Criteria for Picking a Dedicated Server Provider

I recently took a look at a dedicated hosting directory and there were more then 100 companies listed, with so many choices how does one pick the right host for their needs? To begin, the dedicated hosting market is completely saturated with everything from huge companies that own multiple data centers, (The Planet, Softlayer, Rackspace) to medium sized companies that own their own hardware but lease their data center space (SingleHop, WiredTree), to resellers who operate as middle men between their clients and the datacenter that they resell from, but don't actually own the hardware or even have hands on access to it (, Hostgator). So what is best for you?

I think there are several major criteria that need to be evaluated when choosing a dedicated server provider which I will briefly outline:

  • Network - The network infrastructure that your host uses is going to be a major factor in the quality of service that you receive. The saying, "you get what you pay for," is extremely relevant in the dedicated hosting industry, and networking is one of the ways that some hosts choose to save money. Inferior networking gear and bandwidth providers allow some hosts to provide service at extremely low prices, but at the cost of low quality service. Providers, like us at SingleHop, the Planet, and Softlayer, put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their network infrastructure always taking into account capacity, scalability, and redundancy among many other things for the best performance and stability.
  • Hardware - Hardware these days is very standardized. Most hosts provide hardware from Dell, HP, and SuperMicro, and most will be able to work with you to customize the hardware configuration to your specifications. That said, it is always important to check with the provider, some like SingleHop use high density rack-mounted servers and some use nothing more than common tower PCs. The high density method is the most efficient way to rack servers, both in terms of power and cooling, this configuration is designed to allow quality hardware to last even longer.
  • Customer Service - Customer service is also a huge factor that needs to be considered. No matter how good the hardware and network is, when something does happen and you need assistance, none of that does you any good if you cannot reach your chosen provider. Check to make sure if their support is available 24/7, test it, call them at 3AM.  Speak with their sales department, one's interactions with a company's sales department are often indicative of how interactions with their support department will be.  Don't just be on the lookout for negatives, but also be aware when things sound too good to be true.
  • Client Satisfaction - Finally in the course of doing your homework on a provider, find reviews that have been posted about them by current and former clients. Take into account several things:
    • People who have negative experiences are going to more inclined to post reviews, few good reviews does not mean that that their service is not going to meet and exceed your expectations.
    • All hosts have issues, it is how they handle them that determines their quality. Look for trends, if the same thing happens over and over again, then the host is not permanently resolving the problem. One should not discount providers that had a problem, even a major one, as long as they found a specific and decisive way to resolve it.

Obviously this not an exhaustive list of things to consider, but hopefully it provided some food for thought when it comes to the daunting task of picking your newest dedicated server provider.