Outsourcing your server needs – is it the best choice?

IT managers have more options in managing their technology infrastructure than ever before. Hardware and software can be purchased, leased or even accessed on an as-needed basis. And software industry has evolved to the point that it can be either deployed on-site or accessed through third-party cloud services. Each of these options has their place.

As an IT manager, you’re either dealing with so many decisions and fires on a daily basis that it’s enough to pull out your hair. You have to make decisions between creating testing environments, processing power, virtual machines, OS and all at a very tight budget.

And eventually, you’re going to need more space.

This is true especially if you’re in a fast growing company with a huge development team. And your team needs it now.

To make the right decision, it really comes down to a question of wanting to rent or owning dedicated servers. There are pros and cons with either one of those options. To determine the best course of action for your company you’ll have to consider the following factors.

How much control do you want to have?

In terms of a dedicated server, the issue of control is really one of security. You want to insure that your company and your customer’s information will be locked away from the prying eyes of potential intruders and hackers. That holds true with any type of server situation. As much as any data center will promise you a high level of security there is always a risk when a 3rd party is involved especially with such sensitive information.
Buying a server puts you in complete control of all of that data. You will be 100% responsible for all the collected data and no one should be able to access that data without your permission. The downside of tighter security is that you’ll have to hire a team to manage your server and trust that they are up to the challenge. While it is true that you could still be the target of a hacking attack, you’ll be in the position to respond quickly.
Do you want to assume that extra level of responsibility? In a start-up with tight budgets, there may have to be a trade-off in cost versus security.

On the other hand, will you feel comfortable with the data center company of your choice or spend the nights worrying that someone is stealing your data?

A good option would be to divide your server needs according to business priority. If your servers are used for critical business functions that drive sales or require confidential information, it’s best that you bring the hardware in-house.

For non-critical functions such as testing environments or even development environments, you can outsource to data centers services to save costs. Fortunately, there a many reputable companies who have a long list of satisfied clients references for you to explore.

What are the costs of outsourcing data centers?

As far as the bottom line is concerned, when you amortize the cost of owning your own server systems versus using one from the data centers it might make more sense to buy. However, that is strictly from an equipment purchase perspective.

The actual costs of operating your own data center include power charges, data transfer, upgrades and a server management team. When you factor in all of those items into your budget equation it might make more sense for your company to find a company.

How adaptable is your hardware?

The key function of any type of server should be versatility – a single server that can handle multiple types of workloads. While some servers aren’t always suitable for intensive database systems, they can be perfect for business operations and even make good virtual machines.

You also need to consider memory support, process support and expansion slots. An entire post can be written on each of those topics, however, you’ll have to consider whether your needs will increase over time, and that you need to purchase or upgrade for the future.

You don’t want to have your web business stuck behind the technological curve.

A third-party service may allow you to expand on an as-needed basis – saving on time and resources when you run out of performance or space. Of course, you can also predict your budget and requirements much easier (and in some companies, a predictable budget is more important than performance).

Data centers constantly upgrade and improve their servers in order to offer their clients the best experience. You can incorporate those same upgrades to your own servers, but you’ll be accruing the costs.

How easy will your servers be to use?

Even for small data centers, the need for servers has increased. If you’re looking at creating an internal data center, managing the hardware is sometimes more important than installation or setup concerns. IT planners should consider the system’s manageability features versus cost. If it requires more resources to manage, then it’s best to look at outsourced services as you’d want to keep costs low.

With owning, you’re responsible for up-time and maintenance. You also have more flexibility in setting up the server according to your needs.

In outsourcing server technology from third-party data centers, your resource costs are mitigated, however, flexibility of systems is dependent on data center hardware and their customer service team.

It could be worth the additional cost of renting to alleviate the stress of server management.

When researching this issue further, don’t hesitate to shop around for both options. Take your time to review several data center services. As for buying your own server it might be prudent to engage the services of an IT consultant to provide you with all the information you’ll need to make the right decision.

Alex Chadwick is a freelance writer specializing in information technology and business topics. He is also an IT professional at Allcovered.com, providing real-world experience that allows him to cut through the hype and address topics that are relevant in the business world.