for the increased performance that typically accompanies dedicated hosting. This is particularly true in eCommerce, where the very nature of the shopping and checkout process can lead to frustrating performance issues if data is hosted on an unreliable server.
With eCommerce, dedicated servers offer several notable advantages, including everything from increased bandwidth to flexible service. While not all businesses place the same emphasis on such qualities, all can benefit from the enhanced security that dedicated servers provide. This is especially true given the current prevalence of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other threats.
Sorting through available options can feel frustrating, especially if you’re determined to keep costs to a minimum. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the sticker price doesn’t always reflect the long-term costs and benefits of various arrangements. What seems affordable at the outset could prove surprisingly expensive over time, especially if a bare-bones solution leads to poor performance or security breaches.
Still not sure if your website requires a dedicated server? The following signs may indicate that this solution stands the best chance of providing a reliable, secure, and cost-effective eCommerce presence:
Your Website Runs Slowly
Today’s customers demand lightning-fast web service. Few are willing to put up with lags. If your website fails to achieve sufficient speeds, you will struggle to keep visitors around for more than a few seconds. In fact, research suggests that the majority will jump ship after a mere three seconds of waiting. Those who bother to stick around will be frustrated by this initial impression of poor service – and they’ll prove far less likely to convert if they suspect that the checkout process will be just as slow.
Many seemingly affordable web setups often end up being costly on a long-term basis simply because their lack of speed drives customers away. With dedicated hosting, however, every element of the sales funnel can be streamlined to ensure that customers move through checkout quickly and seamlessly. This is made possible, in part, by the sheer number of processor cores. The most powerful dedicated servers include dozens of cores, allowing them to handle data at an impressive pace. Likewise, generous allowances for bandwidth ensure exceptional performance under a variety of circumstances.
Your Website Is Unreliable
Perhaps you’re generally satisfied with your website’s typical speed – but what happens during peak hours? Traffic can vary considerably over time. Not all sites are equipped to accommodate sudden surges of visitors. If handled through shared hosting or similar setups, websites may lack the extensive bandwidth and central processing units (CPUs) needed to provide smooth sailing during times of heavy traffic.
Poor website reliability could make it difficult to secure repeat customers, who are increasingly vital to long-term business success. Regular website visitors want to know that pages will always load quickly, even if they visit during busy periods. If they are disappointed once, they may seek out greener pastures, despite having successfully navigated the same website in the past.
Reliability concerns for various hosting options often come down to disk I/O, or input/output. This concept involves the speed of data transfer between RAM and hard drives. When I/O bottlenecks occur, it’s difficult to take full advantage of the server’s CPU, no matter how impressive it may seem at the outset.
Unfortunately, I/O performance is notoriously spotty for shared cloud systems, as large volumes of requests from other clients can lead to significant slowdowns. Bottlenecks may also occur due to shared upstream networks. While certain elements of cloud operations are highly scalable, this isn’t necessarily true of disk I/O. However, with a dedicated server, the need for sharing is removed – and with it, much of the potential for bottlenecks.
You Anticipate That Your Business Will Grow Quickly in the Near Future
On the hunt for a scalable solution that allows your online presence to grow alongside your company? A dedicated server may be your best bet. Uniquely scalable, dedicated servers enable you to level up or reduce your service based on your current needs. This option is particularly appealing to smaller businesses who may be unable to invest in extensive bandwidth or other resources initially – and are nervous about handling a potential influx of new customers. This concern is especially common among businesses considering shared hosting, which, while initially affordable, may impose restrictions that can be bypassed easily through the use of a dedicated server.
Scalability itself is essential, of course, but the speed at which emerging needs can be accommodated also warrants consideration. With dedicated hosting, shifts in CPU cores, clock speed, or RAM can be made quickly without suffering significant downtime. Additionally, as mentioned previously, the improved disk I/O associated with dedicated servers allows for smoother and more consistent access. This minimizes the likelihood that increased volume from one client will negatively impact another that is simultaneously seeing similar increases in demand.
Ultimately, a dedicated server makes it possible to maintain a proactive approach, in which all future scenarios are accounted for to minimize risk. By anticipating potential changes and planning accordingly, you can ensure that your business is equipped to take on any challenges that lie ahead – and to make the most of promising opportunities.
You’re Concerned About Security
Security concerns abound in today’s threat-filled digital world. Those who conduct business virtually via eCommerce sites are charged with the tough, but extremely important task of keeping sensitive customer information safe. Often, this includes personal data, such as contact information and credit card numbers. In the event of a breach, access to such information could cause extreme harm to otherwise trusting customers. It could also prompt a PR disaster. Large, well-established companies struggle enough as is in the aftermath of a breach, but such incidents can easily destroy smaller companies with fewer resources.
A dedicated server can play a significant role in ramping up security for your eCommerce website, especially if used in place of shared hosting setups. Because dedicated servers minimize points of transmission, they also reduce the likelihood of breaches occurring in any given situation. Likewise, many dedicated servers come equipped with advanced security solutions capable of preventing (or at least mitigating) the most devastating attacks.
