What Should You Do First With Your Dedicated Server Hosting Plan?11/05/2012
Moving to a dedicated server hosting service is a big step for any business. Usually, the move happens after years of using shared web hosting plans and growing your website beyond the capabilities of the entry-level hosting service typically provided by shared hosting. A dedicated server equips your business with better security, more hardware power, and performance you can depend on.
However, a dedicated server also gives you more control over your server, and more responsibility. While shared hosting and virtual private servers (VPS hosting) put management in the hands of your hosting provider, it is your job to configure and maintain your dedicated server. So where do you begin? What are the first things you should do to get your server off to a good start?
Experienced dedicated server hosting provider Certified Hosting has put together the following information to guide you through the first steps of configuring a dedicated server. Read on to learn the most essential tasks for any webmaster, from installing an operating system to establishing strong and robust security. In addition to explaining what you should do with your server, we also discuss various dedicated server management options that can reduce your workload without compromising performance and reliability.
Choose and install an operating system for your dedicated server
An operating system (OS) is the center of any hosting plan, responsible for coordinating processes and assigning hardware resources like RAM and CPU to each task. Your choice of operating system will depend on the type of applications you plan to install and the nature of your website.
The most popular operating system in the world is Microsoft Windows. However, Windows has earned this acclaim because of its use in home and business computing, not hosting. Windows is a popular choice for dedicated servers because of its familiarity and compatibility with other Microsoft products, such as ASP.NET, Classic ASP, MS SQL, and Access databases.
The most popular OS in the web hosting industry, specifically, is Linux. Linux is open source, meaning it is free to use and available in a wide number of distributions, including CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu. Every Linux distribution was developed with specific goals in mind, but uses the same kernel to remain compatible with other free software, such as the Apache web server, PHP, and MySQL.
Many dedicated server hosting plans come with a choice of Windows or Linux operating systems, which can be installed by your hosting provider as part of provisioning the server. However, if you are prepared to install you own OS, you can choose an empty server that is ready for your Linux or Windows installation.
Protect your dedicated server with a firewall
Your OS is the foundation of your dedicated server. A robust firewall protects this foundation from attack.
Most firewalls offer protection using port numbers. Whenever someone connects to your dedicated server from the Internet, they gain access through a specific port. For example, most web traffic comes through port number 80, while an FTPS connection goes through port 989. Hackers and criminals attempt to access your server through port numbers you are not using. A firewall allows you to block every port number other than the ones essential to running your web server.
Your dedicated server hosting provider will usually have firewall protection on the network perimeter, but these solutions are too generic to fit your specific requirements. By installing your own firewall, or using one that may be built into your operating system, you can closely control access and reduce your vulnerability.
Install a dedicated server hosting control panel
Once your dedicated server is running Windows or Linux, you can use remote desktop or console access to work with your server, install applications, and configure settings. But this is not the most efficient way to manage mailboxes, domain settings, and FTP accounts.
Most webmasters use a web hosting control panel to streamline server management and make it more accessible. A control panel can be installed onto your server and then securely accessed from your web browser.
There are many different control panels available, but the most popular and most widely supported is cPanel & WHM. cPanel & WHM is comprised of two interlinked pieces of software: Web Host Manager, which allows you to create websites on your server, and cPanel, which you can use to alter settings on a per-site basis.
When you order your dedicated server hosting plan, your hosting provider may be able to install a control panel on your behalf. By default, however, you will need to install your own control panel, following the instructions provided by the developer.
Get professional assistance with managed dedicated server hosting
A dedicated server can give you the control to install everything from an OS to specific software applications on your server. But if you do not have the time or expertise required, a good web hosting provider will offer services to help you.
As standard, dedicated servers are unmanaged. Although you can access support and advice from your hosting provider, it is your responsibility to conduct every task on your server. When you do require help, you will be charged for management time at an hourly rate. If you anticipate doing most things yourself, this is a great way to reduce the cost of your hosting service.
Alternatively, a semi-managed dedicated server comes with more hands-on support from your hosting provider and a fixed amount of administration time each month. Your server will be monitored 24 hours a day; software including your OS will be updated as required; and essential services like email and MySQL will be installed on your behalf.
Finally, you can select a fully managed dedicated server. Full management gives you the control and power of a dedicated server, without making you responsible for every task. Most managed hosting plans include complete web services, ongoing monitoring, ongoing updates, and unlimited administration hours that can be used for any script installations or requested applications. Many managed dedicated servers even include spam filtering technology and regular security audits.
The great thing about dedicated server hosting is that you can find a plan that lets you do as much – or as little – as you want. Whether you are using an in-house team to configure your server from the ground up, or you simply require a hosting service with more hardware power, there is a dedicated server plan for you.
Managed and unmanaged dedicated server hosting plans from Certified Hosting
Certified Hosting is an experienced dedicated server hosting provider with a commitment to supporting every customer. The Certified Hosting team is always available to help you work with your server, and can deliver a wide range of technical services as part of a managed plan.
Customers can choose from Windows and Linux dedicated servers, with specific hardware configurations to fit your planned usage and estimated traffic. Certified Hosting dedicated server hosting is highly configurable, with a variety of operating systems and control panels available to meet your preferences.
In addition, Certified Hosting offers on-demand administration (charged at an hourly rate), or packages including managed and semi-managed dedicated servers.