This probably comes as a surprise to no one, but the truth is, it’s a hard time to be a traditional, brick-and-mortar retailer. This statement has been true for years, but thanks to the rise of e-commerce and the unshakeable positioning of industry giants like Amazon and Alibaba, it’s easier than ever for consumers to make essential purchases from their couch. With the explosive growth of Covid-19 and the resulting shutdowns that followed, foot traffic to traditional retailers has hit an all-time low. For many, this has proven to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, forcing closures and liquidations of well-established franchises. Those retailers who still remain have done so by embracing new relationships with technology and reimagining their roles in consumers’ lives. Whether it’s improving their e-commerce presence, instituting customer loyalty programs and AI-based, targeted marketing, or even just an increase in contactless, self-checkout enabled hardware, the role of technology in retail is more important than ever.
But what about the digital infrastructure underlying this growth? When moving huge volumes of product data in an environment where customer loyalty is fickle and trust is easily lost, can you afford to not give your company the best? What if it turned out that sometimes the best solutions are also the most financially viable?
Well, if you’re looking for a solution that’s powerful, reliable, and simultaneously cost-effective, then a cloud-like environment powered by dedicated server resources is the solution your organization needs. Read on to learn how a managed dedicated server plan with Hivelocity can help your company outpace the competition, all without breaking your budget.
Already familiar with dedicated servers and the cloud? Use the table of contents below to jump ahead and see all the benefits a bare metal solution can offer your organization.
What is a Dedicated Server?
Let’s keep this simple. A dedicated server is a physical machine, with its own RAM and CPU, running on an operating system of the user’s choice. They’re essentially the same as your home PC, but their enterprise-grade status means their computational power is much, much higher.
At the end of the day, any hosting package you use is actually a form of dedicated server hosting. Whether it’s shared web hosting, virtual private servers, or even one of the major public cloud solutions like AWS or Azure, all these solutions are utilizing dedicated server resources to power their processes. The difference comes down to how much access you have to the underlying hardware, and how many other tenants you share resources with. In a shared hosting environment, your data is still being stored on a dedicated server, you’re just sharing its resources with dozens or hundreds of other users simultaneously. This limits your available processing power leading to decreased system predictability, as well as a plethora of potential security issues.
When you control the entire server though, these issues quickly vanish.
Need to use 100% of your system’s RAM for a resource-intensive process? Go right ahead. Want a tightly organized system efficiently running your processes seamlessly? Micromanage every byte of your infrastructure without the fear of multi-user resource overlap. Storing large volumes of private customer payment information? Rest easy knowing your data is held securely within a single-tenant environment, where you retain control over the security methods utilized.
In other words, why pay for access to a small fraction of a dedicated server, when you can improve your system’s power, security, and reliability, all while taking control of the whole machine?
So, What is the Cloud?
If a dedicated server is a physical machine capable of powering multiple virtual instances, then what is the cloud? Well, put simply, the cloud is multiple, massive networks of dedicated servers, all sharing resources, combining their overall power to support a sprawling environment of isolated, virtual instances. When you spin up a new cloud instance, what you’re actually doing is creating a new virtual machine (VM) with its own designated resources, storage, and OS, which then lives in a shared, online network of virtual machines. These decoupled instances are able to float easily between clusters of dedicated servers, utilizing resources efficiently as the other instances around them shift and change.
Because cloud instances are decoupled, they can often feel unbound by the same limitations as physical resources. A single machine only has so much RAM, but the sprawling networks that make up the cloud are so large, it would be nearly impossible for a single user to max them out. This focus on scalability has lent itself to new methods of building infrastructure, based not on finite resource limitations, but rather on hyper-focused, resource-optimized parcels. The idea is that if you know exactly how many resources an application needs, why waste additional resources giving it access to more than it will actually use? Because cloud instances can dynamically scale up and down as resource usage increases or decreases, they allow for a highly efficient and precise means of planning long-term growth.
