When you first opened your small business, it was just you in your home office, working on a single desktop computer. But you’ve grown, and today, you have several employees, and it’s becoming a challenge to manage files and keep everything running as it should. You’ve started exploring your networking options, and while you’re thinking that buying a server would be a logical next step for your growing enterprise, it’s also possible that you could move everything to the cloud and have the same functionality.
It’s easy to get confused when determining the best option for your business. Both servers and clouds have their advantages and disadvantages, and there really is no one-size-fits-all option that is best for all businesses. However, in most cases, an entirely cloud-based network is not the best idea, and at least one server is necessary.
Cost Isn’t Everything
One of the primary reasons that many businesses opt to migrate to cloud platforms is the cost. Quite simply, when you use cloud-based platforms, you do not have to purchase any hardware, or bear the costs of maintaining, upgrading and storing the hardware. Those costs are rolled into the fee for using the service (if there even is a fee), and in most cases, the charge is based on your actual usage. Instead of purchasing equipment that may be more powerful than your current needs require, a cloud-service gives you what you need when you need it, and can be scaled up or down as necessary.
However, that’s really where the advantages of using the cloud end. In fact, the cloud has several major disadvantages over dedicated servers that many businesses overlook until it’s too late. Some of these include:
Long-Term Cost: Yes, the lower cost of cloud services is an advantage of cloud services — at least in the short term. However, over time, the costs of cloud services can outpace those of investing in a private server. Consider this: xByte Technologies is a premier reseller of IT equipment that offers high-quality refurbished servers for a fraction of the cost of new; in some cases, you can purchase a like-new machine for less than $500.
Security: When you own and operate your own dedicated server, you have complete control over the security of that server. Most cloud-based services are committed to providing the highest level of security, but can you ever really be sure that your data is totally safe in the cloud? And in the event of a security breach, it’s far easier to determine the source of the breach and mitigate the damage if you are in control of the investigation and not relying on a cloud provider to do it for you.
Compliance: If you’re working with certain types of data, you may be bound to federal guidelines regarding where that data can be stored. Unless the cloud provider can pinpoint the exact location of your data and provide assurances that it will be stored in compliance with regulations, your own server may be a safer bet.
Outages and Resiliency: Server outages happen. When it’s your own server, though, you have control over the repair and process of getting it back online. If a cloud provider has an outage, you’re at the mercy of their technical support team to get back up and running. That could be a few minutes or a few days, depending on the issue. If you’re relying on the service for vital functions, you may have trouble in the event of an outage.
Stability: Some cloud service providers are stable and secure, and there is no reason to expect that they will be going anywhere anytime soon. Others are more precarious and may not or may not still be in business in a year or six months. When you have your own servers, you don’t have to worry about losing functionality — or worse, data — if a cloud provider goes out of business.
A cloud-based service may cost upwards of $100 per month, so even when taking into account the costs of maintenance and management, you’ll still pay less to purchase a refurbished own machine over time.
A Hybrid Approach
Clearly, a growing small business should consider its own needs and plans for growth and choose technology accordingly. However, unless the business is entirely virtual, or you’re starting up on a shoestring budget and can’t afford to invest in equipment yet, a hybrid approach combining a dedicated, private server and cloud-based services is best. Cloud services can limit the need to invest in expensive software and can help keep people connected wherever they happen to be. But for managing day-to-day functions and keeping the office running smoothly, a private server is the safest and most cost-effective option.