If you have been exploring web hosting for any length of time, you have discovered the many different types of hosting options available. From Cloud Servers to Dedicated Servers, from VPS to Virtual Machines, the choices can be daunting. To add to the uncertainty, additional ambiguous terms like “semi-dedicated” are also being used – easily causing confusion. As we've explored previously in our Hosting Comparison article, hosting can be broken down into five main categories. However, there are additional categories that are not as clear. In this article, we will discuss one of the more confusing topics: semi-dedicated servers.
What is a Semi-dedicated Server
Generally, a semi-dedicated server is a physical server with dedicated resources (RAM, Storage, Processor Cores, etc.) that is split between several hosted products or sites. Typically, a semi-dedicated server will host only a few dozen customers compared to shared hosting servers which often accommodate over a thousand.
System resources are allocated and monitored by the provider to ensure that adequate reserves are maintained for all hosted sites. “Semi-dedicated” implies a certain amount of autonomy over your server, but this is not the case. In fact, it refers only to the resources that are allocated for your use.
Land of Confusion
Since “semi-dedicated” is not a technical term, many hosting providers take liberties with the definition, equipment, and setup of semi-dedicated servers.” Providers will typically define and promote them in one of three ways:
- A slightly more stable and reliable version of Shared Hosting
- A hybrid of Shared Hosting and VPS
- A hybrid of VPS and Dedicated Hosting
As providers may take liberties with what they call a “semi-dedicated” server, it is important that you know the differences between all the available hosting options. Feel free to review our discussion of the differences of all three hosting options in our previous Hosting Comparison article.
For the remainder of this article we will be talking about “semi-dedicated” servers as synonymous with cloud servers (A hybrid of VPS and Dedicated Hosting – AKA Virtual Machines)
Semi-dedicated is an ambiguous term. Carefully scrutinize how your provider is defining and selling your server.
The Pros and Cons
Semi-dedicated servers can provide a great solution to your hosting needs if you know its benefits (and drawbacks).
The advantages of semi-dedicated hosting break down into four main categories: cost, resources, server management, and the physical equipment.
- Operating costs are lower as you are dividing the expense of a single physical server with other sites. Shared expenses translate to a lower per capita cost for each site.
- The host will provision dedicated resources (processing, memory, storage, etc.) to each site on the server. This ensures you will not be affected by other tenants “stealing” your resources.
- Additionally, semi-dedicated hosting packages often include some type of server management. With a “managed” server, hosts will maintain and keep the server running at optimal levels to ensure the health of the system. For example, Genesis Adaptive includes Adaptive Support with each (semi-dedicated) Cloud Server. This provides comprehensive hardware replacement, application support, proactive monitoring, and more.
- Finally, semi-dedicated servers are typically provisioned on higher-performance hardware. These fast, robust servers are needed in order to guarantee reliable resource allocation to its tenants.
Some people express concern about the security of a multi-tenant server, however semi-dedicated servers are not intrinsically less secure than their fully-dedicated counterparts. Provisioning is handled by the hosting provider, ensuring complete separation from other customers. This results in a secure environment for your product. Additional security measures should be put in place by the user to prevent external security threats, but there are no inherent internal security risks with a semi-dedicated server.
There are a few weaknesses that a semi-dedicated server presents. A user must embrace that they will relinquish some control of their server to the hosting provider. A host needs to ensure that all sites on a semi-dedicated server have access to guaranteed resources. Thus, some configuration options will be limited to ensure equal access and consistent service.
Depending on how the semi-dedicated server is set up, you may face the same scalability and migration issues as shared hosting and VPS hosting. Many providers will provision a semi-dedicated server like a VPS to save costs. This locks the site or application into a single location and the tenant will experience downtime if additional space or resources are needed. With Genesis Adaptive Cloud Servers, provisioning is specifically designed with scalability and versatility in mind. Resources can be scaled at a moment's notice with no downtime.
Analyze the needs of your product to ensure it will have the access and performance you need on a semi-dedicated server.
A small to mid-sized blog or dynamic site is an ideal scenario in which to use a semi-dedicated server. These sites have low to medium disk space requirements and fewer pieces of dynamic data. Larger sites with more dynamic data and heavy processing will overwhelm the available resources. While a larger site can run on a Genesis Adaptive Cloud Server, it ends up being more cost efficient to host a larger site on a dedicated server.
The amount of traffic that a semi-dedicated server can handle will vary based on many factors. However, we recommend that dynamic sites with over 10,000 monthly users and static sites with over 50,000 monthly users host their site on a dedicated server. Traffic in this range will benefit from a dedicated server or multiple cloud servers.
Semi-dedicated servers are still quite capable of running a number of processes including Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd, LiteSpeed Web Server, or small databases run by MySQL or MS SQL. Any low-intensity processes that do not require a significant draw on the server's CPU resources can thrive in a Semi-dedicated environment.
Uses to Avoid
Intensive CPU and disk processes should not be used on a semi-dedicated server. Large databases and batched PHP requests all require significant processing power that will typically exceed the capability of an average semi-dedicated server. High-frequency applications such as real-time financial trading or intensive computing can overstress your resources. Processing too many simultaneous requests will end up degrading performance and introducing latency.
Small to medium blogs or dynamic sites typically thrive on a semi-dedicated server. Processor intensive and latency sensitive applications should instead be implemented on a dedicated server.
To avoid confusion, it can be helpful to think of semi-dedicated servers as hybrid hosting class rather than its own type. Each hosting option has its own application for which it will work best, and semi-dedicated servers are no different. Review your hosting needs closely. If you are still unsure if a semi-dedicated server is best for your needs, feel free to reach out to one of Genesis Adaptive's professionals. You can also try out our Server Recommendation Generator to see if you need a semi-dedicated cloud server or a fully-dedicated server.
There are many “semi-dedicated” options available for hosting your product or service. It is imperative to ensure your hosting provider has reliable support and robust offerings that are able to scale with your company's growth. Genesis Adaptive's Cloud Servers are high performance “semi-dedicated” servers that include Adaptive Support. Since they are configured like a Virtual Machine, they also provide scalability and migration flexibility that is not possible with those configured like a VPS. Our certified IT professionals draw from a wide range of consulting, hosting, and IT experience. Our mission is to provide you with the best service and resources that will meet and exceed your needs.