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Technical Documents

  • Mar

    Physical Servers Vs Virtual Servers Vs Cloud

    Author: Technical Support
    Virtual Servers

    I recently read an article i found very interesting so i thought i would share it.

    There can be several different reasons why you could choose either a Physical or Virtual Server for your business. Considerations such as business size, needs and price are all factors to take in to account. Our goal is to give you a helicopter view of the key points of each so when you discuss the options with us you are informed on some of the terminology and factors.

    Physical Servers:

    Physical Servers are the traditional way of doing things (in IT traditional means more than 3 years ago!) and involve a piece(s) of hardware that are configured to perform the tasks of your business. Generally this hardware is in your server room or broom closet. They can play any role required in the business, from Mail Server to a Web Host Server or even a combination of a wide variety of roles where required. With physical servers there is a tendency to try and do more with less.

    The advantage of a Physical Server for a small business with limited server needs, is that the one server can perform all the tasks required for the day to day running of the business. As your business scales up in size you will have a 2nd server and 3rd and so on, the number generally corresponding with scale of the business. Each server will generally be critical to the business in some form because rarely do people sign off on implementing a new server to do something inconsequential. Inconsequential tasks are added to an existing server where it won’t conflict with something in place.

    Virtual Servers:

    A Virtual Server is normally one of many servers that operate upon a single physical server with each virtual server sharing the resources of the physical server between them. However an effective virtual infrastructure cannot run upon a single physical server so proper implementation of virtual servers requires the use of multiple physical servers and more than likely a device capable of providing shared storage between the physical servers. This means the starting cost of a Virtual Server solution is higher than that of a single physical server solution.

    The advantage of Virtual Servers is that each server can be run upon any capable physical server and so the failure of a physical server, with a proper environment in place, means any affected servers that were sharing that physical server, can be started up seamlessly on any other available physical server. This can even be automated within most virtual infrastructure solutions which leads to near zero downtime. One of the consequences however of Virtual Servers is that because you can have multiple Virtual Servers on a physical server the temptation is to put each software product onto its own server because there is not the cost limitation of having to have one physical server for each. This is known in the industry as “server sprawl” and it is something to be avoided. While the benefits of Virtual Servers are significant, they still need to be planned and maintained effectively to ensure their continued productivity.


    Cloud is a general term, largely expressed in marketing, to describe any server/service that is put outside your own control for someone else to maintain on your behalf. This type of solution is not new and have historically been called outsourcing, services from Application Service Providers and more going back over the last 20 years. The Cloud terminology has gained great traction with decision makers because it sounds like a wonderful and cheap solution to remove IT considerations from a business.

    Our note of caution with Cloud solutions is that anyone who has used IT services will know that the quality of service varies greatly between providers and even over time, with some providers being exceptional but gradually failing to deliver sometimes after years of effective service. Cloud solutions are generally designed by the provider as a one way solution. They assume that everyone that uses them will be forever happy with them and will never want to leave and so designing or considering the process of a customer leaving is rarely addressed. Strategic use of Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and any other Cloud term you are likely to see or hear is definitely effective. However implementing a Cloud solution is something that everyone has to go into with their eyes wide open and a clear understanding of what will be provided, who will provide, who has access to your information, is it protected from disaster (and is the provider responsible for its loss!) and ultimately can you move to more advanced services or services that suit your business better in the future that will inevitably occur.

    There are several advantages and disadvantages to each option. These range from power consumption, storage requirements, maintenance, product licensing and more. This wide range of considerations also mean almost no business has the exact same needs as another and so it is important to ensure you engage someone competent in all of these options and considerations before you make any decision so that the decision you make is the right one. The cost and effort involved in reversing decisions that turn out to be wrong can be catastrophic.

    Contact us on 01524 889158

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