Once you’ve decided to go with dedicated servers for your hosting needs, the next thing you need to do is choose a colocation center to rent you a server. Before you finalize your decision, there are a few issues that you need to consider:

•    The hardware or server type: Ask what kind of equipment you’d be getting for the price the facility is quoting. The questions you need to ask relate to the number of CPUs, the speed of the server and the RAM and hard disk capacity.

•    The operating system for your server: You could choose to go with UNIX, Linux or Windows NT, depending on the one you’re most familiar with. With managed services however, your colocation facility takes care of most administrative, management, maintenance and troubleshooting tasks, so you’re better off choosing UNIX or Linux if you have high security needs and are looking for scalability and low costs. If it’s standardization you want, and if you plant to run databases or utilize live streaming applications, then Windows NT is best suited to your needs.

•    The software that runs on your server: If you’re going with UNIX or Linux, Apache would be the best choice. Windows NT users normally prefer Microsoft’s own Internet Information Server.

•    Front and back end (programming languages and databases) applications: The advantage of choosing to run UNIX or Linux on your server comes to the fore here – MySQL, the free to use database application, has become a very sought-after option for both UNIX and Linux systems. It’s usually used in combination with Perl or PHP as the main programming language. PHP has grown in popularity because it expedites connections with your database. Windows NT users normally go for Microsoft products like ASP in combination with MS Access or MS SQL Server for databases. Oracle and DB2 are other available database choices.

•    Data backup and redundancy options: Ask about data backup options and frequency and about recovery methods used in case your disks crash. The most common form of data recovery is through RAID or Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks where the data you store is scattered on different disks for the purpose of redundancy, better bandwidth and lower latency during read/write operations, and recovery after crashes.

•    The maintenance and troubleshooting costs: Most facilities will be happy to take care of this aspect of your server, but find out upfront how much it will cost you.

•    The bandwidth you’re getting: Ask about the recurring costs you incur each month and the billing methods (whether they use the straight data transfer rate where you’re charged for the amount of data uploaded and downloaded to and from your site, or the 95th percentile method where the top 5 percent of usage is discarded and you’re billed for the other 95 percent) used. If your site is likely to experience traffic surges once in a while but not very often, the 95th percentile method is best for billing.

•    The kind of port and switch your server is on: Find out if you’re getting a shared or dedicated port and if your network is switch or hub-based. If you need higher performance and more security, go with a switched network.

•    The network utilization: No matter how fast your network connection is, if the network is already nearing its maximum capacity, then there’s no room for growth and you need to be wary of congestion issues.

By-line:
This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of web design school. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25@gmail.com.

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