How to choose a dedicated server provider
Whether you have decided to go for a dedicated server as a first choice for your business or you are moving from a VPS or a cloud environment as they are no longer capable of handling all of the requests for you site, there are many common factors that you as an educated customer use to compare dedicated server providers and ultimately choose the one most fit for your business.
I will outline the main features that a provider should have and provide tips on how to test the quality of these features. After reading this guide you will have a good foundation for your research and will ultimately be able to make a better, informed decision regarding the choice of your dedicated server provider.
So let’s start with the network quality - the single most important aspect of the service. By far! You can have a server with the newest CPU and excessive RAM capacity, but if the provider doesn’t have quality IP transit with capacity from multiple TIER 1 and TIER 2 transit providers, it will be common that at peak times their uplinks will become saturated and users will experience packet loss.
Ideally this information should be available for everyone on the website of the provider. If you can’t find the information anywhere, send a message to the sales department and ask them what transit providers they cooperate with at the particular location. This way you can partly test the second feature of the provider...
I can not stress enough how important this part is, especially if you yourself aren’t that experienced in server and network management. The technical support of the provider should be available 24/7, whether it is over email, phone or chat. I encourage all to test the support by raising a ticket or by contacting the provider over live chat. Ask how are emergency issues solved and what response time can you expect from the support.
The absolute ideal scenario would be to get a trial server for a short period of time and test all of the aspects of the dedicated server provider. The network, the hardware performance and the support. Unfortunately there are only a few providers that offer dedicated servers for a trial period. To avoid mentioning a specific provider, I would recommend doing a quick google search, all of the relevant ones should appear on the 1st page.
The server location (Or to be more precise, the datacenter location) is another important role in the overall performance you can expect from your system. It is always best to choose a location that has the shortest average distance from all of your end users, resulting in the lowest average latency. You can also check if the provider is connected to large internet exchange points such as DE-CIX, AMS-IX or LINX (Only mentioning Internet Exchange points in Europe as they are the largest). All local peerings in the specific geographical locations are connected to the internet exchange, guaranteeing the provider with more routing options and subsequently, routing efficiency.
This part is closely related to the network quality of the provider. While browsing through the offers of various providers you have probably noticed that some providers offer different “types” of networks. You can see a dedicated server for a relatively low price, however the network is described as “Volume network” (more expensive options are often named as “Premium network”). What does this mean? With “Volume network” it effectively means that your data will only be routed through certain networks (and certain Transit providers) and that can often lead to higher latencies (or worse - saturation and packet loss). This is because some transit is cheaper than other (at the expense of quality and network reach).
Don’t hesitate to contact the provider and ask them for theses questions. Transparency is key. Extensive research - go and ask them on chat, send them an email with questions regarding transit, HW, support availability. Dedicated servers aren’t cheap, so it is only rational you put effort in looking around and doing a dedicated server provider comparison and choosing the option that suits you most.