Physical or Virtual Server – What’s Best For Your Business?

By Luke Watts // 25th February 2018

These days, lots of businesses are opting for virtual servers that sit in the cloud, rather than physical servers that sit in the corner. But virtual servers aren’t for everyone and there are certainly cases where a physical set-up is the better choice. In this article, we’ll look at some of the questions to ask yourself when deciding between a physical and virtual server.

How much do you want to spend?

As always, cost is a key consideration. Physical servers don’t come cheap – and if you run a larger business, you’ll need a serious piece of kit to meet all the demands you’ll place on it. You’ll also have to pay for configuration, maintenance and security, with ongoing as well as upfront costs. What’s more, a physical server is something of a ‘one size fits all’ solution, so you could end up paying for excess capacity. Ouch!

With a virtual server, you’ll still have a fairly hefty setup cost. But once it’s up and running, you should save money on maintenance and running costs, compared to a physical setup. You can also scale a virtual server to suit your business size, so you don’t pay for stuff you don’t or need.

How much space have you got?

If you have a tiny office with everyone crammed in together, a physical server may not be ideal. As well as taking up space, these suckers give off lots of heat and humidity – not much fun in the summer if you don’t have air con. And not great for the environment, either.

It’s far better to stick everything in the cloud; your staff and visitors will thank you for it!

How important is speed and performance?

You might be surprised to know that a physical server will still outperform a virtual one, despite huge leaps forward in technology. That’s because virtual servers are operated by third parties who share their resources between multiple clients. At busy times, your server could experience bottlenecks, slowing down your systems and processes.

This won’t happen with a physical server, as this is a dedicated resource that only you can access. So if you need high levels of performance and speed, a physical set-up could be the way to go.

How’s your in-house expertise?

A virtual server is generally configured, maintained and updated by the company that hosts it. This makes life easier if you don’t have the time or resources to look after a physical server in-house. Of course, you could ask an Managed IT Support provider like RoundWorks IT to maintain it for you, but you’ll need to budget for this.

How kind of data do you store?

This is an important consideration with the launch of the new Data Protection rules, GDPR, just around the corner. You don’t want to fall foul of these, so take a moment to think about the kind of data you store. If this includes sensitive information such as personal and financial details about clients, the safest place to store it is in the cloud. That’s because your host company will probably store your data in multiple locations to protect against failure, maximising security levels.

On the other hand, a physical server should be fine if your company doesn’t store any sensitive information. However, you should still check that your data storage and backup systems are good enough to comply with GDPR and upgrade them if necessary.

Can you manage your own security?

Leading on from the above, GDPR means that it’s more important than ever before to have adequate IT security in place. If you choose a physical server, it’ll be down to you to maintain its security levels. That means staying abreast with the latest cyber threats and making sure all updates and patches are installed as soon as possible.

All this can be quite a lot of work and you’ll need someone with the right skill set (hello!). If you don’t fancy it, you might be better off with a virtual server. Not only will the hosting company take care of all the updates and other stuff, they’ll also have access to the very latest security technologies – guaranteeing top notch protection for your business.

How would you cope with a disaster?

One of the biggest headaches with a physical server is that if it fails, it’s curtains. You’ll either need to buy a new one (ouch again!) or get it rebuilt and restored, if possible. Which could take a long time, especially if your company holds a lot of data and applications. In the meantime, your business may be unable to trade with potentially disastrous results.

Of course, you may have invested in a secondary or backup server, in which case everything will be fine and dandy. But this isn’t an option for many businesses, as it’s a big cost. A better way might be to choose a virtual server, which offers a much faster recovery time if you suffer data loss or a cyber attack.

How big do you want to be?

As we touched on at the start, physical servers aren’t very scalable. And whilst this can sometimes cause over-capacity, it can also scupper your expansion plans if you want to grow. Before long, you’ll need to buy another server, then another, and so on…

It’s situations like these where virtual servers come into their own. All you need to do is tell the hosting company how much extra capacity you need. They’ll sort it out whilst you get on with the serious work of growing your business. Of course, it works the other way, too. So if you want to scale things down, you can simply cut your server capacity whenever you want.

How about the best of both worlds?

If you’re still not convinced by either option, why not go for a hybrid set-up? This is a combined physical and virtual environment where some applications are stored offline and others in the cloud. This might be a good choice if you use bespoke or legacy software that can’t be hosted on a virtual server.

Or, if performance and speed are a worry, you could keep your business-critical software on a physical server, so you have 100% access to it. Less important applications like email could go onto the virtual server.

Still not sure? Just ask RoundWorks!

Our friendly team of expert IT consultants are here to help. We’ll audit your existing IT systems and setup, and recommend whether a physical, virtual or hybrid server would best meet your needs. Once you’ve made your decision, we’ll get everything set up and configured for you, and even provide ongoing maintenance and Managed IT Support.

To get the ball rolling, just give us a bell on 0333 344 4645, email or visit our website for an informal online chat. Speak soon!

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