There’s no real answer to the question - is cloud hosting better than on-premise? It’s more a question of what you need, and which solution is best suited to your business needs. In many cases, the best of both worlds is the answer via a hybrid IT solution, but one thing is clear, and that’s the importance of weighing up the pros and cons of each solution and asking the right questions of your potential cloud providers.
So how do the two types of infrastructure differ, and what do you need to know?
Well with cloud hosting, instead of data being hosted on physical hardware that's solely used by you, it sits in a shared, virtualised environment that's owned and managed by your cloud hosting provider. Your provider handles the management, patches, updates and security. With an on-premise infrastructure however, resources are deployed in-house within a business’s IT infrastructure. The business retains all its data and is fully in control of what happens to it. It’s installed on a company’s own servers behind its firewall.
Depending on your industry and any potential governing bodies, you may find that on-premise works best so that you can maintain complete control and responsibility, as well as guaranteeing failover destinations. Some cloud companies will have contingencies in place which could see your data fail over to a data centre in the EU or beyond, so if your data needs to remain in the UK by law, you might want to consider on-premise, or using an independent data centre provider via a private cloud solution.
Security is always a huge bone of contention when it comes to cloud vs on-prem and is sometimes a barrier to firms looking to move to the cloud. If your business handles extra sensitive data such as government, finance, medical or legal, you could be bound by particular legislation that makes a move to the cloud more tricky. But that doesn’t necessarily rule out a cloud hosting environment. You just need to be sure that you’re asking the right questions of your cloud provider to ensure that all of your requirements are being met. Where is the data kept? Where does it failover to? (if anywhere). What physical security processes are in place at the data centre/s? Who has access to your servers? And private cloud should definitely be top of your list in these circumstances.
Our free whitepaper - 10 questions you should be asking your cloud provider - available here; will tell you more about what you should be finding out before you commit to a decision.
Ultimately, cloud hosting should still be incredibly secure - assuming you choose a good provider - and can offer businesses increased flexibility and scalability compared to an on-premise solution. Each customer’s data and applications remain hidden and completely segregated from other customers for security.
Flexibility is another consideration. Cloud servers allow you to scale resources up or down - quickly, depending on demand, so that you're not paying for unnecessary infrastructure costs when demand is low. It enables businesses to spin up servers in a matter of seconds, optimising IT performance without the capital costs of setting up a dedicated environment, meaning that it’s often best suited for businesses with variable demands and workloads. This sort of scaling can be more time consuming and costly with a traditional on-premise infrastructure.
Speaking of cost, companies that deploy software on premise are responsible for the ongoing costs of the server hardware, power consumption, cooling and space. With cloud, you only pay for the exact amount of server space used and you benefit from economies of scale by sharing hardware with other customers. This can be a better option for businesses looking to convert their IT spend into a running cost, and avoid the necessary spikes in capital costs that come with server replacements or extended warranties.
Further reading around moving to a hosted environment is available on our website via a range of free downloads including cloud hosting guides for start ups, IaaS migration and data centre security checklists. You can find all of these documents here.