One of the biggest decisions you have to make when building or managing a business information system is whether your data should be hosted in house or in the cloud. Deciding which server type is best for your business is one part of that decision-making process, but you should also consider which of the two is more secure.
Before you decide, you need to learn the difference between on-premises and cloud-based servers.
What’s the Difference Between On-Premises and Cloud-Based and Servers?
In the context of data management, a server is simply a computer that serves content to users. Businesses use servers to store information and host software necessary for managing and delivering content to members of your organization as they need it. Servers are also typically used to host the software and applications your workforce needs to maintain operations and continue producing for your business.
The big difference between server types comes down to where they’re hosted — whether in house or in the cloud.
On-Premises (or In-House) Servers
In-house servers are servers that businesses manage and maintain in house, or within their own premises. These servers are very similar to personal computers in that a typical server is composed of a motherboard, processor, RAM, hard drive, interface controller, power supply, graphics processing unit, and an operating system. The main difference is that office servers are usually designed to run only specific tasks as opposed to being available for a wide variety of tasks, as PCs are.
In this kind of hosting arrangement, server hardware lives inside your premises, which could be an office, campus, or business location. Ideally, your organization should hire server management specialists to ensure that your servers are always working optimally. In reality many small businesses make do with their all-around IT team to conduct server-related activities.
Cloud-Based (or Cloud-Hosted) Servers
By contrast, cloud-based (or cloud-hosted) servers are maintained by your service or cloud provider rather than your internal IT team. A big selling point for cloud-hosted servers is that they offer significant potential cost savings over in-house servers. This is because you pay for usage instead of hardware, which tends to cost a lot. Opting for cloud-hosted servers is especially helpful if your site isn’t growing quickly enough to justify a large capital expense upfront.
Cloud providers are responsible for mitigating downtime caused by attacks or bad code updates, and they often offer more advanced security features than you can build in house. They can do this by taking advantage of economies of scale, particularly by deploying specialized technicians and software to cover the security needs of their roster of clients in a cost-effective manner. This setup ensures that you receive enterprise-grade software and support without you needing to make such burdensome investments yourself.
Performance and speed depend on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, as well as the volume of its other clients. Clients of cloud providers tend to share resources such as the overall processing power and support resources that the cloud provider deploys. Keep in mind that heavy cloud server traffic and downtime could potentially affect every server hosted in that particular cloud.
Moreover, in a cloud hosting arrangement, server hardware maintenance is handled by your provider, so you don’t need to worry about updates or performance management. And because these servers are partitioned segments of large physical servers shared by multiple clients, many providers offer high availability options that use multiple servers and load balancing to provide better uptime for higher-traffic users.
On-Premises Server Security
The biggest benefit of an in-house server is its physical security. Because in-house servers aren’t connected to the internet, the only way attackers can gain access to it is by going to your office or server facility and physically tapping into your computers. With ample physical security, your servers will be virtually untouchable.
Essentially, having your servers on site gives you full control over it. This means that you get to choose the hardware and software to suit your wants and needs, and you will determine the policies needed to ensure that the servers are used properly and securely. This arrangement can be quite resource-intensive, especially once you account for the manpower needed to run your servers day to day, but it will give you total visibility and control over every byte of data that runs through your system.
The drawback of on-premises servers in terms of security is that outfitting your system with all the security tools it needs can get expensive. Budget-conscious businesses may encounter tough times determining which tools are absolutely essential and which they can forgo. This scenario can force businesses to sacrifice some security tools in lieu of what they deem to be more important, which can sometimes cause serious gaps in a server’s security.
Cloud-Based Server Security
In a cloud-hosted server setup, servers will be protected by every security tool available. Cloud server providers have specialists on staff for every stage or component of the server management process. This guarantees that your data systems will be regularly maintained, promptly updated, and outfitted with enterprise-grade security tools. This is a huge benefit for small businesses that require server-level data management capabilities because it frees their staff from the burdens of server management and allows them to focus on more critical tasks.
The drawback with cloud servers, however, is that if your provider experiences an outage or a significant cyberattack, your business operations may potentially be crippled. Your data will only be as protected as the infrastructure allows, so it’s always a good idea to ask your cloud host about the tools they use in handling your data, as well as their procedures for cyberattacks and the like.
What’s the Difference Between On-Premises and Cloud-Based Servers?
When deciding between cloud and on-premises hosting, you’ll need to weigh the benefits of each against your security needs and capabilities. You should first ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my business have remote workers that need access to data?
- Is my IT team constantly over capacity and frequently behind on their tasks?
- Is my office space too small to accommodate a server cabinet and its peripherals?
The Power of Hybrid Servers
A hybrid server setup is simply a combination of an in-office and cloud server. This setup affords businesses the computing power and control of a dedicated server while also providing the flexibility and ease of management of a cloud server. Here are some of the key advantages of a hybrid server arrangement:
- Cheaper to run and own for the long term compared to a local server setup
- Provides your business great flexibility without sacrificing control and oversight
- Allows you to optimize both your cloud and your local server resources
Ultimately, the best server hosting option for your business will depend on the specific needs and capabilities of your company. The best way for a small business to go about determining their ideal server setup is by consulting with a reputable technology provider such as MBM Technology Solutions. Contact us today so we can assess your business and assist you with your server needs.