In-house server or data storage in the cloud?

This is the infrastructure choice facing modern businesses.

Yet when it comes time to upgrade a business’s IT backbone, things are more complex than they used to be.

 

Rather than simply upgrading or replacing existing infrastructure with the latest models, savvy businesses are investigating new alternatives. While adopting new systems can reduce overheads, improve productivity and streamline communication, making the wrong choice can prove costly. To help businesses make the right decision, here we look at the pros and cons of cloud and in-house servers, and how to choose between them, including the ‘third way’ of adopting a hybrid approach.

 

What are the options?


Rely on dedicated local servers.

Running your own servers is highly convenient, particularly if you are a small or single-location business. It means, for example, that even if your internet connection goes down, you’ll still have fast, secure access to your data.

Rely on cloud servers.

Cloud services give users remote access to server farms (maintained by the provider) that can provide storage, compute, hosting and other services. They allow businesses to communicate and collaborate regardless of physical location.

Adopt a hybrid approach and use both.

Combining dedicated on-site servers and remote cloud services to access the advantages of each. This is most commonly used by organizations with strict requirements around data storage and data sovereignty. For example, when storing confidential data that must be kept within a particular country or jurisdiction. Your decision might be a matter of personal preference or company policy. For example, you may be comfortable using the cloud for things like research, document storage and data analytics, while using in-house servers for sensitive data like employee records. You might also find that hosting all your data on in-house servers and backing it up on a cloud server (or vice versa) is the best way to go.

 

 

 

 

Dedicated servers Pros and Cons

Dedicated servers offer a business full control over its data as well as local, internet-free access to a ‘private cloud’ by local area network (LAN). One of the biggest advantages of dedicated servers is the visibility and accessibility of your data. There are never any questions of where your information resides and you can access
it with no latency.

Pros:

  • Control: Full local control over data and security policies.
  • Offline access: No internet connection is needed to access your local servers by LAN.
  • Uninterrupted digital access: Where slow internet will not affect access speeds.

Cons:

  • Data loss: Strong backup and disaster recovery policies are needed to prevent data loss due to fire, flood, power surges and outages, and theft or criminal damage.
  • CAPEX: Capital costs can be high, as you may need to over-invest in servers to provide capacity only needed at peak times.
  • OPEX: Operational costs can also be high, as server rooms require power, cooling and expert staff to operate and maintain the hardware and software.

 

 

 

 

Cloud servers: Pros and Cons

For businesses that rely heavily on collaboration across geographical locations, public cloud servers have been a revelation. They provide real-time access to your information on any device, in almost any country, with workers collaborating with colleagues who might be in another suburb, city or region. You need not worry about physical storage space or electricity bills either because another company is hosting your information on its servers.

Pros:

  • Scalability: You can easily scale apps and services up or down on the fly, to meet spikes (or manage troughs) in demand.
  • Global access: You can access your data in real-time from anywhere in the world.
  • Low maintenance: You don’t need to worry about office space, maintenance or cooling systems or even – depending on the service you’ve selected – backup and disaster recovery preparation.

Cons:

  • Data loss: Strong backup and disaster recovery policies are needed to prevent data loss due to fire, flood, power surges and outages, and theft or criminal damage.
  • CAPEX: Capital costs can be high, as you may need to over-invest in servers to provide capacity only needed at peak times.
  • OPEX: Operational costs can also be high, as server rooms require power, cooling and expert staff to operate and maintain the hardware and software.

 

 

 

 

Hybrid approach: Pros and Cons

The hybrid cloud offers a ‘mix and match’ approach, where an organization can choose elements from either the public or private cloud, such as hosting its e-commerce facility on a private cloud but non-sensitive data such as marketing materials on the public cloud.

Pros:

  • Flexible and scalable: The ability to mix and match services provides maximum flexibility when determining where applications and data are hosted.
  • Innovation and speed to market: New products can be quickly prototyped and developed in-house, then spun up on public cloud servers for testing.
  • Risk management: A hybrid environment allows businesses to test workloads and business processes on-site before offloading them to a public cloud provider.

Cons:

  • Security compliance: Security policies must be strictly enforced both locally and on the public cloud, requiring strong systems and constant vigilance.
  • Network complexity: Hybrid systems require seamless data transfers between local and remote server farms, as well as providing access to mobile users, adding complexity to the network.
  • Cost: Potentially costlier than a public cloud service, paid for on demand or by subscription.

 

 

 

Making the decision

When it comes to the final decision, it is crucial to discuss all options with your company’s key stakeholders, including not just the IT and finance departments, but also sales, marketing and HR. Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How much storage and compute do I need?
  2. Are my data needs consistent or volatile?
  3. Do I have the physical space to install local servers?
  4. Can I make the capital investment needed in local servers?
  5. Is my operational budget flexible enough to cover the varying costs of a cloud subscription?

Finally, for all options, it is important to evaluate all the other potential costs and benefits, including license fees, warranties, server and application administration and support, broadband fees, backup and recovery costs, and power and cooling costs.

 

More options mean better decisions.
Ultimately, choosing between the cloud or dedicated servers, or a combination of both, such as the hybrid cloud, depends on a range of issues including cost and security. Fortunately, for the benefit of businesses of any size, the technology revolution should make the choice even easier in the future, as costs decline and the options continue to expand.