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Data is precious.  You can’t efficiently run an inventory management system without it, so determining how to store information is a big decision.  There are pros and cons to storing on a server or in the cloud, and there is a lot to be said about leveraging redundancy and using both data storage options.

First, let’s define server, local server, and cloud.

A server is a computer that serves information to other computers.  The other computers, called clients, can connect through a local area network or the internet.

A local server is a server that you buy, physically own, and lives on-site.  You might also consider a server to be local if it resides in a co-located datacenter where you rent rack space from a third-party provider.

Generally speaking, the cloud refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet. Cloud servers are housed in datacenters across the globe.  You’re essentially renting the space and the infrastructure itself versus owning the server.  This is the model used for virtual machine resources in Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Both cloud and local servers allow users to share data by making it easily accessible from any computer.  Because you can transfer data to the server, it also frees up space on local machines.

Considerations when choosing a server

When selecting a server solution, you’ll need to prioritize what is most important for your organization:

  • Data Security and Compliance Requirements
  • Control
  • Up/Download Speeds
  • Costs

Local Servers

Due to their nature of being on-site and not accessible through the cloud, local servers boast tight security when appropriately configured.  Local servers give you complete control over how to safeguard your data against cyber threats and malicious software.  When using a local server, there are no third-party companies required to be involved, so you and your team are the only ones with access to the data.  If you are storing customer data, there may be some compliance requirements you’ll need to pay close attention to and ensure their data is secure for their standards.

When you own and maintain your own server, you have the freedom to set it up to fit your exact needs.  You’ll also have high upload and download speeds, independent of the internet, making for a more efficient workday.  Local servers also provide vast amounts of storage.  10 – 15 GB is a good amount for cloud storage, but a hard drive will readily give you 2 TB of space.

On the flip side, servers require expensive hardware installation and will also need to be maintained.  You’ll need dedicated IT resources to help keep the server running smoothly.  More importantly, if your server goes down, the data goes with it if it is physically damaged or suffers a catastrophic failure.  If a flood or natural disaster takes out your office space, it will likely destroy the data.  That’s a scary hypothetical situation.

Cloud Servers

You’re not a stranger to cloud servers.  If you’re using Gmail, Outlook, Dropbox or any social media platforms, you’re using the cloud.  

With the cloud, the burden of installation and maintenance is removed.  The cloud provider maintains the server, and you just use the space, often for a lower price per GB than storing on a local server.  That is a huge cost saver, and because you can increase or decrease your plan, you will only pay for what you need.

The cloud server doesn’t occupy any physical space, and you only need an internet connection to access all your data.  Need to grab a file while you’re at the airport?  No problem.   That could also be a downfall to this solution.  If you lose your internet connection or your cloud provider experiences a disruption, you’ll essentially be in the waters without a paddle until the connection is restored.

Another consideration with the cloud is, because you’re renting space on a server, you’re sharing the connection with other organizations, which can affect the performance of your storage service or may violate compliance requirements that you are compelled to adhere to.

Private Cloud

If you have the cash flow, a private cloud is another option.  Instead of a third-party provider renting you space and dictating how space is used, a private cloud will provide you with an always-on, on-demand option and the control you need to meet your business goals.  In addition, you won’t be sharing a connection with others, so performance won’t be as big of an issue.

Hybrid Solution

Many organizations don’t want to decide between a local or cloud solution, so they cherry-pick the features they want from both and implement a hybrid solution.  This is what we do at Atlas Precon.

We prefer to implement data redundancy in our server setup. We utilize the cloud, but we also back up our data nightly to our local server stack.  We just aren’t comfortably entirely depending on the cloud.  Even though we typically don’t need to access our cloud-based data on-site, it’s there if we need it, and that’s peace of mind.

Critical Data Storage

If you are working with critical data, you know it needs to be available to you in case of a service outage in the main data center and protected against cyber threats.  We recommend saving all your data locally, but take it a step further and replicate it to the cloud in the case of a power outage.  There are several modern storage hardware options with the ability to connect to a cloud-based system.

How do I decide?

The easiest and the worst way to compare the options is cost.  Cost doesn’t provide a good apples-to-apples comparison of how the solution will meet your needs.  Remember, it doesn’t matter how cheap the system is; if it doesn’t meet your goals, don’t even consider it.  The system will leave you with a gap in business operations, possibly compliance requirements, and more.

Cost depends on size and scale.  A cloud provider may try to sell you cost savings through needing less labor, but you can’t remove half of someone’s work, so you may be employing one or two IT professionals anyway.

Your company may be averse to large capital investments.  In that case, it may be a good fit to utilize the cloud, but know that it may prove more costly in the long run.

As with any decision, this one comes down to the goals for your business and the investment you’re willing to make to ensure your data is secure.

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