By PowerBuy // 18 March 2015 // Related Categories: Tips

Over the past 10 years, an increasing number of businesses have abandoned their physical IT systems and migrated to the cloud. Amazon Web Services, VMware, Microsoft Azure – it’s impossible not to have heard of the larger cloud providers, if not the thousands of smaller cloud services available. However, many companies continue to use traditional file servers.

Let’s get physical

File servers have been around for longer than desktop computers and their basic function has remained more or less the same. Traditional servers allow you to keep all your files in one location over which you have exclusive control. You may have read the stories of electronic surveillance by hackers and even overseas authorities. With an on-site server you don’t have any of the data sovereignty, privacy or compliance concerns that you might have with cloud services hosted in other jurisdictions. In addition, you can customise the server to fit your business’s unique needs.

Do traditional servers still serve a purpose?

There are three major disadvantages to traditional file servers and they are largely responsible for driving businesses to the cloud. First, file servers can be vulnerable to physical threats such as fires, floods and other natural disasters. Colocation – where your server is moved to a dedicated data centre – can reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the risk of irretrievable data loss. Second, file servers tend to be more costly to replace or upgrade compared to equivalent cloud services. Finally, you must pay for your server 24/7, even if its maximum capacity is only required during infrequent peak periods.

Entering the virtual world

Cloud-based solutions promise improved sharing capabilities and affordable performance –though this often comes at the price of reduced control for IT personnel. On the other hand, cloud storage frees your team from having to worry about ageing IT infrastructure, costly maintenance, and the need to constantly acquire new resources. Importantly, many cloud solutions offer scalability – the ability to quickly add resources like disk space when required. As a result, you pay only for the resources that you use day-to-day. This means cloud solutions tend to be more affordable in the long term.

Every silver lining has a cloud

As cloud providers have attracted new businesses, they have been increasingly targeted by malicious cyber-criminals. In most cases, this has led cloud providers to become meticulous when implementing security measures. However, large-scale attacks have been known to cause service outages and, in some rare cases, data theft. Some IT professionals may also be put off by the unfamiliar processes that underpin cloud solutions – a case of ‘better the development platform you know’. Finally, the benefits of the cloud can only be enjoyed by those with a fast and reliable internet connection – and for some smaller or remote businesses, this is not a given.

Where to from here?

Ultimately, the best solution for your business will depend on its unique needs and objectives. An on-site file server might be the best and cost-effective solution for your needs. Or you might decide to move to the cloud. If so, just remember that not all clouds are the same – and in particular there’s a difference between ‘hosted’ and ‘cloud’. For example, if a hosted storage service doesn’t allow you to quickly add disk space, that’s not cloud. A true cloud service will scale as your business grows.

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