Cloud computing, shared servers and even virtual private servers all seem to get plenty of love when it comes to web hosting, and those types of hosting certainly have their benefits. In fact, services like Rackspace’s Cloud Sites give customers a cloud service with the ability to run applications with little or no modification, as well as the added benefit of a scalable platform with none of the coding hassles.

However, dedicated servers offer many of the benefits of other hosting solution while providing greater security and reliability than the alternatives can boast. If you’ve never considered using a dedicated server for web hosting, maybe it’s time.

How dedicated servers work

A dedicated server is simply a single physical server that is licensed, in its entirety, to a single client. This may sound similar to a VPS, where a hypervisor running on the server makes it appear that each client has its own server; but unlike a VPS, the processor power isn’t divided between separate virtual servers. At one point in time, most hosting was done on dedicated servers, as even light processing would tax the system. But as technology advanced, many companies moved to shared hosting, allowing them to service more people on a smaller amount of hardware. For some clients, this change was unnoticed, but many others may have been pushed into shared hosting when a dedicated solution would have been a better fit.

Dedicated servers, your way

With a dedicated server, you can customize absolutely everything about it. You get to choose your operating system, diagnostic tools, development platform and applications, instead of relying on those that your hosting company can support. You’ll also have administrator or root access, to further customize your experience in any way you choose. Best of all, dedicated servers can have much better uptime and accessibility stats, as a spike in traffic from other clients can’t alter your experience.

Bolstering your business network

Hosting a single website will rarely require the resources of a complete server, but once your network involves multiple pages, each with multimedia or severe processing needs, the power and reliability of a dedicated server just can’t be beat. Web development requires that when people visit your website, the page loads quickly every time. Nothing can drive people away from your sites like servers that get bogged down or shut down altogether. No matter how good your content is, if it takes more than a few seconds for your pages to load, people will go elsewhere. Since dedicated hosting also keeps all your information quarantined from other customers’ data, it’s a more secure option for data-loss-conscious clients.

While dedicated servers have a lot of benefits, they aren’t perfect for every situation. First, dedicated servers are naturally a little bit more expensive than a shared hosting solution, as the entire server is reserved specifically for you. Dedicated servers also have hard limits to the amount of traffic they can handle. If a site experiences a remarkable surge in traffic, the server may be unable to handle the traffic like a cloud computing solution could.

For most web developing companies, the customization and reliability of a dedicated server will outweigh a few minor drawbacks. Most major hosting companies, like Rackspace, offer a fairly robust dedicated server package, complete with a full-fledged support team there to help you customize and keep your system running as quick as possible. For more advanced users, there are plenty of hands-off hosting companies out there that will provide access to the server, but configuration, updates and maintenance are all up to you.