On-site vs. the cloud: is the cloud really king?
Choosing between on-site and cloud infrastructure requires an in-depth analysis of your business requirements and plans for the future. The cloud seems to be king these days but, apparently, this particular king is not gracious to all across the kingdom.
So today, we’re going to learn the difference between on-site vs. cloud environments, see the benefits and drawbacks that they each possess, and then try to answer the most important question: which kind of infrastructure is better for your organisation?
What is the difference between on-site vs. cloud computing?
There are three fundamental differences between cloud and on-site software:
- where it is hosted,
- how much it costs,
- how it’s handled.
On-site services reside locally, on the servers owned by your business. Cloud software, on the other hand, is hosted on third-party data centres and accessed via secure connections.
The other two differences are included in the benefits and drawbacks of each solution, which are discussed below.
Benefits and drawbacks of on-site vs. cloud computing
Just like nearly everything else in the world — both on-site and cloud computing have their pros and cons, and even diehard fans of one or the other cannot overlook their limitations. However, as you’ll soon find out in just a few minutes, cloud solutions seem to work best in the vast majority of cases.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) TCO might be lower overall, since you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for your user licences. Initial investments, however, are way higher at first since you have to make some purchases upfront in order to build and support an entire infrastructure from scratch, though the cost of utilising it is relatively low.
- Increased security for extra sensitive data You don’t share any information with a vendor, so all your data remains safe within your own secured system.
- Total control Everything is yours, so you decide whether to introduce any changes or make upgrades. Also, you can configure the environment precisely in accordance with your needs.
- Higher capital expenditure (CapEx) – you need to literally acquire and maintain physical infrastructure, which is pretty costly, especially during the building phase of the process and also whenever you need to make any upgrades.
- Power and facility challenges – with great control comes great challenges to manage — with power and facility problems at the helm. This can be very resource-consuming (in terms of costs, time and human resources).
- Takes longer to implement – with an on-site environment, not only do you need to make installations on all your servers, but on each individual device as well.
- Difficult to host globally – scaling up your projects may be very ineffective and costly when they depend solely on on-site infrastructure. Buying additional hardware is one thing, but storing and maintaining it is a different (and super challenging) story.
- You are responsible for regular maintenance – maintaining hardware, software and services, storage, backups, disaster recovery — all of these things require a lot of technical resources.
- Accessibility – you can access your services anywhere, anytime, and from any device. All you need is an Internet connection.
- Scalability – you can scale up whenever necessary, and pay for the resources as you go. You can easily add services or decide not to use them.
- Automation – with high levels of automation, data storage and the deployment of each component become much more simplified and faster.
- Ease of starting – there are no significant costs that you have to bear upfront. You select a cloud services provider and start using their infrastructure, for which you will pay a monthly fee (there are many subscription plans to choose from).
- Maintenance-free IT – your cloud service provider takes care of maintenance for both software and hardware, as well as upgrades and compatibility.
- Speedy deployment – the installations happen in the cloud only, so you don’t need to deal with this on each device, separately.
- No energy bills for servers – no physical, on-site servers — no need to power on. Therefore, your corporate energy bills will be significantly lower.
- Costly when not optimised – the cloud is flexible and usually cost-effective, but only when optimised properly — otherwise it can easily consume more resources than necessary.
- Less customisable – you can usually configure the environment as you want but, of course, within certain boundaries, which varies between different providers. In some cases, the services that are offered may not be able to handle very complex development.
- Requires less, though more knowledgeable, staff – you will need to hire either experienced cloud experts or an IT partner that can help you fully leverage your cloud services.
Which is better for your business?
There’s no simple answer to this question and no single solution that suits everyone. The cloud vs. on-site infrastructure decisions should always be based on specific business requirements.
Before you make up your mind, here are a few things that you need to consider:
- Do you have what it takes to ensure data security?
- Do you have space for your own data centre?
- Do you have enough technical competence within your teams to handle the selected option?
- Did you estimate your potential ROI?
- Can you afford to build an on-site solution?
- Do you want to always stay up-to-date with the latest technology updates?
- Do you have a highly reliable network connection?
- Is your data legally allowed to be stored in the cloud?
The answers to these questions will help you make the optimal decision for you.
For sure, cloud computing is king — especially if you want to be able to scale quickly. You should definitely go for this option if you don’t want to invest in building your own infrastructure, or if your goal is to achieve greater agility, less upfront costs and get a relatively fast return on investment without the need to hire a lot of new people or a large external team of specialists.
Of course, having a local environment also has its advantages in certain cases. For example, whenever you need to store your data in an on-site server only, or if you need a very specific, customised environment. However, these days we’ve been noticing shifts from totally on-site solutions to hybrid cloud, which combines the advantages of both cloud and local environments, making this a mighty option with endless possibilities.