Web Server Technical Specs Explained
by Jimmy Martin
When you decide to rent or buy a dedicated web server for your website, you are assaulted with a barrage of technical jargon. You would be forgiven for just closing your eyes and hoping for the best, but with a little research you can understand whether or not you are being offered a great deal. Here are some of the web server technical terms to look out for.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
- Size - The more the better. 256MB (Megabytes) would be enough for a budget web server, while a top of the range server costing tens of thousands of dollars might have 32GB (Gigabytes) or even more.
- ECC - Error Correcting Code. This allows the server to survive minor memory errors without crashing. A business web server should certainly have ECC.
- DDR - Double Data Rate. This is normal RAM, as used in your desktop computer. If there is a memory error, the server will crash. Used only on budget web servers.
- The brain of the web server. The faster the processor, the more simultaneous visitors the website can handle, and the better it copes with intensive activities like running online stores that require a lot of calculation and database access.
- Celeron, Sempron - Low end processors used on budget web servers.
- Pentium 4, Athlon64 - Mid range processors used on low-to mid range web servers.
- Xeon, Opteron - High end processors. A top of the range web server will have multiple processors, for example a Dual Xeon server or a Quad Opteron server would run a very resource-intensive website with large numbers of visitors, provided it had fast hard disks and a fast network connection.
Hard Disk Drives
- Size - The capacity of the drives, measured in GB (Gigabytes). A budget web server might have 40 or 80GB. Most websites are take up surprisingly little space on disk. You would need a larger disk to store movie files or large customer databases.
- PATA - Parallel ATA. The cheapest type of hard drive, now installed only on the cheapest servers. Superseded by SATA.
- SATA - Serial ATA. This is a good choice for low- to mid-range web servers. It is cheap, fast, fairly reliable and offers large storage capacity. High end web servers may use SATA drives for bulk storage.
- SCSI - Usually pronounced "scuzzy". SCSI hard disks are very fast and reliable, but also very expensive. A mid- to high-end web server should have SCSI hard drives due to their outstanding reliability and speed.
- RAID - Redundant Array of Independent Drives. This groups hard drives together to increase their speed and/or reliability. It should be considered essential for a business web server due to the increased reliability.
See our guide to Hard Disks for Web Servers for more information
- Limited Bandwidth - The web server can transfer as fast as the datacentre's network allows it. The bandwidth, i.e. the amount of data that can be transferred each month, (usually measured in Gigabytes per month) is limited. The greater the bandwidth, the more it costs. Limited bandwidth is usually a good choice for home or small business websites, depending on the number of visitors and the size of files downloaded. Plans usually start from around 5 GB per month.
- Unlimited Bandwidth - There is no limit to the amount of data the web server can transfer. Instead, there is a limit on how fast it can be transferred. A small business website might have a 1 Mbit (1 Megabit per second) transfer limit, while a large corporate site might need 100 Mbit or more. The faster, the more expensive. Unlimited bandwidth is usually only economic for heavily used websites.
What hardware specification would your website need for a dedicated web server? That depends entirely on the individual site. You should seek expert advice, as each site will have its own requirements. This depends on the number of visitors, the size of any downloads, and whether the site uses databases. Hopefully, if your experts tell you that your business's website needs a dedicated server with 2GB RAM, Dual Opterons, a 500GB SATA RAID array and an unlimited 10 Mbit connection, you will know what they are talking about!