A hosted server is a physical or virtual server that is set up and maintained by an IT hosting company and accessed by the user via the internet. Before we start talking about hosted servers, though, let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page as to what a server is and what it can do.
A server is a computer that “serves,” or conduct processes or store files for, other computing devices. Physical servers, normally just called servers, are computers that are specifically designed to serve other computing devices, so they don’t have any of the user-friendly overhead of PCs like graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and desktop operating systems. In addition to having less overhead end-user devices, physical servers may also have more processing power or storage capacity, more advanced networking hardware, and more flexibility and scalability (meaning that they are easier to integrate with other servers). Not all physical servers will have all of these advantages; physical servers are like PCs in that there are hundreds of different models available from dozens of different manufacturers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages (low price/high price, high storage capacity/high processing capacity, high security/high accessibility, etc.).
Servers are used by businesses to centrally host IT assets like applications, email, files, websites, and virtual desktops. By “host,” we mean that these IT assets are installed on the server and made available for users on other computing devices to access via a network. When the user access the server-hosted IT asset, the IT asset is processed and all of its data is stored by the server, though from the user’s point-of-view the server-hosted IT asset might look and perform the same as an IT asset installed on the user’s device. For example, a server-hosted version of Microsoft Word will look and perform the same as one installed on and accessed from a desktop PC, with the only differences being that the server-hosted Word is processed on the server and its files are saved to the server’s storage drive by default. The main advantage of hosting IT assets on servers instead of installing them individually on each user’s computing device is that it makes the IT assets easier to manage, monitor, and protect.
In addition to physical servers, there is also a type of server called a virtual server, which is a virtual environment that performs the same as a physical server, and that is deployed and maintained by a physical server or a group of physical servers. Virtual servers allow you to host multiple IT assets on a single physical server and single IT assets on multiple physical servers. Virtual servers can increase centralization and scalability and reduce overall IT hardware costs.
A hosted server, meanwhile, is a physical or virtual server that is set up and maintained by an IT hosting company and accessed by the user via the internet. A hosted physical server is referred to as a hosted dedicated server, because the entire hosted physical server is provided to a single customer. With a hosted virtual server, meanwhile, a customer might end up sharing a single physical server with other customers. Hosted virtual servers are as secure as hosted dedicated servers, since the customers on the same physical server can’t see or access each other’s virtual servers.
The user pays the hosting company for the server on a per-year, per-month, or per-use basis. The customer is usually provided with full administrative access to the server. The hosting company may include (as Iron Orbit does) or offer services with its hosted server such as security and performance monitoring, patch management, data security, and data backups. At the very least, the hosting company will ensure that the hosted server is always running and accessible. The advantages of signing up for hosted servers compared to setting up and maintaining your own physical servers include less management costs and responsibilities; increased performance, reliability, and security; increased scalability and quicker deployments (because the IT hosting company always has extra physical servers on hand, and may have some already set up and ready-to-go); and the ability for users to access their IT assets from anywhere and with any device by default (since they are always accessed via the internet).