How much does it cost to buy a new server? Most businesses would be looking at writing a cheque for at least $10,000 once they added up the hardware, software, backup tapes, operating system, installation and configuration fees.
For some SMEs with low cash flow this can be a real stumbling block. Luckily there are alternatives to servers. Cloud infrastructure companies sell virtual equivalents of servers which are called virtual machines or instances.
A cloud data centre is effectively a large warehouse of physical servers which runs thousands of these “virtual servers”. The world’s two largest cloud data centre operators, Rackspace and Amazon Web Services (AWS), set up in Australia recently.
Thanks to their scale – they have dozens of cloud data centres around the globe – they can offer some of the cheapest prices and the most advanced services. Businesses usually find server costs are not only much lower in the cloud, the virtual servers operate more reliably.
BoxFreeIT asked AWS’ Simon Elisha, principal solution architect, about the differences between the typical office server and a virtual server.
BoxFreeIT: How much does a virtual server cost versus a file server?
Simon Elisha: According to an IDC report, the total cost of running critical applications for five years on AWS was 70 percent less than doing it in your office or in a hosted data centre.
When using a virtual server on Amazon, you can choose any operating system (such as Windows, Red Hat, etc). And you are only charged by the hour for the size of the server that you use which is very cost effective.
If you run the server on an ongoing basis, using the Amazon EC2 Reserved Instance is cheaper.
BoxFreeIT: How much easier is it to backup a virtual server versus an office server?
Elisha: Amazon has a service that creates instant backups, called snapshots, of its virtual servers. This means you never have to worry about tapes or removable drives.
Those backups are stored very securely so that the data is very well protected. (In technical terms it has 99.999999999 percent durability. If you store 10,000 files with us, on average Amazon may lose one of them every 10 million years or so.)
BoxFreeIT: Can you run a virtual server and a physical server at the same time?
Elisha: It is preferable to do a specific cut-over from running a physical file server to a VM rather than running concurrently, as running them together can cause unnecessary complexity in managing changes on both servers. Setting up a Windows server is easy.
BoxFreeIT: How big must your internet connection be to run a virtual server?
Elisha: You can determine how much bandwidth is appropriate for your office by working with your telco.
BoxFreeIT: Do you need to buy a new router?
Elisha: The key is to have sufficient bandwidth and to open the required firewall ports on your router so you can transfer files. Mobile applications such as Oxygen Cloud, ftopia and 8kpc can show you the files stored on your virtual server.
BoxFreeIT: What is the average uptime of a virtual server versus an office server?
Elisha: When running a virtual server in the cloud, you have the benefits of a large, highly skilled team of IT professionals. They spend their time constantly monitoring and managing the computing environment to ensure the best operational performance for our hundreds of thousands of customers across all business sizes.
This attention and scale far exceed what is possible for most businesses.
Image credit: Labs Conekia