Which server type is best for your infrastructure needs

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Servers are used to host applications, serve files, store customer data, run analytics, and perform all manner of other business processes.

Different server types offer varying speeds, performance, versatility, and monthly upkeep costs. The server type you choose for your application makes a massive difference to how the project will proceed and how successful it will ultimately be. 

This article discusses several important server types and some of the main things to consider when choosing the right server for your needs.

Managed vs. unmanaged servers

One of the first considerations to make is whether to choose between a managed or unmanaged server.

When you choose a managed server, the provider manages and maintains the server for you. This includes performing duties such as installing the operating system, keeping software up to date, monitoring performance, and making security updates. You have more time to focus on your core business, but a managed server is often more expensive than an unmanaged server.

With an unmanaged server, the provider only supplies the physical server and network connectivity, leaving the maintenance and management of the server up to you. Tasks such as managing the operating system, configuring the server software, and keeping security patches up to date are your responsibility. You have complete control over your server, allowing you to customize it to your needs, but it does demand more time and a higher level of technical expertise.

Dedicated servers

A dedicated server is a physical machine with a processor, hard drive, RAM, and operating system. As the name implies, a dedicated server is devoted to a single individual, organization, or application. In short, you don’t share resources with other people.

Dedicated servers are excellent for applications with predictive workloads. They’re a good step up from shared hosting in terms of performance and security. And, because you don’t share a server with anyone else, they’re suitable for handling sensitive data.

You have the choice between managed and unmanaged dedicated servers.

If you’re looking for the best performance from an application, dedicated servers almost always run faster than shared servers and virtualized servers, which we discuss below. 

Dedicated server form factors

If you’re installing dedicated servers in-house, there are a few options you can choose from. Tower servers are the most similar to the home desktop computer. They can stand alone and don’t need to be positioned in a cabinet. However, they do take up quite a bit of space.

A rack server is installed into a cabinet in a dedicated server room. Each cabinet can hold multiple rack servers, reducing the required floor space. Rack servers often require specialist cooling equipment and tend to be more expensive than tower servers.

Blade servers are even slimmer than rack servers, making them the go-to option for large enterprises that need space efficiency. They must be installed in a special enclosure and require specialist cooling equipment. 

Blade servers perform better than rack servers, and they can be managed through a single interface. However, they’re the most expensive server form factor discussed here.

Virtualized servers

A virtualized server, often known as a virtual private server (VPS), is a software construct running on a dedicated server. Using what’s known as a hypervisor, virtualized servers emulate typical compute resources like the processor, RAM, disk, and network. 

A virtualized server can be more economical than a dedicated server, as multiple customers can share the physical hardware. It gives you a dedicated slice of the compute resources, and the actions of other users on the server won’t ever affect the performance you get.

You can choose between a managed or unmanaged VPS server.

In most cases, using a virtualized server feels like you’re running a dedicated server, but you get it at a lower price. For this reason, it’s a good choice for mid-sized businesses that have outgrown shared servers but don’t require a dedicated solution.

Cloud servers

Cloud servers are another type of virtualized server but on a grander scale. You still get a virtualized slice of resources, but this time you’re getting a slice of one or more servers situated in massive data centers.

The most significant benefit of a cloud server solution is its incredible scalability. To reduce costs, you can scale back your provision of services when you don’t need them. It’s also straightforward to scale up your provision when you expect more traffic or need the extra processing power to perform big data analytics at speed.

Cloud servers also offer outstanding redundancy. Your application is typically copied across several servers in different data centers, so if any server goes down for maintenance, there’s always a backup running. If your business needs data to be constantly backed up, then cloud backup servers can be ideal.

Bare-metal cloud

Bare-metal cloud is a mix of cloud services and dedicated servers. You rent a solution from the cloud provider as usual, but you don’t share any hardware resources with other tenants at all. So, no other virtual machines are running on the same hardware.

Bare-metal cloud arguably offers more flexibility, security, and control than traditional cloud servers. Yet it also provides better scalability and redundancy than dedicated servers, making it the best of both worlds if money is no object.

Bare-metal cloud servers are advantageous when you have data-intensive workloads, storage is used frequently and intensively, and calculations must be performed immediately. It’s a good option for artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning applications. 


Choosing the correct type of server makes all the difference to the success of your project. 

Shared servers are economical but are relatively slow and are prone to drops in performance if the server is oversubscribed. Dedicated servers are the most traditional server, with high performance but increased management costs. 

Virtualized servers offer many of the advantages of dedicated servers at a lower cost. Cloud servers provide outstanding scalability at the expense of a more complex initial setup. Bare-metal cloud servers offer the high performance of dedicated servers with the scalability of cloud servers.

This is just one way to think about the various types of servers available, plus there are many more things to consider based on your application’s requirements.