Organizations of all sizes depend on various systems and applications to facilitate daily business operations such as billing, internal and external communication, among others. These systems include different types of servers that perform different kinds of functions or host specific applications.
Types of servers hosted in businesses today
A server is a specialized computer with a set of programs. They are known as servers because they ‘serve’ another computer, also known as a client, with services that the client requests. Some common types of servers used in businesses today include:
- Database servers – These allow other computers to access a database and manipulate the data within in accordance with the permissions given.
- File servers – They provide users with access to files and data stored centrally.
- Web servers – They deliver the requested web page to multiple client web browsers.
- Mail servers – They act as a ‘virtual post office’ where emails are sent, received and stored.
There are many, many more, but these are the basic ones that keep many businesses afloat. They are the lifeblood of any organization, if they die, so does the business.
Knowing the types of servers available to your business, the next decision every CIO must consider is whether to host these servers on premise or on the cloud. This means that you can maintain the server yourself by hiring IT support staff or you can acquire server hosting services from a local cloud service provider and concentrate on core business. On premise means that the server is bought and maintained by you and your IT team. This leaves you open to three types of costs:
- Direct costs – These are costs the server directly incurs, for example initial deployment and setup, maintenance and the inevitable upgrades when the hardware becomes obsolete or its ability to handle workloads declines.
- Indirect costs – These are costs that are related to the server, for example power. In addition to other costs of acquiring the software and licenses
- Hidden costs – These are costs that vary depending on usage. Includes costs incurred overtime for example in case of system downtime, decline in productivity, among others.
Cloud hosting means that your resources are dispersed across multiple servers, providing instantaneous access to the resources due to the heavy lifting being done by a cluster of servers without the downside of maintaining them.
Managed hosting takes it one step further by using dedicated servers, meaning that the servers only work for you and your business.
To understand which solution is best for your organization, decision makers must compare different factors such as cost, security, flexibility, reliability and accessibility. In addition to the costs incurred by on premise system management, other factors to consider include;
- Compliance with local standards
In order to host servers on premise, your IT staff must be aware of any and all certifications or licenses required to deploy the system. With managed hosting, you have a team that is trained and has already all the requirements needed for each and every one of your servers to function optimally.
As your business grows, workloads and data also continue to grow which in turn begins to decline your systems’ speed and performance. In addition, you will eventually require software or hardware upgrades. For on premise systems, this means scheduling downtime in order to safely deploy upgrades. Most IT staff can agree that processes of upgrading on premise systems can be time consuming and tedious.
Consider a case of striking the iron while hot when business opportunities arise, for example, the sudden sanitizer spike in demand once COVID-19 was announced. The lack of flexibility in on-premise system management means preparing to strike the iron for so long that once you are ready, it has gone cold again.
With managed hosting, addition of resources or upgrades is a seamless process that does not affect your current operations.
- System downtime
Many businesses require 99.99% system uptime in order to stay competitive yet for many businesses that manage on premise systems, this is nothing but a dream. On-premise systems face downtime for many reasons including power outages, hardware or software failure, overheating, human error and natural disasters.
The security of on premise systems largely involves securing its physical location as well using backup and disaster recovery measures to secure the system, applications and data in the event of a cyberattack, manmade and natural disasters. In most cases when backing up on premise servers is left to IT personnel, backup schedules can be inconsistent or systems are not backed up at all. A handful of such organizations also lack an elaborate disaster recovery plan.
Studies show that 60% of businesses that experience catastrophic data loss will close within half a year. With managed hosting, you never have to worry about both aspects. With managed backup and disaster recovery, server monitoring and ransomware protection for your hosted systems and applications, you are guaranteed of 99.9% service availability despite any business disruption.
To maximize profits, you must minimize cost, a basic principle all businesses run on. The types of costs that are inherent in on-premise hosting did not give a proper overview of how insidious these costs are. Other than the obvious hardware purchase and maintenance cost, there’s also:
- Backups and their management
- Disaster recovery planning
- Software licensing
- Heating and cooling costs
- Fire suppression
- Power setup and other redundant sources of power
- Staffing costs
This does not factor in the non-monetary costs incurred in case any of these systems fail. They include;
- Productivity costs
- Customer loss
- Reputation damage
- Shareholder value impact
With managed hosting, what do you pay? A monthly fee. That’s it. No catch, no hidden costs. Moreover, one cannot put a price on the peace of mind that managed hosting solutions inevitably bring.
The COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year disrupted many systems that we took for granted before. Luckily as humans, we are nothing if not adaptable and resilient. Business decision makers all over the world have implemented strategies that have allowed us settled into what is now termed as “the new normal.” However, curfews and social distancing regulations continue to be upheld which forces decision makers to consider other factors that will affect work from home policies for the long term.
Individuals are strongly encouraged to work from home in service of social distancing and thus all business operations that can be conducted remotely, should be. Supporting remote employees includes different software/applications and requirements such as remote support tools, VPN clients, bandwidth and a stable internet connection.
When looking for a remote support tool for your business, wondering if you should go cloud, or purchase an on premise (or self-hosted) remote desktop solution. In fact, it all depends on a variety of factors, including the size of your organization, its security guidelines, software integration policies, etc.
Most cloud-based remote desktop tools (or SaaS tools) can be purchased on a subscription basis and are very easy to setup and use due to their browser-based connection process. Such tools can meet the needs of one-man businesses, SMBs, and some larger companies as well.
Self-hosted remote desktop products, on the other hand, require far more configuration and IT knowledge. With that, they tend to be much more expensive and cater mainly to the budgets of the majority of larger companies and corporations.
When to choose a cloud-based remote support tool
In other words, cloud-based remote desktop software is for you if:
- You don’t have a large IT budget to spend on additional hardware.
- You want to be able to connect to a remote computer anytime, anywhere, and you have no need to be bound by strict security protocols.
- You’re operating a one-man tech support business or a small IT department in a medium-sized company and don’t have the necessary resources for deploying and maintaining a self-hosted solution.
Advantages of cloud-based remote support tools over on premise/self-hosted
In general, they are easier to set up, use, and pay for than self-hosted remote support software. Here are five key advantages of SaaS tools over on-premise solutions:
- Cloud-based tools are much more intuitive and require less IT knowledge to operate and configure.
- SaaS remote desktop products can be purchased on a subscription basis, instead of the much more substantial lifetime cost of hosting your own software on premise. This means you can simply choose to terminate your subscription instead of being out the full cost of a self-hosted solution. Besides that, on-premise remote support software may also require recurring maintenance and hosting costs.
- When purchasing a cloud-based solution, you also receive product support directly from the software vendor. Such third party support is often unavailable for self-hosted products.
- Cloud-based computing is secure – it protects client information without all of the liability being held on the company. While you may initially think that having physical servers inside of your office might be the safest route for remote connectivity, this is not necessarily true.
Remote desktop software is protected by multiple layers of encryption similar to that of online banking transactions, so cloud-based computing is, in fact, very secure and reliable. Also, all you need to access the cloud is the Internet, which means that virtually any device that has an Internet connection can be used to initiate a remote connection.
5. If you incur a power outage at your company or experience an unexpected server interruption, your self-hosted remote access solution would inevitably go down as well, which could be very costly for the company’s business operations.
6. Since SaaS tools are browser-based, computers and data can be accessed, used, or updated at the speed of your connection.
7. Another advantage that comes from the browser-based nature of cloud computing is flexibility. Your remote computers are accessible from essentially any device that has internet access.
As people work from home, organizations are coming face to face with a couple of issues e.g. are remote workers able to securely access critical applications away from the office? Are the connections secure? If not, why? Etc. These issues are either aggravated or solved by your choice on where to host critical systems and applications.
Since cloud computing was established with remote connectivity as one of its core functionalities, it solves challenges that most business with on premise systems experience such as unstable remote connections, increased consumption of bandwidth, system crashes that are common when the number of connected users overwhelms your systems.
To butcher a famous Orwellian quote, all applications are equal, but some are more equal than others. Ultimately, your server solution will determine how easy or hard it is to access these applications remotely using virtual private connections. And in this case, the how is as important as the what: the means your workers use to connect to these applications must be as secure as the applications themselves, otherwise you risk a security breach of devastating potential.
Having laid out the argument on on-premise system management vs. cloud management in light of the new business normal, we hope that as a decision maker, you are now more equipped to select the best solution for your organization.
Cloud management, more specifically, managed cloud server hosting services simplify IT complexities, increases performance and productivity of both systems and employees, reduces IT budgets, offers advanced security, supports remote workers and guarantees recovery in the event of disaster.