On paper, these are all wonderful perks.
The issue is though, this sensation of “infrastructure freedom” is a calculated illusion. After all, moving data around isn’t free, and building massive networks of dedicated servers isn’t cheap. These costs are absolutely passed along to the consumer, but often in ways that don’t become apparent until you’ve grown reliant on the provider’s services. This leads to vendor lock-in and eventually to massive, unpredictable IT bills. It isn’t a fluke when this occurs: it’s their entire business model.
But what can you do? The cloud is the future of IT, right? Isn’t floating infrastructure the direction everything’s moving in?
While these statements are all true, what’s even truer is this: if the major cloud providers are all running their services using networks of dedicated server resources, then doesn’t that mean dedicated servers are already capable of doing anything the cloud can do? They are the cloud. If you could capture the convenience, flexibility, and scalability of the cloud, without its associated risks, wouldn’t that solution prove to be the best of both worlds?
Thankfully, with the right dedicated server solution, that’s not only possible but affordable too.
The Benefits of Dedicated Servers
In this section we’ll focus on several of the clear benefits dedicated servers have to offer and how these perks, when utilized effectively, can become the secret weapons in any retailer’s arsenal.
Increased processing power is the most obvious benefit of using a dedicated server. When it comes to CPU-intensive processes, nothing can beat the computational speed of a bare metal server. It makes sense. If a shared instance is only a fraction of the system’s total resources, then wouldn’t having access to the entire system automatically prove more powerful?
Now you might be asking yourself, “do I really need a power-house machine to run my organization’s daily operations?”
The thing is, in the tech world, power and speed are often two sides of the same coin. When your system is more powerful, it will typically complete tasks and queries more quickly. With traditional retailers growing increasingly reliant on sales through their brand’s e-commerce stores, even historically brick-and-mortar chains are seeing the need for lightning-fast websites. After all, page speed has a significant effect on your site’s bounce rate. When 3 seconds can attribute to an increased 29% customer dropoff, can you really afford to not seek out speedier solutions? The faster your system can sort through large volumes of product and payment information, the better the user experience for your customers and the more likely they are to return in the future.
Speed makes a difference.
Beyond these surface-level issues like page speed though, there is also the fact that less powerful infrastructure solutions will inevitably limit future growth opportunities. For example, one new technique growing popular among tech-forward retailers is the utilization of AI-trained sales bots. These systems intake customer shopping patterns in order to offer highly targeted, customer-specific marketing opportunities. While incredibly useful, AI-based tools like these are resource-intensive, meaning the systems that run them need to be powerful to not buckle under their weight. As more major retailers begin adopting these methods, the need for powerful hosting solutions could become a necessity in order to remain competitive.
Reliability in this context means two things. First, it means the predictability of knowing your applications and instances will consistently run as intended, free from the potential issues of a multi-user environment. When you control 100% of the available resources, the risk of resource overlap by another tenant is a non-existent issue. This allows administrators to build hyper-precise systems with focused, intentional resource usage, maximized for efficiency.
Moreso though, reliability also means trust. It’s the knowledge that your system will be up and running when you and your customers need it. But when you only control a fraction of the system, do you have any real assurance that your data remains both secure and available? Are you not bound to the decisions of massive, external corporations?
I mean, have you ever tried to call Microsoft support?
Now it’s true that when you host with a dedicated server hosting provider, you’re still placing your trust in the hands of an external facility. Unless you host your servers onsite, you will always find yourself reliant on your provider’s network to keep you up and running.
The thing is, hyperscale data facilities like those used by AWS and Azure, aren’t as concerned with maintaining 100% uptime for their clients. They have so many customers, they can afford to lose some if things go wrong. It’s a numbers game to them.
Smaller providers though are reliant on their reputations. We provide exceptional service every time to ensure our customers keep coming back for more. That’s why at Hivelocity we have our 99.99% Uptime Guarantee, and why we can boast that nearly all our facilities have maintained 100% uptime status since their commissioning. In the event emergencies do arise, our 24/7 on-site support staff is ready with solutions for you in minutes, not hours or days. When every second matters, wouldn’t you rather put your trust in the hands of true industry experts?
