You’re pretty sure that you need a dedicated server. You’ve decided that you need its power or accessibility; or perhaps you’ve had this decision made for you by a provider that can’t host your site on a shared server anymore.
This article is going to assume that you’ve already done the double-checking necessary to make sure that you can’t get by with another lesser solution. You know you need to go all the way. But how far is that? And dedicated server hosting that offers this usually offers it at multiple levels. How much do you need, and how can you tell?
If you can, take it in steps
If you can deal with making your server a bit of a guinea pig, most hosts will let you start with a lower package and work your way up. It may mean that you undershoot and your site goes down a few times, but it’s at least a sure way to make sure that you don’t pay for anything more than you need to. It might make your host a bit cranky at having to constantly adjust your hardware, but trust me, you’re sending them $100-$300 a month. They’ll do it and they’ll like it.
Memory more important than CPU
Processor cores long ago became unfathomably powerful. Your machine can handle lots of work. What it might not be able to handle is a lot of number-crunching work. If your site is complicated, with lots of streaming and complicated database calls, then more than a fast machine you’re going to want a meaty machine. If your site is heavy enough to actually require your own server, then you’re likely going to want to go with at least 4GB of RAM. Hosts can go higher than that, but you’re probably best settling on that for starters: lower amounts are usually available, but typically not for that much less cost.
CPU still worth a few extra bucks, though
By most reports, quad-core (at least) is the way to go these days. That’s often offered as either a mid or high-level offering. Don’t break the bank going for it, but if you can get a good quad core for maybe $100 more than a dual or single core you’re likely to find it worth it.
With all of these things, don’t be afraid to have nice, long conversations with your web host. This is one area in which you are sure to get good support: the only people that they would even allow to handle your services are the people who know this kind of stuff inside and out. They’ll often enjoy how much good, detailed information they can give you (that whole geeky ego boost thing). This goes even more if you were previously on a shared server, as they can tell you exactly why you were moved, and what kind of service will satisfy your site’s requirements.
Again, don’t be afraid to experiment. This is your machine, and no one at any host who wants to keep your business is going to begrudge you doing what you need to get it exactly right.