I'm looking to go the dedicated server route as well. I'm tired of the VPS going down through no fault of mine. I'm rather new at this and have limited experience with the tasks of administrating a server, but am willing to learn. I'm after reliability and would much rather have an overkill on resources than to stretch the resources to save a buck.
Some generic questions I have are:
1.) How much ram is enough? I realize this is dependant on the number of sites and or the type/number of scripts running on the server, however I'm looking for a "start" level, that could say host up to 200 sites or so.
2.) At what point does one need a 2nd processor?
3.) does it require much maintenance?
Any other suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.
One company I was looking at is VenturesOnline, they seem to have good deal on high performance servers. (I do-not want standard type PC's with IDE interfaces)
it really depends on what kind of sites you are going to run. If they use a lot of perl or scriptingt then a good CPU should be used. If they run a lot of databases and PHP etc, then a lot of memory should be used. Memory is easy to upgrade, i was say to start 512 MB should be enough. I wouldnt get a server these days with less than a 1.4 Ghz, prefered is 1.7-8 if possible.
Also there is nothing wrong with IDE 7200 ATA hard drives. You will only tell the difference if your sites are doing a lot of writing, input/output. Most shared hosting sites dont do much of this.
I recommend webreseller.net, they are pretty friendly and helpful.
If you dont know what you are doing you may want a managed server which costs a little bit more.
I would start with 512 MB RAM but ask the host to use a mainboard which is capable of at least 2 GB. Many cheap dedicated servers have a max. of 512 MB.
My personal preference are SCSI drives, they are faster on high loads, but if you are low on budget IDE should do the job, too.
And VenturesOnline is indeed a very good provider. They use mainboards which are upgradeable to a second CPU so you are able to start with a small server and upgrade it as needed.