Data Center vs. Server Room: Which is Best for Your Business?
Early in the wave of the development of the Internet, corporate data servers were typically located on-premises, and every business that needed a server was forced to invest significant capital. Servers required their own infrastructure, hardware, and maintenance solutions, for physical servers sitting in a dedicated room/area of the office.
It was resource-intensive and expensive, but thanks to innovations in cloud technology and the increasing availability of lightning-fast fiber connectivity, other options have opened up in recent years. While your unique circumstances may vary, we can provide you with information in the data center vs. server room debate.
Data Center vs. Server Room: Which is Best for Your Business
Commercial data centers are entire buildings devoted to the housing, storage, and support of a large amount of server hardware and networking equipment. Several organizations often share space in data centers. On the other hand, a server room is a room specifically designed and allocated to store servers on your premises.
Of course, each company has different needs, and what works best for one company is not necessarily the best solution for another. Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and weigh the pros and cons to determine what makes the most sense for you.
On-Site Server Rooms
The advantages of maintaining your server facility all come down to the fact that it's yours. All of the responsibility falls on you, but you get to enjoy all of the benefits that come with complete control in exchange. And you can walk down the hall or take the elevator downstairs and physically touch the servers.
You'll be the sole manager of your facilities, and you can modify your system on your terms to accommodate any shifting needs, including expansion, as your business scales up. That versatile customization can be particularly useful if your system is unusually complicated, large, or includes many diverse applications.
You can also manage your security – which, again, grants you control over your system in a way that moving it offsite cannot provide. And since DDoS attacks are on the rise, you'd no longer have to rely on someone else to protect your network.
The downsides of maintaining your server room extend well beyond the substantial workload involved, although this parameter is surely significant. You may want your IT team to focus on initiatives that directly relate to your business. But spending time on maintaining the health of the server stacks and physical infrastructure as well splits their attention.
Backups are less effective when your data is stored in one physical location. In the event of theft, fire, flood, or another disaster, you could lose everything with no recourse for recovery.
Moreover, keeping your network local makes it harder to expand your business to new locations. When you open up new branches, you'll need to find good solutions for everyone to connect to headquarters instead of both locations connecting to a facility made for offsite networking, which is the case with data centers.
Up-front spending is significant when you invest in your own on-site servers. It's generally difficult to know how much capacity you'll need for growth. This means you could purchase a system that's either more powerful than you need or that isn't able to grow as your data needs expand.
If you are running a small business or just starting up your business, you may find value in keeping your servers in a data center. The combined buying power with other companies taking advantage of the same services helps to keep your costs down.
Since data centers necessarily have redundant backup systems for network access, electricity, and climate control you are also far less likely to experience network outages. Many even have their own backup power generators, which means that in the case of a local power utility outage, they remain up and running – and through no extra effort on your part.
Depending on the nature of the data center, you may or may not have the ability to determine when your scheduled maintenance downtimes will be, and you may or may not be able to choose what hardware is being used for your server stacks. For many businesses, the colocation model is extremely attractive, as it allows you to bring your own hardware to the shared facility and can save you money.
Although the financial burden involved with infrastructure and maintenance for an on-site server can be significant, your "upfront" costs for moving to a data center can be surprisingly high. If you opt for a colocation data center, where you provide both hardware and software, major spending may be involved.
Even when the data center provides all of these resources, you will have to pay initial deposits and setup fees. Note that these fees may begin to feel negligible over time, especially compared to the ongoing cost of an in-house server stack.
When you remove your server from your premises, you will lose a certain degree of potential for in-house oversight and control. If you completely outsource your server stack, you are fully dependent on the data center for maintenance, security, and uptime. This may well be to your advantage, but many prefer to depend less on remote third parties.
Data Centers vs. Server Rooms: Key Considerations
We've explored the pros and cons of each solution. Now, let's go over some of the key considerations you should keep in mind when choosing your data solution and how data centers and server rooms stack up for each.
Cost is always an essential consideration in any business decision. Let’s look at some associated costs for data centers and on-site server rooms.
- On-Site Server Room:
You will need to invest in hardware, software, and appropriate facilities upfront for an on-site server room. Your server room will need appropriate air conditioning, humidity control, fire suppression, etc.
In addition to upfront costs, you’ll need to consider ongoing maintenance, hardware upgrades, security measures, and support staff costs.
- Data Center:
When you work with a data center, you need to consider upfront costs such as deposits and setup fees. Additionally, you will need to pay monthly fees to have your data hosted in a data center. These fees will vary based on your required bandwidth, the number of supported IP addresses, and more.
When it comes to data, having strong, reliable security is vital. Your data may include anything from HIPAA-protected medical data to customer credit card information to sensitive company data and more. What are the security features of data centers vs. server rooms?
- On-Site Server Room:
Security and maintenance are fully under your control when you pursue an on-site server room. You'll need to invest in physical security features (such as a security card or biometric access locks on your server room door) in addition to digital security.
- Data Center:
With an outsourced data center, you lose most in-house control over security. You will be fully dependent on the security measures of your data center. Fortunately, most data centers have strong security features and practices.
The last consideration we’ll discuss is responsibility. What is the difference between server rooms and data centers regarding responsibility, maintenance, and management?
- On-Site Server Room:
If you pursue an on-site server room, all responsibility for maintenance, performance, security, and more falls on your shoulders. The upside is that you have full control over your data management and operations. The downside, of course, is the associated cost (in both dollars and work hours).
- Data Center:
When using a data center, your data management is effectively fully outsourced. This means you have little responsibility for maintenance, redundancies, or security. Though this means you lose some control over certain processes, you also gain the experience and performance of the data center’s facilities and personnel.
Data Centers vs. Server Rooms: Making the Best Decision for Your Business
When it comes to the data center vs. server room debate, there are a lot of factors to consider, many of which come down to personal preferences. Therefore, the best way to make this decision is to consult with an expert who can assist you in determining which of these pros and cons should outweigh the others, given the specifics of your case. We'd be glad to be that consultation partner if you're in the Washington, D.C. metro or surrounding area. Just give us a call.
To help educate you, we've created a guide with the 10 questions you need to ask before signing with a data center, and we'll explain why each is essential to getting you the right choice for your business. Download your free copy of 10 Questions To Ask Before You Buy Data Center Services For Your Business now.