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Dedicated Server Buyer’s Guide

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It’s no secret that enterprise storage requirements have exploded in the past decade, and are likely to continue to grow into the foreseeable future. The International Data Corporation predicts 30% annual growth in data storage purchasing, a fact driven in part by digitization, big data, and increasing migration to SaaS and PaaS models.

Furthermore, 100% uptime has become a critical need to serve a market that demands the ability to log in and place orders instantaneously. For enterprise IT leaders, storage requirements growth translates to additional complexity and escalating costs.

For many, dedicated hosting is a reasonable solution, providing greater reliability, built-in disaster planning and recovery, greater security, and better cost control. Decision makers are rightly concerned, however, about the cost and risk of making the wrong choices for their companies.

By utilizing a knowledgeable and experienced hosting provider, you offset the capital expense of the equipment and, because of your reliance on the provider, obtain a more reliable product solution.

Caronet’s principals have been serving the IT industry with storage solutions since 1995. We’ve helped hundreds of companies evolve their IT infrastructure to be more scalable and efficient. However, Dedicated Server Providers – Things To Consider When Evaluating Them is here for your consideration. Go ahead and explore it.

We’ve leveraged the lessons of 20 years into this guide, which examines the question of whether dedicated hosting is right for your organization, provides a step by-step process for choosing the right provider, and highlights the common pitfalls to avoid.

What Is A Dedicated Server?

A dedicated server is a server in which you have full administrative control but which the hosting provider owns. Since you do not need to purchase the server, the upfront investment is significantly less than with colocation or an in-house data center.

Also, because the hosting company is responsible for the hardware and the network, fewer resources and expertise are required for upkeep.

Leasing a dedicated server is the best option for companies that are ready for their own server but not yet prepared to purchase one. If you’re not sure what you need, a dedicated server is a good place to start.

Critical Concerns When Choosing a Dedicated Server

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When choosing a dedicated server provider, consider the following factors.

Name Brand vs. White Box Servers

Reliability. Name brand servers have a higher level of reliability. White boxes generally use lower quality memory DIMMs and cheaper hard drives. White box cooling fans are also known to fail sooner and the build quality on the chassis is of a lower quality than name brand servers.

This means that while white boxes may appear to be a more cost-efficient decision in the beginning, the long-term cost of ownership is greater than name-brand servers.

More advanced features. Dell offers a number of features that are unavailable on white boxes, such as the DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller), which allows remote users to administrate the system. With a separate physical network connection, you always have access to the systems.

Other system applications include diagnostic tools that communicate with components such as the RAID card so you can monitor the health of the individual drives of the array, the fan speeds, the voltages, the power supply status, etc. With white boxes,

RAID cards function haphazardly; voltage readings may only be available for certain parts, and there are half as many fans due to the driver being initially written for a very broad base of support.

Compatibility. Name brand provides a greater level of operating system compatibility. Generally, white box manufacturers will only test on Windows operating system across the board and will not test on Linux operating system.

Name brand manufacturers, for example Dell, insist that both Windows and Linux operating systems are tested to ensure a higher level of compatibility.

Service. The supplying vendor will often provide a higher level of service. When new software updates become available, you will have better service from the higher end brand, as they will work with you to make sure that you have the latest versions.

The AMD (another option for a server CPU) market share is smaller in the server area, and Intel has the vast majority of the market. Intel is more enterprise-based and provides a wider array of advanced features, as well as greater technical support.

Greater intergenerational support. With name brand, you can run all the same operating systems on different levels of generation hardware. This allows you to make sure that you can grow your footprint with your business while having a provider that is capable of having greater integration support.

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Intel Vs. AMD

The AMD (another option of a server CPU) market share is smaller in the server area, and Intel has the vast majority of the market. Intel is more enterprise-based and provides a wider array of advanced features, as well as greater technical support.

Linux Vs. Window

The best way to determine the optimal operating system for your company is to evaluate your applications. Ask the following questions:

• What do you need the server for?

• What functions is it performing?

• What applications can satisfy that function?

• What operating systems does that application support?

What operating systems does your staff understand and know how to

manage?

Server CPUs vs. Desktop

Keep in mind what you are using your system for. The more resource intensive your application is the greater the chance that higher end hardware will be necessary to support your system.

While desktop and server CPUs have similar components, desktop CPUs are not built to perform at the same level as server CPUs. Server CPUs use higher quality components, generally have more cores, can support larger amounts of memory, and perform their calculations faster.

Server CPUs also offer greater inter-compatibility with other server-grade hardware and use ECC (Error Checking & Corrections) memory that is fault-tolerant and resistant to transient errors. This can be extremely important to your company to ensure that critical data is not lost or corrupted.

