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December 19, 2013

Cloud vs. Dedicated: Which Is Right for You?

Cloud computing is growing at a substantial rate, which has accelerated in the past couple of years. It’s no wonder why companies already looking to outsource their IT are finding themselves debating whether they should go with dedicated servers or move their applications & workloads to the cloud, or maybe a combination of both. Both cloud and virtualized dedicated servers have their pros and cons, but how do you decide which is right for your company?

We put together a simple comparison between the two in order to help you and your company assess and determine the option that makes the most sense for your applications and storage purposes.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is still a fairly new concept and in some cases, still a foreign concept to some companies. But nonetheless, it is predicted by some experts to potentially become the sole solution of data storage and hosting in the future.  Whether this is true or not is up for debate. With cloud computing, the physical server is virtualized and can produce many instances of virtual servers, making one server into many. Users access pools of compute resources via a web-based portal and can easily scale resources up or down as needed. The cloud user only pays for the resources they use.

Dedicated Servers

This is the traditional way of hosting and follows a simple protocol in which a user buys or leases a server from a provider and pays for that server’s full complement of resources, regardless of how much is utilized.  So, the user has some fixed maximum amount of dedicated compute resources available to them. Server management responsibilities can reside with the user or the hosting service provider, depending upon the individual user’s requirements. Additional services can be added, such as top-notch security and networking, which are found within state-of-the-art data center facilities.

Let’s compare some differences of key factors when assessing the two options.

Cost Differences

Dedicated servers can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month, depending on the component resources required to address the user’s needs.  These monthly fees are incurred regardless of whether or not all of the resources are used. With cloud, on the other hand, you are charged for the amount of computing resources and storage you use when you use it – a pay-as-you-go model. Unlike dedicated servers, cloud services usually do not have a cap. Whether it is compute, data store cost or data transfer cost, a user is charged only for what they use in the cloud. Both options can sometimes cost a similar amount, depending on needs.

Performance Differences

With cloud, it’s very easy to scale and resize the virtual server resource, which gives the user the ability to quickly add/remove RAM, CPU, and hard drive space that is customized to the application.  Cloud servers may, however, have performance and resource limitations when it comes to disk read/write compared to that of a dedicated server.

Dedicated servers are comparable to that of their cloud counterpart. However, the ability to scale resources is directly correlated to the resources available on the physical hardware. To scale out your applications and services with additional resources often requires additional hardware. This may also require load balancers, switches, network configuration, advanced server configuration, routers, etc., which can be costly and for which implementation can be complex and time consuming. On the other hand, if you have a scenario in which workloads and utilization are relatively constant or require permanent resources, it may be more beneficial and cost-effective to stick with a dedicated server, as the resources of a physical server will be more ideal to handle this type of load.

The advantages of easily scaling your resources with a cloud server should be an important consideration when planning out your hosting needs. In fact, it may be most effective to utilize dedicated resources for your constant workloads and engage cloud resources during peak periods or for test and development cycles. This is known as a ‘hybrid’ solution and can provide the best of both worlds.

Reliability Differences

Reliability is wholly dependent on the resources used and their redundancy to run your applications and workloads. Should one of your cloud servers fail, it is usually easy and fast to rapidly spin up a new cloud server instance and continue running your workloads off of the same data store. Little time is lost, and the added cost is minimal to resume and keep your business running.

With dedicated servers, redundant servers and software, as well as network connectivity, can add significant cost to your solution. The server either needs to have a duplicate running elsewhere or the server needs to be repaired or replaced before your site or app can get up and running again. Either way, having a good disaster recovery plan in place can help save time and money.

Whether you choose to go with dedicated or cloud, your service is only as good as your service provider. At QTS, we offer secure cloud computing services and managed hosting solutions customized to fit your business needs. Check out our website for more information.
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