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Cloud Hosting and Dedicated Servers: What’s the Difference and What’s Right for You

Posted by QuoteColo on May 26, 2016 - Updated on June 18, 2016

For businesses today, data is crucial. It must be readily accessible at all times, but it must also be protected and safeguarded. Depending on your industry, you might also have regulations with which you must comply – HIPAA and PCI are two of the most common. That means your choice of hosting is a critical one. You need to ensure that you’re getting the best of all worlds. When it comes to hosting, you have a multitude of choices, but two of the most popular are cloud hosting and dedicated servers. Which is right for you, and how do they differ?

cloud hosting

Cloud Hosting

At this point, cloud hosting isn’t really “new”, but there are many decision makers who don’t really know what it’s all about. First, understand that it’s not as ephemeral as it sounds. There’s no magical place up in the sky where your data is protected and stored. The “cloud” is actually a lot like the Internet. It’s a collection of interconnected servers that allows flexibility, speed, uptime and redundancy.

With cloud hosting, you can access your business’ data from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection. And, if a server in the collection goes down, there’s no need to worry, because your information is spread out across more than one. The remaining servers ensure that your hosting stays in place. Because you don’t own or manage the hardware or software, you also have no worries about maintenance, upgrades, patching and all the rest of the common IT hassles.

Cloud hosting is also more affordable than dedicated hosting, and it’s immensely scalable. Need more RAM? Want more processing power? That’s not a problem (although it will come at an additional cost). Don’t confuse cloud hosting with a virtual private server, though. While both methods offer cost savings and many other similar benefits, they’re not identical. The most crucial thing to understand is that a VPS is on a single machine, and if the machine goes down, so does your hosting (and you have no access to your data). With cloud hosting, that’s not the case due to the load being spread across multiple servers, with no “main” home.

Dedicated Servers

Once upon a time, a dedicated server was THE way to go. Today, they’re one of many different options. A dedicated server can be located on your business’ premises, or it can be collocated at a data center. You can also lease servers from hosting providers. The result is pretty much the same in all instances. With a dedicated server, you have access to all the resources on the server. That means you don’t need to worry about paying more for additional storage space or RAM when your business grows. Of course, if your needs don’t match the server’s capabilities, then you’re essentially overpaying for something that you don’t need, which is money down the proverbial drain.

Dedicated servers also offer a direct connection, so they can provide better speeds, as well as better security for information. Finally, they allow you to have full and complete control over not only your data, but the hosting environment itself.

Of course, there are some drawbacks here. A dedicated server is definitely more expensive than cloud hosting. You also have to worry about hardware and software maintenance. You can pay a colocation provider or machine owner (in the case of a leased server) to handle these for you, but that increases the costs. There’s also the issue of uptime. If all your data is on a single machine, when that machine goes down, you won’t have access to your information.

A lot of this depends on the hosting provider you choose, as well. For instance, if you opt for a dedicated server with the right company, you’ll have access to 24/7 expert support for both hardware and software. You’ll also have dedicated firewalls and around the clock monitoring. Managed backup and recovery is another perk here (but like all other extras, it comes at an additional cost).

Which Is Right for You?

Server Model Main Advantages Best Suited For Pricing Model
Dedicated Server Raw computing performance. Physically isolated High load web applications. Monthly fixed cost.
Virtual Private Server Wide range of preconfigured servers. Cost effective. Predictable traffic websites. Monthly or hourly.
Cloud Server Advanced automated redundancy. Freely scalable servers. Almost anything. Hourly per use.

Deciding between a dedicated server and cloud hosting can be tough. There’s a lot of hype around both options. However, you can find your way to an accurate, informed decision.

For most small and mid-sized businesses, cloud hosting offers the right mix of scalability, security and cost savings. The ability to ramp up or down as your business’ needs change is undeniably beneficial, particularly for organizations that see a great deal of fluctuation, or are new enough that they cannot accurately predict their computing and storage requirements over the long term.

On the other hand, a dedicated server is likely to be a better choice for enterprise-level organizations, as well as those who use high load web applications and can predict their usage needs very accurately to prevent money from being wasted.

For the vast majority of businesses out there, the cloud is really the way to go due to its cost saving features and immense scalability. For those concerned about the perceived tradeoff in security between the cloud and a dedicated server (which is physically isolated, and thus more secure), work with a hosting provider who offers the type of certification you need (HIPAA, PCI, etc.). This ensures both compliance and protection, combined with the benefits of cloud hosting.

With that being said, organizations that manage large quantities of sensitive information (consumer health information, credit card information and the like), a dedicated server might not just be a wise choice, but the only option. They might be more expensive and less flexible, but there’s no denying the heightened security they offer.

Categories: Cloud

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