The Difference Between a Personal Server and Buying Server Space


If you’ve got a website, you know that hosting plays a critical factor in the performance and accessibility that you and your customers have to reach your business online. Perhaps you’ve been debating the merits of web hosts Bluehost vs. HostGator (among many others), and thought, “Couldn’t I just do this like some larger companies?” The answer is yes, but it helps to know why to make an informed decision.

For those that have been wondering what the difference between a personal server and buying server space from a web host, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons between these options for your business.

In-House Server

Looking to take over your hosting? By running your business from an in-house server, you obviously gain physical control over your backup—something that hosting services can promise, but who knows if a calamity or a security breach can wipe years of hard work in an instant. However, the flipside is that you’ll have to shell out a large sum of capital to keep it running, as well as maintain the infrastructure (cooling, cabling, security updates)—all of which can be a massive drain on your business’ resources.

Uptime is also a significant factor to weigh with in-house servers. Because the responsibility rests on your shoulders (and on the IT team you employ), you are directly responsible for maintaining a consistent flow of data and connectivity. With dedicated web hosting solutions, there are can be guarantees for the company to restore your service in a timely fashion or maintain minimum uptime requirements.

In-house servers also serve as an easy way to backup your data. This can help if you live in area with spotty Internet access or frequently deal with blackouts. While proponents of hosted solutions often tout making backups in the event of an emergency, how can you access this data without a connection? This can mean significant lost revenue and dissatisfied customers that wonder why they can’t access your database.

Another aspect of in-house servers is that there isn’t a 3rd-party attached to your sensitive files and information. Having exclusive access can prevent web hosts from logging your client’s information, which can put you at a disadvantage should there be an illegal usage. Furthermore, if a web host is acquired by another company, the new company may change these attributes to suit their business model, not yours. Because there are different rules regarding personal information based on where you conduct business and how some international web hosts operate, your information may not be as secure as you hope it to be. Don’t think it can happen? Ask 000webhost, a free web hosting solution that was attacked by hackers, exposing more than 13 million users’ sensitive data.

Cloud-Based Hosting

Web hosts have recently begun offering cloud-based hosting solutions for businesses, which offer a number of key versatility advantages versus the DIY method.

First, if you use a cloud-based solution to back up your web presence, there’s no need for onsite hardware and the physical space that it takes up. This can be mission-critical for startups and small businesses that are just starting out and have to bootstrap every last dollar. Consider, for instance, a startup that attracts lots of investment capital in a short period—while cloud-based servers can scale with the rising demand of your data needs, having to retrofit your existing infrastructure and hiring more staff can put a damper on your growth. Of course, this needs to be weighed against the reality that your data’s recovery options are entirely at the mercy of the web host, which can be expensive.

Scaling also plays a part in your choice of cloud-based web hosting solutions. Not every company offers enterprise solutions and those geared towards new small businesses, whereas those that do offer it may not be able to cheaply offer plans for nascent businesses. This plays a decisive fact of whether to choose cloud-hosting, as you may have to migrate your websites based on your business’ current (not projected) needs.

Cloud-hosting’s biggest advantage is that you can backup and restore your information from any device that connects to the Internet. This alone can be worth the cost of the service. However, if you lose all Internet connectivity (ex. a natural disaster strikes), you won’t necessarily be able to access the information. Then again, if your in-house server falls victim to flood waters or a fire, your information will be lost forever unless you’ve made offsite backups.

Cloud-hosting, as of today’s modern standards, usually can backup data as regularly as every 15 minutes, which can minimize extreme data losses in the event of a disaster. The flipside of this is that it can be take a significant amount of time to do a full recovery, as cloud-hosting is geared towards small data sets. Online businesses that are reliant on web-based transactions will consider cloud’s uptime as an extremely important factor, so shelling out for cloud-based solutions can guarantee a certain level of uptime.

A Hybrid Web Hosting Approach

If you wondering whether there’s a middle approach, the answer is hybrid hosting, which blends both in-house serves and delegates the benefits of cloud-based hosting to doubly-ensure your information is stored securely and accessible 24/7. Businesses that don’t want to rely on a stable Internet connection as a lifeline can choose to use hybrid hosting depending on changing circumstances—a must for organizations that go offline during scheduled hours to evaluate connectivity issues and security measures.

Hybrid can mean mirroring every bit of data redundantly, or it can be used in a variety of ways that are cost-effective and versatile. For instance, you may want to keep client data hosted on your in-house servers, but allow emails and employee-access to be backed up in the cloud. This can help offset in-house security breaches from vindictive employees, while also granting access where access is needed. Again, it is up to the organization’s needs to determine whether hybrid hosting is right for your business model.

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