WOOF! Newsletter

October 07, 2016

When it’s Time to Replace Servers: Should You Move to the Cloud?

When it's time to replace servers, which is better? Staying on-premise, or moving servers to the cloud? The answer depends on how your business operates, and what goals you have. In this month's WOOF! article we lay out criteria to help you make the choice.

So your servers have reached the end of their lifespan and need replacing.  But which replacement route should you take?  More on-premise servers, or is it time to move to the cloud?

That depends on your business needs and anticipated growth.  Let’s examine the criteria you’ll need to consider for on-premise servers vs. the cloud.

When to Use On-Premise Servers

For the past few years, IT publications have declared that “there’s no future in on-prem IT.”  However, there’s still a case to make for on-premise servers.  High security needs, for example.

These are the kind of criteria which would indicate on-premise servers are better for your business.

  1. Security is Paramount.  Need to safeguard your customer’s private data?  Or maybe you have important internal data (like R&D) you must protect?  Maintaining on-prem servers minimizes the chances for it to leak out of your network.

  2. Regulatory Requirements.  Some businesses are subject to specific regulatory requirements from the government (e.g., SOX and HIPAA).  In such cases, businesses must keep records for a certain period of time, or secure their processes according to federal guidelines.  For now, it’s easier to adhere to such regulations with on-prem servers.

  3. Latency.  If your business deals with lots of audio/video content, you’ll need low latency times to satisfy customers.  Low latency is much easier to maintain if you manage the network end-to-end.

  4. Low Bandwidth.  Does your office have enough bandwidth to support real-time communication with cloud servers?  If not, then stick with on-prem servers (or upgrade your bandwidth).

But what if your business has different priorities?

When to Consider the Cloud

The cloud today is much better than it was in 2010.  Or even in 2013.  More and more, businesses are starting out cloud-only.  Or switching to cloud services as they grow.

If you’re considering a cloud move, you only have a few major factors to consider.  Bandwidth, security, and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

  1. High Bandwidth.  Cloud communication is always-on.  Does your office have a high-bandwidth Internet connection?  If so, then your network can handle the cloud.

  2. Security.  Does your company have IP to protect?  Do you need to comply with SOX or HIPAA?  If yes, and the other factors work for you, then a private (not public) cloud solution will provide the security you need.

  3. TCO.  Between on-prem servers and cloud services, TCO is largely a consideration of CAPEX (Capital Expenses) vs. OPEX (Operating Expenses).

    1. CAPEX (On-Prem)
      • Up-front costs for server (hardware, configuration)
      • Software licensing costs

        Ongoing maintenance of your on-prem server will be an operating expense.

    2. OPEX (Public Cloud)
      • Cloud Signup fees (Initial)
      • Configuration (Initial)
      • Monthly fee (hosting, software subscription)
      • Hidden Costs (virtual firewalls, filtering, and other virtual services to protect your cloud real estate)

Which of these you favor depends on your budget and monthly expenses.  Call Accounting for the numbers.

Generally, we make three recommendations when it comes to cloud servers:

  • If you do want to move to the cloud, consider a private cloud first.  Public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services or Office 365 have plenty of potential, but they’re not as secure as a private cloud out of the gate (without adding additional services).

  • Always host new Exchange or SharePoint servers in the cloud.  It’s easier to secure Exchange & SharePoint in a cloud datacenter.  It’s also easier to access them from anywhere.

  • Host a duplicate of your Active Directory and file replication off-site.  This will preserve your crucial business data, in case you do have a crash & need to get normal operations back up quickly.

What about Office 365?

If you’re considering a move to the cloud, moving to Office 365 may make sense.  Office 365 can take over certain aspects of your IT infrastructure, which reduces the number of cloud services you’d need overall, and thus your monthly bills.

For instance, SharePoint Online avoids the need for a new SharePoint server.  However, this would only help if you already use older versions of Microsoft services (like SharePoint).

One bit of advice:  If you want to add on Unified Communications (e.g., Skype for Business), avoid the cloud offerings from Office 365.  They are not mature enough at this time.

Talk with your IT manager or consultant for more insight.

Your Data’s Safety is the Prime Factor

Never move to the cloud “because that’s what everyone is doing.”  It’s much more important to consider your present IT situation, as well as your future goals. 

Always include data privacy in those considerations.  Private clouds do a good job of protecting your information, but on-prem does a better job still.

Currently, deploying hybrid networks—a mix of on-prem security and cloud server accessibility—makes the most sense for business.

Considering a move to cloud servers?  Please send your concerns to woof@planetmagpie.com.