Hardware RAID Vs. Software RAID

Software RAID is controlled by the operating system. However, software RAID has a number of vulnerabilities that make it less effective and less safe than hardware RAID. Consider the following:

• Performance differences are dramatically more visible on heavily used hardware.

• Having the operating system involved in RAID operation increases risk.

• Hardware RAID is more fault tolerant.

IPML vs. iDRAC/iLO

iLO is the HP equivalent of Dell iDRAC. IPMl often shares the primary server

connection, so if you have a DOS attack or you accidentally change the settings on the server and can no longer access the server, it can affect the IPMl configurations, and you will have no way to administrate it.

All of the DRAC’s and iLO’s have separate management interfaces which are generally run on entirely separate networks, guaranteeing that you can always manage the system if you need to. The greater features in iDRAC and iLO provide a more polished product.

When choosing a power supply unit, consider the following questions:

Single or Dual PSU (A+B Power)

• Does the chassis support 2 redundant PSUs?

• Does your application need 2 PSU’s?

• If you are providing redundancy, are you also providing and delivering A/B power to the system?

When implementing true A/B power, there are two completely independent power paths. Both paths have at least one of the following: utility power source, main distribution panel, back-up generator, automatic transfer switch, uninterruptible power supply and maintenance bypass panel, power distribution unit, rack level.

PDU, and the server’s internal power supply. Each path is capable of supporting 100% of the entire peak load, resulting in full redundancy and no single point of failure that can interrupt the operation of the data center equipment.

Memory Limits

When considering limits, ask the following questions:

• What is the maximum amount of memory the chassis will allow you to install?

• Will the CPU and chassis support your long-term plan of growth?

• How much do you need now and how much might you need in the future?

CPU Core #’s

Properly gauging your resource requirements can either save you a lot of money by not over-purchasing or save you a lot of heartache by purchasing what you need instead of spec’ing in an unwise attempt to save money.

Server Variety

Can the provider offer the whole spectrum of servers, from low-end to high-end? When first starting out, you can begin with an entry level system, but as your site or application needs grow, your server needs will grow with it.

Can your provider offer you the ability to easily scale your server deployment? Is their a variety of servers? Can you mix high-end systems with low-end systems?

Hybrid Solutions

Cloud hosting and dedicated servers both have their benefits. Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to choose one over the other. Working with a provider who offers both allows you to tailor your solution to your needs, which can include both cloud and dedicated solutions.

Hybrid Solutions

For instance, it may make sense to have a dedicated server for your production area, while using the cloud for development. Because employees are only working part of the day, having development in the cloud means you can shut your development down at night when it won’t be used.

Since you’re billed in the cloud on a metered basis, you’ll be billed less. However, your production area is on 24/7, and a guaranteed level of performance without disruption is critical, so having a dedicated server will achieve those benchmarks better than the cloud.

Some providers may provide solutions that combine the benefits of each. Caronet’s Dedicated 2.0 solution offers the reliability of dedicated servers with the benefits of the cloud.

With cross-platform system upgrades and downgrades, Dedicated 2.0 allows you to maximize your system’s agility and seamlessly migrate from system to system as your workload increases or decreases without reconfigurations. When hardware fails,

Dedicated 2.0 allows you to migrate between systems without any downtime, thanks to IaaS HA. Dedicated 2.0 also provides a number of other unique benefits, such as templated installs/reinstalls and system cloning to accelerate new server deployments, 10Gb connectivity on Intel E5 servers, storage snapshots, failure/maintenance reductions, and free, unmetered high-speed private network.

Also, working with a provider who offers cloud, colocation, and dedicated solutions makes it easier to transition between them or combine them as you need. The best solution is always one tailored to your specific situation, and you may move between different hosting solutions as your business changes.

Choosing Your Provider: Steps and Critical Factors

Once you’ve determined that a dedicated server is an important part of the solution for your organization, the next step is to select a good provider. Many organizations choose based on brand recognition or marketing promises, but this can be a costly mistake.

Dedicated servers are complex, and their benefits and costs are impacted by a wide variety of factors. Here is what you need to know to make the right choice.

Step One: Assess Your Needs

To find a provider who offers a good solution for your company. It’s important to first understand exactly what your requirements will be.

A common mistake is to significantly under-spec hardware to keep costs low. While this can save money in the short term, it causes problems when you have an unexpected spike in usage, and as your application grows.

Unplanned downtime, the natural result of underspend hardware, can be a game-changer, and not in a good way.

Also, if you do not have the administrative experience to operate the system securely and to guarantee a high level of uptime, be sure your provider can help you with these. It does not pay to cut costs on security and uptime unnecessarily.

