Which is better: on-premise or cloud hosting for your IT infrastructure?

Which one of these associations has an IT staff who uses their time effectively to help the association achieve its goals?

  • At association #1 where the IT team spends most of their day patching software and troubleshooting server issues.
  • Or, at association #2 where the IT team spends their time helping staff select a new learning management system and interpret website analytics.

Unless you’re a never-gonna-give-you-up SysAdmin, I bet you chose association #2.

Why are these IT teams so different?

  • At association #1, the network infrastructure is on 8 servers located in a server room on-premise and managed by the IT department. 
  • At association #2, the infrastructure is hosted, managed, and maintained by the staff of a private cloud hosting provider. 

The “cloud” is a term that’s thrown around as if everyone really understands what it means. We talk about using the cloud to check our email, schedule Tweets, upload photos, and share files. But what is it?

The cloud is a network of servers we access via the Internet. However, the cloud is not up in sky the ether; it’s physically housed in a well-secured data center (or two).

Understanding the difference between on-premise and cloud hosting

Traditionally, organizations housed their infrastructure on-premise in servers located down the hall in the server room. With the cloud, organizations outsource their infrastructure to a data center. Applications and data are delivered to desktops via the Internet. Goodbye servers.

SaaS, IaaS, and NaaS

When you start investigating the cloud, you’ll also frequently see these abbreviations. 

  • You probably already use Software as a Service (SaaS). Social media platforms, association management systems, content management systems, and email marketing software are examples of SaaS.
  • Amazon Web Services is an example of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). In these public clouds, companies rent and share infrastructure with other tenants. Tenants upload their own applications, and must still take care of infrastructure management, maintenance, and security themselves. 
  • A private cloud, like our Cloud Connection, is a Network as a Service (NaaS). Clients outsource the management, maintenance, and security of their IT infrastructure to the cloud provider. 

What are the big differences between on-premise and cloud hosting?

The example that association #2 demonstrates has mission-critical impact: when someone else is managing your infrastructure, staff no longer has to spend time purchasing, maintaining, and repairing servers and dealing with licenses, installations, upgrades, patching, and preventive measures. Instead, IT staff can use their expertise to help the association leverage technology to serve its members and meet its goals.

Too often, expensive servers are not used to capacity, which is why server rooms are crammed full with stacks of them. With cloud hosting, you have on-demand scalability, meaning you only use and pay for what you need. If you need more computing power during your trade show season, you get it when you need it. You don’t have to buy extra servers just to have them sit idle the rest of the year, and you can be sure that when you have high demand, you can handle it. Because you’re paying as you go, expenses are shifted from capital budget lines to operational budget lines.

Contrary to the perception given by the media, more security breaches happen at on-premise sites than at cloud hosting providers – you just don’t hear about them. Cloud hosting facilities also have environmental controls that protect hardware against heat, fire, water, and other physical threats. 

Cloud hosting is more reliable because redundancy is built in. Data is replicated, and if one server goes down for some reason, another one takes over. Many, but not all, cloud hosts also provide geographic redundancy, so if one data center is having outage issues, another data center located far away takes over. Don’t be shy about asking a cloud vendor about their “uptime” – ours is 99.999%. 

The most noticeable difference between on-premise and cloud infrastructure hosting is one your staff will appreciate. With a network in the cloud, they can securely access software and applications from anywhere.

Later this week, I’ll explain the differences between public and private cloud hosting solutions, and discuss considerations to make before moving to the cloud, and suggest some questions to ask a prospective cloud hosting provider. If you have questions about the cloud, come to my session –The Three P’s of Cloud Computing, Wednesday, December 4, 11:00-12:00 – at the ASAE Technology Conference or visit us in booth 501.