When you control the machine, you control its security. You get to determine which forms of software and hardware firewalls are implemented and who has access to what. You get to decide who, if anyone, can share that digital space with you, and what kinds of traffic you want coming in and out. You’re in control to a level you could never achieve with a shared solution through a cloud provider.
Now, do you really need that level of security?
Well, think of it this way: your e-commerce site might have the best security available, but if lax protocols on the part of your provider lead to an infection on the machine housing your systems, you could find yourself in a really bad position; one which you have virtually no control over. In the end though, who are your customers actually going to blame? You or your service provider?
With cyber-attacks growing more frequent and data leaks occurring constantly, your customers want protection, not excuses. That means premium security solutions are more important than ever.
In addition to gaining control over the entire environment your system resides in, dedicated servers also provide advantages when meeting external compliance regulations. For retailers, PCI compliance for customer credit card information is of particular concern. While some cloud providers do pass along compliance standards to their customers, it depends both on the provider and the specific regulations in question. At Hivelocity, all our data centers are HIPAA and PCI compliant as well as being SSAE-16 SOC 1 and 2 certified. That means you can rest easy knowing your customers’ personal data is being stored in a facility that meets the highest standards for compliance regulations.
Most cloud providers offer users their services in the form of pre-packaged solutions. For some, these packages prove to be good fits, but for others, not so much. The fact remains that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for building the right digital infrastructure. It just doesn’t work that way.
With a dedicated server solution, you can use the applications and tools you want to use, all running on the operating system of your choice. Prefer a specific software for managing your virtual machines? Need a custom combination of VM and containerization tools? Prefer Windows-based solutions rather than running Linux? With a private dedicated server, you control everything. Build the exact system you want regardless of why you prefer it that way.
What’s even more essential though, is that the flexibility offered by dedicated servers can help you avoid the risks of vendor lock-in.
The problem is, when you run your infrastructure through a proprietary system like AWS or Azure, your ability to migrate instances to a different provider is limited. In the beginning, this might not seem like a deal-breaker, but as your system becomes reliant on the services of one provider, your ability to pick up and leave will continue to diminish. Inevitably, these providers then increase pricing knowing that once you’re stuck within their solution, you’ll be willing to pay almost anything rather than risk losing everything.
With non-proprietary solutions, especially the many open-source solutions utilized here at Hivelocity, not only will you have the flexibility to interface with a wider variety of 3rd-party applications, but you’ll also have an easier time migrating your solutions should you ever decide to. This means you not only have the option to build your system with the widest variety of available solutions, but you also retain your power as a consumer throughout the process.
As mentioned earlier, anything that can be done on the cloud can be done on a dedicated server. Like many things in life, it’s just a matter of having the right tools for the job. Better yet, many of the best tools available, like Proxmox VE, Terraform, and Kubernetes, are actually free, open-source, third-party compatible solutions.
With Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools like Terraform, building and managing vast networks of integrated servers is easy. Manage and deploy containers and virtual machines; scale and descale your resource usage dynamically using automated scripts; monitor the health of your entire system from a single source. Simple, reusable syntax lets you build new instances as needed, increasing your system’s capabilities as resource demands grow. API hooks let you coordinate between services further integrating the applications you use. You can even increase your cluster’s maximum resources by provisioning new instant dedicated servers automatically through the Hivelocity Public API. Scale and descale as easily as spinning up a new virtual instance, all with the backing of true, bare metal resources.
In other words, anything the cloud can do, your dedicated server can do better.
This is probably the part you’ve been waiting for. After all, is it really possible that dedicated servers can offer traditional retailers all these benefits and still be a cost-effective solution? Well, the answer is that for large organizations, dedicated servers are most definitely the more affordable option.
It’s all a question of scale.