In addition to the security and uptime, consider these factors to define your organization’s needs:

Server management. Most providers offer the choice of managed or unmanaged servers. Do you have the staff to effectively manage the server? And if so, is it worth it for them to spend their time on that rather than internal growth and tasks?

Software and scalability. How will your software function? How many concurrent users will there be, what will the resource cost be, and what will your data requirements on a per user basis be over time? The need for data is going to changeover time, so plan ahead.

Disaster planning and recovery. Data loss can be crippling for an organization at any stage and is usually caused by either physical disaster, data corruption, or user error.

For organizations that do not yet have a budget for a complete disaster planning and recovery system, there are lower-cost and flexible approaches to protect your data with creative solutions tailored to your needs. A good provider can work with you to create such a solution.

Security. How critical is security relative to your data? What will your security requirements be? A dedicated server environment is often far more secure than an in-house data center, but it’s critical to know exactly what you’re paying for both in terms of physical and virtual security. Fault tolerance. When it comes to fault tolerance, be sure to have at least RAID level.

1. Raid (redundant array inexpensive disks or redundant array of independent disks) is a hardware-based level of redundancy for hard drives. In trying to be cost effective, a company may forgo fault tolerance, but the cost of a RAID is peanuts compared to the devastating cost of data loss.

Nobody prays to enter a pit hole when sourcing for hosting; hence, here is Dedicated Server Hosting – 3 Common Pitfalls To Avoid When Buying.

Step Two: Assemble a list of providers

With colocation, in many cases your team provides physical management of the servers and therefore requires a data center within a reasonable distance. With dedicated, physical management of the servers is handled by the provider, so proximity is less important than quality.

Be sure to expand your list beyond the big brand names in data centers. Often, the larger companies are unable to provide the level of service and flexibility of packaging that a smaller, high quality organization can offer.

Still, it’s usually a good idea to select a location that is in reasonable proximity to your users, to reduce the possibility of latency. If your main audience is in the US, any US location should be effective.

If you have some users in Europe, the East Coast tends to be better, whereas if you are serving the Pacific Rim, the West Coast tends to be best.

However, unless you are targeting a very geographically specific audience, latency issues tend to be minimal. Be sure to expand your list beyond the big brand names in data centers. Often, the larger companies are unable to provide the level of service and flexibility of packaging that a smaller, high quality organization can offer.

Enhance this knowledge with Dedicated Server – 16 Critical Factors And Parameters To Consider When Choosing To Buy

Step Three: Evaluate providers

With a good list of dedicated providers in hand, it’s time to start narrowing them down. You can easily rule out any that don’t meet your initial criteria, such as security measures in place, power and network redundancy, and uptime guarantees. With your shortlist identified, it’s time to evaluate each option. Here’s your checklist.

History of Reliability

Server downtime can be extremely costly. According to a recent Poneman Institute report, an unplanned data center outage costs an average of $7,900 per minute.

Reliable up-time depends on three main factors: power continuity, cooling effectiveness, and network connectivity. Ask your provider how strong they are in these areas, but don’t simply trust their stated uptime record. Expect them to have thorough RFO (reason for outage) reports, and ask them to share that data with you.

Then, fact-check their records. There are a number of sites, includingWebHostingTalk.com and the Outages and NANOG mailing lists, where you can search for complaints and discussions on a given company’s recent outages and check them against the provided RFO reports. These sites are also a great place to check a company’s reputation with its users.

A history of frequent outages, multiple online complaints, or falsified information in RFO reports are all major red flags. A great provider will demonstrate extremely low outage frequency, prompt response to any incidents, and at least 99.999% uptime.

Doing your homework on a company’s reliability is particularly important when buying dedicated, because unlike with colocation, there are many smaller dedicated resellers with little experience. Do your due diligence and look at a company’s history and reputation. Unleash the full Power-Of-Dedicated-Server-Hosting and experience unparalleled performance, reliability, and customization options tailored to your specific needs.

Physical Security

Protecting against data breaches is critical for most enterprise organizations, and often, the biggest challenge lies in physically securing the facility where the data is stored. Security is especially important when buying dedicated servers because you usually do not access the server directly.

As with reliability, it is worth doing some extra research on a provider’s capability in this area. Make sure your provider has the latest security measures, including:

Physical Security

• Multi-layer verification process

• Multi-factor authentication

• Video surveillance

A strong multi-layer verification process should include locked external doors, locked internal doors, and locked cabinets. How are the identities of authorized personnel verified? Look for authentication that includes at least two factors, such as a physical key fob, key codes, and a form of biometric authentication, such as palm recognition.

The premises should be monitored 24/7 by video and staff to prevent any unauthorized access that may occur despite security protocol.

