4 Benefits of Switching to a Virtual Server
Running a business server can get expensive. Between maintenance, equipment, housing, and security, the costs add up very quickly. In fact, for most businesses that don't have very specific and specialized server needs, running a server in-house is a gross inefficiency. Even co-location, the practice of housing a server at a communal space while paying for the equipment and maintenance yourself, is usually unnecessary for most small and mid-size companies. An alternative that makes much more sense, both financially and practically, is a virtual server.
In a virtual server environment, your company's server exists as a virtual machine running on a shared server operated by a hosting company or managed service provider. Because your server shares physical space and computing resources with others, costs to individual servers remain low, and maintenance is split between everyone on the server and figured into the monthly costs up front. So, what are the benefits of switching? Here are the top four.
We've already touched briefly on this, but this is a huge selling point of virtual servers. Switching from a dedicated or in-house server to a shared virtual server represents huge cost savings for many companies. Because the server is run as a virtual machine on a larger shared server, maintenance and upkeep costs are split between all the users, resulting in much lower fees to individual users. This savings can be huge, and represent cost reductions in other areas for the average business.
Not only does a virtual server eliminate the costs of physically running a server, like power, physical security, and maintenance, it can also represent a significant cut in payroll. Using a virtual server means that you need less IT technicians to actually keep the server in good working order. This means savings on payroll, as well as benefits and other related areas like accounting and unemployment insurance. In fact, since things like emergency repairs are handled on the host or MSP's end, it frees up companies to replace a full-time server technician with an on-demand part-time systems or server admin.
When you choose to use a virtual server, you get an SLA (or service level agreement) that specifies a guaranteed amount of uptime. With server technology advancing rapidly, it's rare for this uptime guarantee to be less than 99.9%, and often it's even higher. Self-hosting a server can have higher uptimes, but at a significantly higher cost. Reliability looks even better when network uptime is taken into consideration. Network uptime is the total time that a server is connected to the Internet and can be externally accessed. Virtual server providers ensure very high levels of network uptime by providing multiple dedicated Internet connections to all of their server facilities. They also often have redundant duplicates of your data in multiple locations, so that if one facility's network access is cut off, the other one seamlessly takes over to keep providing service. In order to approach this level of uptime on a self-hosted server, your company would need to pay for at least two Internet service providers, and have a backup of your server in a remote location.
Enhanced Disaster RecoveryDisasters happen, and even the best laid contingency and recovery plans can fail to provide a speedy recovery. Moving to a shared server model allows your company to breathe a little easier knowing that disaster recovery is in the hands of people who do nothing but prepare IT infrastructure for a disaster. For starters, moving your server away from your physical location means that it's less likely to be affected in case a disaster strikes your office. Hosting companies that offer virtual servers are also much more likely to have separately stored backups that make coming back from a disaster much easier and quicker. Finally, MSPs and hosting companies generally have much larger staffs that can respond more quickly and with more manpower than most small and mid-sized business IT departments.
As a small or mid-sized business, you probably have your hands full running your core operations. Adding server management adds another layer of complexity and risk to the already complex and risky world of business management. Moving to a virtual server allows you to remove this complexity and shift it onto a company that is better able to manage it. It eliminates the need for staying current with technology, patching and upgrading, providing security, and a host of other responsibilities that running a server in-house requires. Instead, you can focus on the things that directly drive revenue and make your business great.