Monday, July 5, 2010

Reasons to keep your servers out of the Cloud

I just read about a service "Doyenz ShadowCloud" that talks about taking a virtual copy of your onsite Windows Small Business Server each day and putting it in the "cloud." From there you can use it as a backup in case your server goes down. It looks like you might just be able to run from it in the cloud also.

While services like this are becoming more popular I reserve my judgment as to whether they're really a good idea or not for anything but the backup. I think it's a good idea to have a backup and even to having a backup server hosted offsite you could use temporarily. But as to whether you'd want to use one as your primary server or not I just don't think so... at least not yet.

There will always be a blend of onsite and offsite IT services for my clients. As internet access to offsite services gets better, clients will use more and more of them. But, at least for now, I can think of a lot of good reasons to KEEP YOUR SERVERS.

Here they are:
1. Performance - accessing your data over a remote connection is just SLOWER. There are expensive technologies that promise to accelerate access to applications hosted remotely, but they're really out of reach for small businesses for the most part.
2. Ease of Use - when you connect to a remotely hosted service often you need to start a VPN. A VPN is an encrypted data connection between your computer and the server. This is necessary so that your data isn't easily available to everyone on the internet and ensures that only those that should have access are able to connect to your server. The downside is that A. You have to "connect" the VPN by clicking a button and typing in a username and password; and B. Your data is encrypted and decrypted at each end... causing a delay in accessing your data and making for a slower user experience (see #1, above).
3. Control/security - if you have a server in your office you can put it in a locked room or closet and know that the only way someone can get to it (physically) is if they open that door. While we are told that hosted systems in the cloud have big datacenter security, you generally don't know who is accessing your system and you may not even really know where it is. Theoretically it's unnecessary to know where your stuff is, but I'm a little old fashioned in that way I guess. I'd at least like a COPY of my stuff just in case something happens to that datacenter I've never actually visited in person.
4. Flexibility - when you put your systems in the cloud you generally lose the ability to customize the software on them. You also lose some physical things like the ability to hook up a hardware access/license key dongle if you have an application that requires one.

So, there are lots of reasons to keep your servers. In most cases, I'm going to recommend that my clients don't move 100% in to the cloud. It's just not ready. But, in some very specific instances it makes a lot of sense. And having some of your services in the cloud now is all but inevitable.

Next time I'll talk about when I *do* recommend businesses move to the cloud and for what parts of their Information Technology.
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