Setting Up A Dedicated Server

Ask anyone what they did to set up their dedicated server and the chances are you’ll receive a blank stare or they’ll simply tell you that they didn’t have to do anything. Like any technology though, the default settings aren’t necessarily the optimal settings. In this article I’ll cover the settings that I always change when setting up a newly deployed dedicated server.


This discussion will assume that you have Web Host Manager (WHM) installed on your server, though these same changes can be applied to any dedicated server.


Server Name


The first thing I usually do is give the server a ‘real’ name. This doesn’t affect any of the domains that you will be hosting, but it does give us an address for the default MX record which we will look at next. So, lets take for example a server which has just been set up and deployed by your host. It will most likely have a name that is something like server123.hostingcompany.com or something with the IP number in it like 192-168-50-30.hostingcompany.com. What I do is choose a domain that I will set as the main domain for the server and then set the hostname on that domain.


Lets look at a real life example. I have a server that I use for some of my internet marketing domains. I decided, before that server was deployed, that the default domain was going to be optintrust.org.


So, when I first logged in to the server I created a new account for the domain optintrust.org. This process creates the DNS zone file and a CPanel account for the domain.


Next step is to edit the DNS zone file (in WHM this is under DNS Functions->Edit DNS Zone). In here I created a new ‘A’ record for the first IP on the server and set this to be srv.optintrust.org.



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Now that we have a hostname in the DNS zone file, the next step is to go ahead and change the server name. This is done in Networking Setup->Hostname. I usually reboot the server after changing the hostname, to make sure that there are no errors and to also make sure that the change of hostname has been saved.


Default MX Record


Now that we have a sensible hostname, the next step is to create a valid MX record. The MX record is the record in your DNS that tells other servers where to deliver mail for a particular domain. This will default to whatever the hosting company has called your server. It will most likely be something like server123.hostingcompany.com or something with the IP number in it like 192-168-50-30.hostingcompany.com.


What you need here is a MX record that also has a valid reverse DNS entry. Without going into details, some mail servers will check whether your MX is valid AND will also check the reverse as well. So, it checks that yourmx.yourdomain.com=your_ip_number and also that, when doing a ‘reverse DNS lookup, your_ip_number=yourmx.yourdomain.com. TO make this happen, you will need to request a reverse entry from your hosting provider. Most hosting providers are well aware of why you would want a reverse entry and will do this for you within 24 hours. All you need to tell them is that you would like your IP number to point to an address. Tell them the IP number and the address (in my case it will be srv.optintrust.org).


Once this is done you can set your server’s default MX address. This default address will be set for all new accounts you create on the server.


So, what we have done here is to give our server a sensible hostname and create a default MX record with a valid reverse lookup.


What Is A Dedicated Server?

What Is A Dedicated Server?

There are three main types of server:

Shared Server – A shared server has many different domains hosted on it. All of the servers resources are shared by many websites. Think of it like a filing cabinet with several folders in each drawer. On a shared server you have control over your folder and everything within it. Other website owners also have their own space, separate from yours, but sharing the resources of the same server.

Hosting on a shared server is by far the most popular option, mainly because of price. You can pay as little as a few dollars per month and there are some hosts that even provide free web space on shared servers.

Virtual Dedicated – This is the next step up from a shared server. If we use the filing cabinet example, it would be like a filing cabinet with several drawers and each website would occupy a drawer. Whilst the resources are still shared, there are not as many websites sharing the server, and we have greater control over our space on the server. The server is configured in such a way that it looks and feels like a dedicated server.

Hosting on a virtual dedicated server is a popular option for busier web sites. It is difficult to define ‘busy’ as it varies greatly depending on what sort of services you are providing on the web, but most commonly, web site owners will upgrade to a virtual dedicated server when they find that their existing server is getting quite a lot of visitors and the volume of visitors is starting to slow the website down.

Dedicated Server – A dedicated server is like having control over the whole filing cabinet. It is not shared with any other website or domain. In most cases, when you request a dedicated server, the web hosting provider will have your new server installed and configured within 1-3 days. With a dedicated server you have the entire server to yourself. You have full control over all of the servers resources and can use the server in any way that you wish, provided it does not violate the web hosts terms of service.

Hosting on a dedicated server is suitable for very high traffic websites. You have full control over the server and its resources and can request upgrades such as additional hard drives, additional memory and a faster processor.

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