There's still a role for small business servers

Yes, cloud-based options are great, but office servers can still be your best business choice.

I'm a cloud expert. No, really! Onalytica lists me in its 2022 Who's Who in Cloud. But that doesn't mean I always recommend the cloud for every business. Sometimes, servers in your office make the most sense.

When? Here's my checklist for when to turn to local servers instead of the cloud.


The big promise of the cloud was always that it would save you money.

But it's never that simple for all the talk of the cloud's operational expenses (OPEX) inherent advantage over in-house capital expenses (CAPEX).

To realize those savings, you must know exactly what you're doing and need the cloud's ability to quickly and easily provision computing power.

Cloud costs are more complicated than they first look.

Sure, a public cloud can start off cheap, but the monthly bill jumps as you put more of a workload on those virtual machines (VM) and container instances. True, a cloud offers much-needed flexibility if you're a startup with a growing workload or one that varies significantly.

But it's a different story if you have a steady, predictable workflow, 

Cloud pricing can also become extremely complex.

I find nothing surprising in Flexera's 2021 State of the Cloud report, which found in its survey that "respondents self-estimate that their organizations waste about 30% of their cloud spend."

Is that all? I'm sure it's more. Some businesses, such as Apptio, Flexera, and ServiceNow, offer services to lower your cloud subscription costs.

They wouldn't exist unless there was a real and pressing need for their offerings.

There's also always the temptation to over-provision your cloud. If you decided to run things locally, you probably bought the most firepower you could get.

You knew you would live with a server for at least three years and wanted to be ready for increased demand.

That same attitude doesn't work with the cloud.

You should get what you need for your current workloads. When you need more, you'll need to learn how to efficiently use auto-scaling, bin packing, right-sizing, and resource scheduling.

All of these are difficult to master.

If, on the other hand, you buy some servers, you, well, own them. So you won't need to pay a monthly fee. Once they're paid off, you can use that server until it goes castors up.

Managing them is also, comparatively speaking, easier.


In-house IT help isn't cheap, but then neither is cloud support. Yes, all the major public cloud providers offer free cloud support tiers, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. 

A related issue involves control. With local hardware, you control the horizontal, and you control the vertical. So yes, you can control much of what happens on your cloud instances, but you have even more control over your local hardware and software.

Preserve in-house apps

If you have legacy applications running on-premises — and who doesn't? — you won't have to worry about porting them to the cloud.

As anyone who's ever tried to move a program to the cloud knows, it's never easy.

Whether you're trying to lift and shift or refactor your application, it takes time and effort.

And, yes, money.


Does your work require a lot of bandwidth?

If, say, you're running a video production shop, the time needed to move a scene back and forth from a cloud-based server can throttle your production.

For example, suppose you're using Pixar RenderMan in-house to produce photorealistic 3D videos for your forthcoming game; you can move data at up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) on your production LAN.

Sure, you can pay for an Internet connection to deliver that speed, but they don't come cheap.


Most cloud providers have gotten much better about data privacy, but what's more private than having all of your data located on-premises?

Oh, sure, storing sensitive data locally has problems too, but at least you'll know where to look if your customer data goes missing.

And you'll have your own backups if that does happen. Right!?

What will work best for you depends on the above factors and more.

But the point I'm really trying to convey is that just because seemingly everyone is using the cloud, you don't have to.

Indeed, for many small businesses, local servers still make a lot of sense.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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