When done correctly, a cloud application will be “somewhere out there” to users, and they’ll never know if the servers hosting the application are in the same building or on another continent. But since everything has to be somewhere, you’ll have to choose where to put your cloud apps. Here are some considerations to take into account.
How’s your capital budget? If you have grand plans to support thousands of users, but a non-grand budget, hosting options allow you to pay as you go rather than upfront. Of course, every monthly payment plan eventually costs more than purchasing the item in the first place. You pay more for a rented house, but you don’t have to put cash down.
Don’t let capital outlay be your primary consideration. You may have a project that will scale, meaning you buy a couple of servers now, then a couple more next year, spreading out the expense. You may be able to upgrade a planned server acquisition, boosting CPU cores and memory, and use part of that server for your cloud project, and spend less than buying a separate server. Your hardware vendor will work with you, and has lease rates and payment plans available if you want your servers on your premises.
Now look past capital considerations and think of bandwidth. If your project will support thousands of users across the country, a hosting service tied to multiple Tier 1 Internet backbones will handle the user load much more easily than almost any corporate data center outside the Fortune 1000. If your project will support far fewer users, then your data center, even if only a secured closet with a few servers, storage, routers, and cooling may be plenty. After all, you don’t need a semi-truck trailer to carry a few 2x4s home for a weekend project. But you do need a semi to carry dozens of full pallets of lumber to a large construction project.
You can certainly combine the two approaches, and put your hardware servers in a co-location facility with outstanding bandwidth options. Many companies find that the best of both worlds.
How about maintenance and management of your cloud servers? Small companies often have their hands full keeping up to date (or at least trying to stay current) with an understaffed IT department. Hosting companies offer a range of services, from “here’s your space in the rack” at a co-location house to full maintenance, security, and compliance management. Few medium-sized companies have highly trained (and expensive) security techs on hand, but hosting companies can amortize their time over multiple customers. You can pay by the hour for advanced security configurations and know someone with skills beyond your own staff is doing, and certifying, the work.
Remember when you had to make these decisions for your Web hosting? Many started their first website on a shared server at a hosting company, then contracted for a private server. Then several. As website applications became more critical to your business, you brought the servers in house to keep them close to your developers. That same trend may be a good example for your next cloud project.