group of servers showing the choice needed to make when looking for dedicated servers

How to Set Up an Affordable Dedicated Server

For those of you experienced with system administration, a how-to on setting up a dedicated server is as exciting as reading the back of a cereal box. But, for some developers and anyone new to hosting, a guide is a useful resource to follow. 

This article will outline a very high-level overview of setting up an affordable dedicated server for your business.

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Every project is unique and thus, this process will vary, so make sure to book a consultation with us if you need an extra hand.

What is a Dedicated Server?

An affordable dedicated server is a piece of hardware hosted by a company like ServerMania in our data center. Only one client can lease and access that server. So it is "dedicated" to the one client and not shared with any others.

With a dedicated server, you have the option to select the perfect operating system and hardware requirements for your project.

We take care of all the installation, hardware maintenance, power, cooling, and component replacement costs and you pay one low monthly fee. We're also here 24 hours a day to help you if you ever need assistance.

Choosing Your Affordable Dedicated Server

What things do you need to consider to find the most affordable dedicated server with the best provider?

1. Hardware and OS Requirements

Your requirements for the server will largely determine what hardware and OS requirements the server should have. 

Operating System

Review the software you will primarily be running on the server and check to see which OS it runs best on. Windows and Linux are the two main choices.

You will need a Microsoft Windows Dedicated server if you are hosting MS SQL Server, Microsoft IIS, or ASP.NET code. But, Linux is your choice for an open source stack like Ruby on Rails or Apache/PHP/MySQL (LAMP).

Hardware

Look again at the list of software the server will run. What are the hardware requirements recommended by the creator of the software?

Write down a list of all the applications you plan to run along with how much system resources each one is likely to use, and choose a server that will accommodate your usage 12 months down the line.

2. Your Budget

Consider the following questions when it comes to cost:

How much bandwidth is included in the monthly price? What is the cost of extra bandwidth?

Are there any setup fees? ServerMania never charges you additional fees to setup a server with us.

If you are not using an open source environment, what is the cost of the software licensing fees?

What is the price for upgrades? Upgrades can include added memory and more hard drives, among other things.

What management plans or other services will you need? Many providers offer support packages with a fixed number of hours. Added support usually has an hourly rate.

Security Hardening

Securing your web server is the first thing you should do. Though security is an ongoing process that you tend to regularly. An intruder can compromise your server without you even being aware of it. 

On a Linux server, for example, these are some common steps

  1. Secure SSH by disabling direct root login or requiring SSH keys
  2. Remove unnecessary services
  3. Update all system packages
  4. Configure automated updates
  5. Setup and maintain a strong firewall

Don't forget to check out our articles on the Top 5 Ways to Secure a Linux Server and the Top 5 Ways to Secure a Windows Server.

Optimizing the Affordable Dedicated Server

Optimizing your dedicated server is a detailed process. Here is a high-level overview.

1. Update and Install your software and servers.

2. Optimize MySQL. This includes setting buffer size, setting up query cache and table cache, selecting your number of connections, and so on.

3. Optimize Apache. Do this with the Timeout, SpareServers, MaxClients, and other variables in the httpd.conf file. You can use ab or httpperf afterward to test performance. Also, track the RAM consumption (ps -aux | grep httpd).

Note: Optimization takes a great deal of time. You should set aside enough time to complete these tasks. You will come back to this step later once the server is in use and issues come up. Typical problems are memory swaps, long query serving, and dying processes, among others.

The time invested will pay off. One of the top recommendations for improving website performance is to move to a dedicated server. Although it costs more than shared hosting, the results often justify the cost.

Install Your Website

Once your server is ready to go, it's time to go live.

 1. Upload the code. Use a source control tool such as svn, git, or rsync. You can also use more familiar tools like FTP.

2. Enable the web application. Set directories for assets, the cache directory, and configuration files so that they connect to the database.

3. Provide authorized users with their login credentials.

4. Set up DNS settings. You can set up your DNS settings anytime. Though, it's best to do so after you have secured and optimized your server.

5. Change settings so that your domain name provider points to the new dedicated server's IP address. Set up name servers if preferable. Also, set up DNS entries for any third-party services such as Google Apps.

6. Set up MX settings if you plan to send emails or email notifications. You'll need to set up specific SPF records to prevent your outgoing messages from becoming spam. You do this using the SPF setup wizard.

Set Up Monitoring and Scaling

Monitoring and scaling settings depend on your expected server load for your server.

1. Set up third-party services to check your website's status. Or you can order server management services from us, and we'll intervene during an outage

2. Install tools that log and track services such as Munin, Monit, or Nagios.

3. Set up load balancers or software proxies like Haproxy, Pound, mod_proxy_balancer, or mod_jk.

Send Your Questions

If you already purchased your affordable dedicated server, our support team can answer any of your questions. You will no doubt have more questions about customization and configuration. The information presented here is merely an introductory guide.

If we can answer any questions you may have about our dedicated servers, please contact us.
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