Onsite Servers: Are they still the right solution for your business?

By Luke Smits - Founder & Operations Manager
Onsite Servers: Are they still the right solution for your business?

In recent years there’s been a massive push towards the cloud, with many businesses taking advantage of the convenience of accessing your data from anywhere.

So why might your business still need an onsite server?

Depending on your situation and your industry, your business might find there’s actually still a good reason to have an onsite server. Sometimes, there’s more than one reason. 

It might make sense to run your IT infrastructure entirely on-premises or even with a mix of on-premises and cloud technologies.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different setups your business can consider when it comes to onsite servers, so you can decide whether an onsite server is still the right solution for you.

Scenario 1 - Traditional On-Premise & Cloud Mix

Perfect for: Manufacturing Industry and other businesses running specialised systems that are required to control local machinery with the need to access large CAD files.

How does the Traditional On-Premise & Cloud Mix work?

If you’re in this situation, then going fully cloud based is difficult, if not impossible.

Manufacturers have requirements to run machinery such as laser cutters, CNC machines, brake presses.

The computers need to talk to the machines to tell them what to do and store design files – usually on a local server. Trying to remove all local technology infrastructure and be purely cloud based is not really viable.

So, a mix of cloud and on-premise storage is perfect, because having a loyal server to store design files and control machinery makes sense.

You can also have your email, accounting and general admin documents cloud based, so that if your power or internet fails you can still access this information and it won’t cripple your business.

What to consider with a Traditional On-Premise & Cloud Mix Solution.

If you’re looking at this scenario, you should ensure that you have both local and offsite copies of your data.

Ideally, you’ll want to be running in a virtual environment (VE) so if a single server fails, the VE can be run up on other hardware, or on a Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery (BCDR) device. This is basically a box that holds a copy of the server VE that’s synchronised a few times a day, so should the server hardware fail, the BCDR box can run the VE at a reduced pace until the main infrastructure can be repaired and bought back on-line.

Scenario 2 - Hybrid Environment

Perfect for: Recruitment and other service-based businesses running 15 offices in 7 states and territories, mostly using Microsoft Office Suite, email and shared files.

How does a Hybrid Environment work?

If you run a business mostly on Microsoft Office Suite and have multiple office sites across multiple state of Australia, then you can scale up scenario #1 and run what’s known as a true Hybrid environment.
This simply means that there are on-premise servers and hardware that mix and talk with cloud servers, usually across multiple sites.

Typically, there is a head office where the bulk of the on-premises server infrastructure sits. This is the core of the businesses I.T., but unlike the more traditional model in scenario 1, if there’s hardware problems at the main site, there are offsite virtual environments (VE) that users can login into to continue working. 

The on-premises and cloud servers constantly synchronise and not just your files. They also synchronise things like user permissions and controls, shared files and local workstations that might control local machinery, like in the manufacturing example above. This means it can continue to function and when the on-premise hardware comes back online, it once again becomes the primary infrastructure.

What to consider with a Hybrid Solution.

The advantage of this model is that there is no single point of failure. 

Multiple sites can talk to each other as though they were all in the same building, even when they’re not. 

Plus, the cloud infrastructure can be scaled up and down on an as-needed basis. So, if suddenly the business needs an extra 50 people for a short-term project, they can "rent" this cloud processing and storage power and then once the project is finished move the rent back to where it was originally.

You can read more about the advantages of a Hybrid Environment and whether it’s right for your business here. 

Scenario 3 - Purely On-Premises

Perfect for: Aged care providers and other businesses who are largely located on a single site, with staff distributed through the state working from home or their cars.

How does the Purely On-Premise Hardware Solution work?

Making a case for purely on-premises hardware is difficult and increasingly rare. However, in some situations it can make sense.

In some situations, purchasing your own hardware and software licensing, instead of investing in the convenience of a subscription-based cloud model, will end up cheaper over the course of 5 – 10 years. But to achieve this, you’re going to need to carefully manage and plan your solution.

What to consider with an Onsite Server Only Solution.

In a purely on-premises scenario, you need to think about what happens if: 

  • your primary server fails
  • the power goes down, or
  • the internet connection fails. 

Two out of three of these issues are relatively easy to overcome.
You can have a spare internet link. This can be a commercial grade fibre link as your primary connection, with an NBN failover. Or you can have NBN with a 4 or 5G as your backup plan.

If your primary server fails, you can have a spare server (or two) available and a distributed virtual environment (VE) split across various hardware, so that if one server fails, the others pick up where it left off.

But power? It’s not easy to solve for, and it’s not cheap. Having a generator on stand-by to power enough equipment to make it worthwhile is pretty cost prohibitive.

However – as a business owner, if you can say that a power outage for 24 – 48 hours wouldn’t hurt your business (that is, you could still function and not be hurt too badly financially) then an onsite server only solution might make sense for your business.

The other downside is the risk.

With an onsite server only technology solution, the risk to your business is greater.

Your reliance on your I.T. team is also higher. These people along with excellent planning will be key to keeping your business I.T. systems stable.
And, in the case of an I.T. disaster, they will be key to getting you back up and running as soon as possible.

Should your business consider an onsite server solution?

As you’ll see from this article, every business and its I.T. needs will be different.

Distributed risk is preferable. A system that can run across both cloud and an onsite server will give your business maximum security and efficiency. But for some businesses, the hybrid or purely on-premise solutions might make sense.

The best people to help you make a decision about the data storage solution that’s right for you are your technology partners and talking to them should be the first step.

If you need a trusted I.T. partner to help you implement the right solution for your business, the P1 Technology team are here to help. With years of experience in implementing the right I.T. solution for businesses throughout Australia, we will work with you to uncover the unique technology needs of your business and its people to deliver a dynamic technology solution.

Get in touch with us today to book your complimentary I.T. assessment to see how we can get your technology working harder for you.

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