The numerous security benefits associated with dedicated hosting can take many forms, including the following:
Heightened Physical Security
Dedicated servers are housed in secure data centers, where access is rigorously controlled. Such heightened security is particularly valuable for organizations determined to maintain compliance with a variety of strict federal and local regulations. Even when compliance isn’t a risk, customers deserve to feel confident that the data they share with trusted eCommerce sites will remain safe.
Without proper physical security, sensitive customer or client data could be left vulnerable to a wide array of risks. For example, oft-forgotten concerns such as climate could prove devastating if not properly controlled. Optimal temperatures and humidity levels must be maintained to keep hardware safe. Fully redundant cooling and power components ensure that, in the worst-case scenario, strict temperature control will continue to be provided for vulnerable hardware.
Beyond climate concerns, data centers also offer extensive protection via gated perimeters, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, security guards, and even biometric verification. Additional restrictions prevent individuals from accessing specific rooms or floors. Together, such efforts deliver much-needed peace of mind.
These days, dedicated hosting providers are dealing with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks at the network level inside of their data centers. DDoS attacks occur when multiple systems flood web applications or servers with traffic to disrupt websites or even cause them to crash altogether.
DDoS attacks are far more common than many business owners realize. An alarming survey conducted by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company revealed that over one-third of businesses suffered a DDoS incident in the twelve months preceding the study. Sadly, such events often lead to huge losses for affected businesses, with a Kaspersky Lab report indicating that companies targeted by DDoS attacks dealt with poor performance regarding online services, including frequent transaction failures.
Despite the prevalence of DDoS attacks, most organizations fail to invest in even the most basic preventative measures. With dedicated hosting, however, DDoS concerns may prove less urgent, as many servers include built-in tools and technologies designed to prevent and mitigate the worst threats. In the event an attack occurs under the right dedicated hosting protection, services can remain online to ensure maximum uptime.
Ideally, dedicated server DDoS mitigation systems will use advanced screening technology to monitor incoming traffic. This makes it possible to pinpoint and block malicious traffic long before it reaches potentially vulnerable servers. From there, clean traffic can be forwarded to servers to minimize disruptions for non-malicious website visitors.
In addition to preventing and mitigating attacks, dedicated servers may maintain detailed records of such incidents to ensure further protection in the future. These records highlight attack intensity, length, and traffic flow. DDoS protection can be fine-tuned based on this data to offer maximum security.
Beyond DDoS attacks, eCommerce websites based on shared servers may face a variety of other digital threats worth considering. Often, DDoS attacks act as smokescreens intended to cover up or slow response rates for other incidents, such as malware infections, network intrusion, or data leaks. If sufficient DDoS protection is lacking, affected businesses may spend too much time responding to these incidents while failing to dedicate necessary attention to other urgent issues.
Even in the absence of DDoS attacks, eCommerce websites can be highly vulnerable to malware and ransomware when critical data is stored on shared servers. In such situations, the cliché about good fences making good neighbors applies: the barrier of being alone on a server may ultimately prove just as powerful as other protective measures. Managed setups provide even stronger security by allowing administrators to handle upgrades and other obligations with which businesses may struggle to keep up.
Between physical security, DDoS mitigation, and managed administration, dedicated servers offer a wide array of options for keeping data safe. This comprehensive approach to security represents one of the greatest and most underrated strengths of dedicated hosting, making it a worthwhile choice even for those who find their performance needs already met by alternative setups.
You Desire Customized, Attentive Service
Dedicated servers are far more versatile than many people realize. Whether you prefer to take full control or leave the greatest hassles of server administration to the experts, you can find an arrangement that works well for your situation and your website.
While some dedicated server setups require extensive management on the hosted organization’s end, several excellent options exist for those who prefer guidance every step of the way. Managed servers, for example, assign helpful administrators to accounts to ensure that all aspects of the server’s software and hardware are handled appropriately. This makes it possible to harness the many other benefits of servers while also saving considerable time that might otherwise be reserved for maintenance needs.
Regardless of the level of support needed, dedicated servers can be custom-built to ensure that specific demands are met. Such customizations may address preferences regarding CPU, RAM, and other key components. Servers can be crafted from the ground up to handle the unique needs of various eCommerce websites, often under the guidance of experts who understand which equipment and specifications certain types of sites require.
The Bottom Line
Dedicated servers offer a variety of benefits that should not be overlooked when seeking a reliable eCommerce website strategy. While dedicated hosting is just one of many solutions for maintaining modern websites, it provides the greatest security and peace of mind.
Whether you prioritize scalability, uptime, or customized service, you will quickly find that a dedicated server is well worth the investment. The reliability your website achieves via a dedicated server could pay huge dividends down the road, leading to greater website traffic, more conversions, repeat customers, and, ultimately, an impressive return on investment.