If you have a large and complex website that receives a lot of traffic you may find that shared hosting is limiting your growth and the capacity to serve your customers. It may be time to move on to dedicated hosting. Shared hosting involves placing many websites on one server. All sites share the resources of that server such as disk space and bandwidth. Dedicated hosting means that instead of renting space on a server, you rent an entire server for your sole use.
Dedicated web hosting is much more expensive than shared hosting because the cost of operating the server is not divided between various accounts. The advantages of dedicated hosting include the freedom to use the resources of the server as you please. There are many different dedicated hosting packages to choose from. Their prices depend largely on the physical setup of the server computer. Just as with your home computer, faster processors and bigger hard drives cost more.
Another factor influencing the price is whether or not the server is managed. Keeping a server running in top condition can be a time consuming task. A managed hosting service offers the support and expertise to maintain your server and to perform routine maintenance such as software upgrades. This kind of service can be a viable alternative to hiring your own staff to look after your servers. Managed hosting, however, can be a lot more expensive than unmanaged hosting. Whether the price is justified depends on the complexity of your website and whether or not you already have people on staff who can look after the day to day operations of a server.
Unmanaged hosting, despite its name, does not really leave you entirely to your own devices. Most hosting companies will offer a certain level of support for all their dedicated hosting packages. This support of course includes hardware maintenance for things like hard drive failure and extra technical support may be available if you need help with configuration or software installation. You will probably have to pay for this extra support but hiring a tech on an hourly basis from time to time may be cheaper than going with a full managed package.
If you are considering unmanaged hosting check to see how much control you can have over the server hardware. If your server becomes hopelessly locked you should be able to perform a re-boot or to expect someone to do it for you with a minimum of delay.
As with any hosting package the value of a dedicated hosting service depends on the reliability and integrity of the hosting company. If your website has grown to the point where you need dedicated hosting you need a hosting provider that you can rely on to keep your site online as much as possible.
Whether you choose managed or unmanaged hosting depends on the technical requirements of your site and the ability of you or your staff to manage a server so that it is running at peak efficiency. If you prefer to have the re-assurance of having highly trained professionals looking after the server, go with managed hosting. If you or your staff can handle most of the maintenance chores, you would be better off with an unmanaged server.