28/03/2012

By Neil Lathwood

Migrating to the cloud has been pegged as a beacon of hope for businesses but too many MDs are finding themselves making uninformed choices. It is essential to know the differences between dedicated and cloud hosting, as they can have a direct impact on reducing business expenditure and operational costs. Let’s briefly review the advantages and disadvantages of various features.

Dedicated hosts essentially offer private servers to companies that are often able choose the hardware, operating system, programs, and other technical capabilities. If a company lacks the resources of an internal IT department or prefers to outsource the management, a hosting provider often takes on this responsibility. Companies that facilitate dedicated hosting often have a minimum contract requirement of six months to a year.

The primary benefit of employing dedicated hosting is the capability of micromanagement. Dedicated hosting is more flexible than its cheaper counterpart, shared hosting. Dedicated hosting has long been the traditional choice in computing resources for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Today, it still flourishes in many existing business models and will continue to be a better option than migrating to the cloud. The requirements, level of activity, and demand in a business will dictate whether a dedicated server is ideal.

In a cloud hosting environment, a business draws from the same pool of computing resources that the cloud resides. A cloud server runs on a hypervisor, which is also known as a virtual machine manager. This hypervisor is a software program that virtualises the physical hardware, making single servers act as if they are dozens of servers with individual operating systems on each server.

A cloud environment has the potential to be larger than a dedicated server environment. The potential of the cloud environment rests solely on the host's resources and capabilities. Most organisations that lease cloud hosting to businesses employ the pay-as-you-go billing model. The costs can be variable depending on a business's computing requirements.

The strong points of cloud hosting are scalability, redundancy and availability. Availability is a powerful entity; it can make or break a business. Availability ensures that end-users have constant access to a business's services, products, or applications. And as we know, the more availability a business has for its consumers, the more capacity it has to market to prospects and potential consumers.

Having increased availability ensures that a business can obtain traffic from marketing channels and if they know when they need the most capacity, cloud computing can facilitate this. Businesses have gone into administration after losing their availability to the public. An hour of downtime can cost thousands, perhaps millions of pounds.

Redundancy is about minimising downtime. A business or IT department that employs redundancy protocols is placing an identical or similar backup computer resource into the loop. Dedicated hosting environments may employ redundancy in servers or power generators to ensure minimal downtime for leasers. For a financial business, redundancy ensures a constant flow of transactional operations.

Redundancy on cloud differs greatly. The company that hosts the cloud maintains and secures the cloud operation. If a host server (virtual machine) fails, the cloud server will restart on a new host in as little as a few seconds after the failure. As opposed to with dedicated servers, business owners do not have to worry about applying new funds to repair or replace a downed server. So if the cloud is working perfectly, it wins everytime when it comes to redundancy.

A good business model needs scalability. Scalability enables businesses to grow with consumer demand. For example, a business might introduce a software program that becomes an instant success. The business could fail almost instantly if it does not have the computing resources that it needs to meet consumer demand. Scalability is simply the ability to scale the computing needs at a swift pace to meet transactional needs.

Dedicated servers can be scaled to any requirement, but upgrading the dedicated hardware may involve downtime and upfront costs. With cloud there is no need to un-rack, upgrade/repair, test, and re-rack servers in order to grow the solution. Scaling applications within a cloud imposes minimal downtime and can be done without limitation. On a cloud server, administrators can configure any upgrades and modifications through a virtual control panel via an internet connection.

So ultimately, cloud is proving valuable when it comes to availability, redundancy and scalability. These can all be obtained from a good cloud provider at a cheaper starting point than dedicated technology and with the room to scale and grow immediately.


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