Infrastructure as a Service

6/15/2017 Carsten Howitz Cloud

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

Maintaining server hardware can be a huge pain for your company, especially if you don’t have a dedicated resource or IT department to handle the tasks of setting up the hardware, installing software and handling updates, backing up your servers and making sure to keep backups safe and offsite, and responding to hardware issues that will arise during business or off business hours. Many times, companies have the servers setup by an external IT engineer and then left alone to handle the maintenance and backups once the installation is done.

More times than not, important software updates are rarely applied to the servers, backups are never monitored, and warnings never acted upon. The servers are just sitting there in the company office expected to work all the time, but one thing is for certain with all hardware: it will eventually fail and at that time it can be too late to avoid data loss and downtime. Due to missing security software updates, the servers can also be infected with viruses, malware, and ransomware etc. that may result in complete data loss and infected computers throughout the entire company.

Other issues that may arise from having on premise server hardware could be power loss, theft, sabotage or weather related issues like flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

Outsource your infrastructure

Instead of maintaining your own server infrastructure, you have the option to outsource it. This mean you don’t have any servers in your company; they are all installed and setup in the cloud. This is called Infrastructure-as-a-Service or IaaS. IaaS companies have huge data centers with wall to wall racks of servers. Each physical server can host many virtual servers and those are the servers you can get access to create and use. The A/C cooled data centers are usually heavily guarded by armed security and access to the server floor is restricted. Huge generators are ready to power the entire data center if the power should be lost for any reason.

All servers are usually latest and best quality that can be used to scale your server to be any size and run at any speed you like. You will also be able to upgrade (or downgrade) your server in minutes. Advanced and super-fast backup solutions are available to back up your servers to several data centers across the continent or across the globe. In the unlikely event that a data center should lose all servers, a new server setup can be restored at a different data center in a few hours. You also have the option to setup a copy of your server setup in another datacenter that will be synchronized real-time and allows you to continue to work on the other datacenter if your primary datacenter is completely down.

IaaS datacenters usually promise uptime of 99.95% or better. If not, most IaaS providers will credit some of your monthly fee back. That is downtime for less than 36 minutes per month.

This all sounds very good, but are there any downfall to hosting all your servers with and IaaS provider? Access to the IaaS server is most often done via remote desktop. So, you must login to a server that will host your computer desktop and provide access to all the servers you need. You will usually not have access to the IaaS server from you regular computer desktop unless you are running web applications. In terms of security, you may not like that your data is kept offsite where you can’t control it. You may have some legal requirements that dictate that you must keep your data on sit, which gives you the full control over your data. IaaS will allow you to encrypt your disk drives, but the servers will still be offsite and you don’t know exactly where.

Conclusion

There is a plethora of reasons why you should consider IaaS instead of on premise servers. With IaaS you get access to high-end quality equipment at a fraction of the cost of purchasing it yourself. You have the ultimate flexibility where you can upgrade or downgrade your server setup at a moment’s notice and only pay for what you use and need. Your data is much more secure in terms of unauthorized access and restoration of data should disaster hit. You are most certainly getting a better uptime of your system, which also means that any web based applications you clients may use also have better uptime. The only major downfall is that your data is stored offsite at an unknown location, which means you don’t have 100% control of your data.

Summary of On Premise vs. IaaS

Task / Feature

On Premise

IaaS

Hardware quality

Varies, but will usually be cheaper and lower quality

Top of the line. Large scale servers with many levels of redundancy. Super-fast network speeds. Backup and restore extremely fast and reliable.

Data redundancy

Minor, sometimes disks are redundant like with mirrors or RAID technology.

Extensive. Local redundancy where data is mirrored 2-3 times. Geographical redundancy, where data is mirrored to other data centers across the country or across the world.

Backup

You are responsible for changing tapes/flash drives and making sure that the backup worked every day.

Backups are done automatically to Geo redundant storage. Restore process can often start in minutes if needed. No tapes or drives needed.

Endpoint protection

Varies. Some install virus protection, but forget to renew. Others may or may not review issues that come up with viruses.

Standard. Updates handled automatically. Issues posted in security center.

Cooling

May have server room with A/C. Many just have servers in a corner of the office.

A/C cooled data centers. Temperature always kept at optimal level.

Security

Usually none. Servers may be locked into a room.

Strict and sometimes armed security. Access control to the server floor only for approved technicians. Alarms and video surveillance.

Power Loss

UPS can often keep servers running for 5-10 minutes. After that time, they will usually shut down.

UPS with generator backup will keep the servers running indefinitely during power loss.

Server installation

Done by IT engineer onsite

Done by IT engineer online

Installation speed

One Server can usually be installed in 2-8 hours.

Most servers install in 5 minutes or less.

Server maintenance

Onsite and remote

Remote only. Onsite maintenance is only done by IaaS techs.

Server upgrade

Cumbersome. New hardware needs to be installed and old server ported over. Could take several days to do.

Change the server size in a few minutes. After boot up, the new hardware is running your server.

Hardware issues

Handled slowly. Could take hours if not days

Handled by IaaS company immediately and usually without you having to notify them.

Down time

Varies. Depends on power and internet reliability.

Less than 36 minutes per month or you will be credited some of your fees back.

Client access to server

Directly from computer desktop

Usually via remote desktop or browser (for web apps).

Server location

In your office or own data center. You are in total control of your data.

Unknown location, just noted as Central US, Central Europe, Asia, etc. Others control your data, but you have access to it.

Pricing

High upfront cost, low recurring cost. Must usually replace every 3-5 years

Low monthly cost depending on server setup and use.

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