Let’s say you own a small brick-and-mortar retail shop that relies heavily on foot traffic, and mostly uses its website for directions and contact methods. Would a business like this need a dedicated server? Probably not. If your website is just an informational gateway for your clients and your store’s not storing much in the way of customer or product data, it’s unlikely you need the full resources of your own dedicated server solution.
But what about for larger stores? As data volume and computational processing usage grow, it quickly becomes apparent that the higher initial investment of a dedicated server solution soon pays for itself.
For a concrete example of this, let’s look at one of our previous posts, Is Your Cloud Too Expensive? In this article, we take a side-by-side comparison of the 3 biggest cloud providers, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, and compare pricing for their inbound and outbound data transfer. This is important because while the initial pricing for these packages is often quite affordable, it’s only as your data usage grows that you really start to see the effects of the bandwidth pricing on your budget. We cover it here in full detail, but the key takeaway is that for organizations with heavy bandwidth usage, you might end up paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars more each month using the cloud.
That’s a significant difference and an obvious problem for organizations seeking growth.
After all, isn’t the point of utilizing the cloud and decoupled infrastructure to promote growth potential? If that very growth becomes too expensive to support, it’s probably not the most sustainable solution for your organization’s long-term plans. Using a dedicated server solution may typically mean a higher one-time investment, but in return, it gives you the ability to continue growing at a fraction of the cost.
For large organizations or those hoping to become larger, there really is no better solution than a dedicated server.
The Disadvantages of Dedicated Server Hosting
Now, no solution is perfect and I would be remiss to ignore the potential downsides associated with dedicated servers. While there aren’t many, it’s important to address both sides of the equation to assist potential customers in making well-informed decisions.
When critiquing dedicated servers the two most common complaints center around issues of pricing and complexity. We addressed pricing above, but the fact remains that purchasing a dedicated server or a system of dedicated servers will often prove a higher initial investment than signing on with a cloud service. The cost to get the ball rolling is higher, but as mentioned above, the cost to keep it rolling is significantly less. In fact, one of our customers who uses a hybrid combination of AWS and Hivelocity dedicated servers is actually saving over $15,000 a month using our services. That’s a cost savings of roughly $180,000 dollars each year! Even if his sign-on package with AWS was completely free, it could never justify bandwidth costs that high. Who has room in their IT budget for that?
So, while it’s true that dedicated servers are definitely not the cheapest solution upfront, they more than pay for themselves over time.
Now, let’s look at the issue of complexity. For some, this is a valid concern. Servers take a degree of expertise that not everyone has. Although they can be built around your exact specifications, their out-of-the-box functionality is often limited as systems need to be built up from scratch. Compared to the plug-and-play mentality of many cloud services, running your own server can seem daunting.
The fact of the matter is though, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to host on a dedicated server.
Not sure how to build your ideal infrastructure? Chat with our custom build experts and let them design you a system that’s both powerful and efficient, all built around your company’s actual needs. Don’t want the responsibility of maintaining and updating your hardware? Affordable managed service plans let you rest easy knowing your systems are in the hands of true industry experts.
After all, here at Hivelocity, our managed service packages are backed by the best support in the industry.
So, is running a dedicated server complex? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right provider and service plan, running your dedicated server solution can be as convenient as the cloud while still offering you the superior resources of bare metal.
So, Is a Dedicated Server Solution Right for Your Business?
Depending on the size of your organization, the volume of data you move around, and the general trajectory of your growth plan, chances are you’d see many benefits from making the switch to a fully dedicated server solution. For large retailers especially, those trying to rise above the competition in a world growing increasingly remote, there’s no better time than now to see how a dedicated server plan can benefit you. Whether you’re looking to improve the e-commerce side of your business or are just hoping to integrate new technologies into your brick-and-mortar facilities, a strong digital infrastructure will keep you growing for years to come.
Give your business and your customers the best with a Hivelocity dedicated server solution.
– Sean Kelly