On-site servers are the traditional way to run business applications. Today, however, they face stiff competition from the cloud, a platform that has revolutionised the way companies operate. While the ultimate decision about which is best depends on the needs of the individual company, here, we’ll examine the pros and cons of both, to give you a more informed understanding.
Though on-site servers are exceptional pieces of high-performance equipment and can be built to your own specification, they are very expensive to purchase. What’s more, as technology quickly advances, they can soon become obsolete. The use of more resource-heavy apps and the increasing amount of data being stored means businesses regularly need to upgrade to more powerful servers with bigger drives – a constant burden on budgets, especially when you need to keep redundant backup servers ready to take over in case of a hardware failure or other disaster. In addition, there are all the associated costs of running servers in-house: energy, premises, security, insurance, maintenance and management.
The cloud offers a completely different type of model: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS allows an organisation can dispense with its own datacentre and run its applications on the infrastructure of its service provider. There is no need to buy the hardware, maintain a datacentre or pay any of the associated costs. These are all taken care of by the vendor. Of course, the service isn’t free but the costs are paid monthly making it easier on cash flow.
Furthermore, it’s the cloud vendor who will cover the costs of hardware upgrades and ensure that the hardware is maintained. Unlike on-site servers, the virtualisation used in cloud computing means your applications will remain online for 100% of the time even in the event of hardware failure.
Businesses with on-site servers have complete freedom over their choice of software and this enables them to keep using legacy applications which may not work in a cloud environment. That said, the majority of applications can be migrated to the cloud without issue and there are many cloud-native applications, including advanced tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning that work best in a cloud environment.
Another consideration is accessibility. With the cloud, a business will need internet connectivity to access applications. While this was a drawback many years ago, today, nearly all businesses and their machines have internet connections and users will be able to just log in and go, whether they are in the workplace or working remotely. Applications that run on an on-site server don’t need an internet connection for users to access them. However, users will need to be connected to the business network and this means they won’t be able to access the apps remotely.
Though not every business needs quick deployment, cloud-based applications can be deployed in minutes. With an on-site server, they may need to be installed on the server and, in some instances, on each users’ workstation. For companies that need to move quickly, the cloud can provide accelerated development.
The final thing to consider is software cost. Most applications used in the cloud are open-source and free. When it comes to proprietary software, those with on-site servers will have to pay the full cost of the software licence, while in the cloud, you’ll often find the vendor has purchased a licence that enables them to share the software with clients for a reduced cost and this will be spread over their monthly payments.
While some companies might worry over the security of the cloud, it’s worth remembering that cloud providers have to comply with stringent regulations to keep their infrastructures secure.
The chief security benefit of an on-site server is that its single tenancy offers potentially greater compliance for the storage of sensitive data. Of course, that all depends upon how secure the on-site server is. Implementing advanced security measures comes at a cost that is too high for many businesses. With cloud vendors investing heavily in security expertise and the latest tools, like next-gen firewalls and intrusion and malware prevention, they often provide more robust security than can be implemented in-house.
As mentioned earlier, businesses are using more resource-hungry applications and collect more data. Scaling up horizontally in a datacentre can be very expensive, whereas scaling vertically by upgrading your server will mean taking it offline and paying for the new components. Neither of these is ideal, especially when peaks in demand require additional resources to be instantly available.
In the cloud, scaling up just means using more of your vendor’s vast datacentre resources and this can be done at the click of a button. What’s even better is that scaling up and down can be done on demand and is charged for on a pay as you go basis, so there is no long term charge for additional resources which aren’t used. This is far more cost-effective than paying for additional on-site hardware that largely remains redundant.
Cloud and on-site servers are both powerful solutions. On-site dedicated servers are best suited for high-performance applications and single tenancy storage compliance whereas the cloud is ideal for high availability, scalability and swift deployment. Additionally, the cloud is less expensive, offers access to digital transformation technologies and provides internet connectivity for users to access the system remotely.