When security is a priority, finding a provider with a dedicated-only facility is the best option. A center that shares space with colocation will experience a significant amount of traffic, creating opportunities for weakness in security.

When access to the entire data center is restricted, the chances of a breach are significantly reduced. Navigating the maze of options can be overwhelming, but fear not, our Dedicated-Server-Buyers-Guide simplifies the process, ensuring you make informed decisions aligned with your goals.

Infrastructure Redundancy

Don’t settle for a blanket statement regarding redundancy. Due diligence in this sphere will pay dividends when disaster strikes. You want to see redundancy on four key elements:

Power: Ask for full A/B power. If redundant sources of power share a path at any point from the curb to the equipment, then it is at risk of failure. A/B power means that there are two fully parallel power paths from the curb to the equipment, with no overlap.

Cooling: If cooling fails, you may not know it until your server overheats. Look for a provider that maintains at least two different types of cooling infrastructure, such as rooftop units plus external condensers and CRAC units.

Internal network: Inquire regarding the quality of the gear used to connect your servers to the Internet and request redundant paths as well.

External network: Look for a provider that has peering arrangements with multiple providers to ensure a robust connection from the facility to the worldwide Internet.

Other Considerations

The security and reliability of your server are important, and so is your experience as a customer. A good provider will offer all of the following.

Current generation hardware. Every year, the newest generation of

hardware is faster and has newer features. Look out for small houses that are only selling access to older equipment. When a provider has the newest and most capable equipment, you get more for the same price.

A new product will last longer, so you don’t need to do migrations and upgrades for three or four years.

Support for your software. Whether you’re using Linux or Windows, or FreeBSD, make sure your provider offers support for the software you plan to run. Some providers are Linux or Windows only.

Knowledgeable deployment assistance. You may not know what the resource requirements are going to be yet, and it’s easy to under-spec or over-spec.

Under spec’ing can cause disruptions and lead to downtime; over spec’ing leads to unnecessary costs. A good provider can help you determine the right amount of end production need.

Helpful account tools. Industry-standard account tools include an online portal to access invoices, services purchased, bandwidth usage data, and support tickets that are too open.

What to Look for in a SLA

A dedicated provider that meets all of your criteria will probably also offer a service-level agreement, but not all SLAs are created equal. Read it carefully and insist on one that:

Clearly states the uptime guarantee, with at least 5 nines of availability(99.999%).

• Backs the guarantee with significant financial impact to the provider should the guarantee not be met. You should expect a reasonable refund or credit in the event of an outage, not merely a few dollars a day.

• If the SLA guarantees 100% uptime but the provider does not have A/B power and redundant networking, then they cannot meet their guarantee: Look elsewhere.

The SLA should represent an organization that is not afraid to back its guarantee with real consequences.

The Relationship

In the course of this detailed investigation of dedicated providers, you will naturally get a sense of the priorities and approach of each provider. Does the provider seem

reluctant to build a true relationship? Do they have you speaking to a different salesperson every time you call? If either of these are true, how responsive will they be when you need support?

When buying dedicated, the relationship is especially important, since your provider will be maintaining the servers. Look for a provider that demonstrates a clear interest in building a relationship. While this may seem like a minor point on the face of it, consider that when an issue arises, these are the people you will be relying on to keep your business running.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Pitfall 1: Bundled Pricing Structure

When buying a dedicated server, make sure you know what you are paying for. Some companies bundle management into their pricing, and while the support may be great if you’re not utilizing it, you’re overpaying for the services you’re actually using.

If your company has the capacity to manage the server yourself, opt for an unmanaged dedicated server, and ask to unbundle any other services you don’t expect to use.

Pitfall 2: Poor Quality of Support

When problems arise, your provider’s support team should be able to answer your questions and solve your issues, but the quality of support varies among providers. You don’t want to wait until you have an issue to find out whether your provider is one of the good ones.

Check an organization’s online reputation, and carefully assess the level of service they provide during the ramp-up to determine whether they will serve your support needs.

Pitfall 3: Inability to Scale Technical Requirements

The provider may not have current generation hardware or hardware that can expand and support the technical requirements of your company. If your application is growing and you need greater performance, can your provider offer sixteen core servers if you need them, or do they only provide 8 or 12?

With growing storage needs, can your provider offer terabyte after terabyte at a performance metric that’s right for you?

Our product offerings include Dell dedicated servers, private cages, cabinets, half-cabinets and/or Rackspace by the Unit and our Cloud offering. The data centers have UPS battery backup power and multiple diesel generators onsite.

Transit includes several Tier-1 backbone providers which are directly accessed using multiple dedicated fiber routes. With over 60gbps of dedicated bandwidth, Caro-net is one of the largest data centers in the Southeastern United States.

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