In our experience the main issues
when considering Cloud vs. In-House server hosting, are:
But those monthly charges do add up over time, so depending on what hardware you may already have available to you, the yearly expense may seem worth it or not.
In terms of convenience, nothing beats having the server right in the room with you. You have full control over installation of programming tools and security. You do not have to deal with upload/download times when moving things from a local development platform to the server.
But further than that, web hosting services can vary in how convenient they make your access to their machines. Some have Control Panels, where you can create file structures and upload and manage files. The closest thing to having your own machine is when the Cloud hosting service includes Windows Remote Desktop support, so that even though you are a network away from the machine, you at least have access to Windows-native configuration tools, like IIS and SQL Server Management Studio on the sever.
If your web application is really simple, with just HTML content and images, such as a simple marketing site, having full access to the server’s Windows environment might not matter. But if you are using full blown development tools like Visual Studio and SQL Server Reporting Services, or you’re creating Office-like documents and spreadsheets, you will want full control of the machine.
Regarding security, every hosting provider will tell you their site is secure. But if you have the know-how to manage your own firewalls, etc. what could be more reliable and trustworthy than a machine you can manage directly, knowing exactly how it is secured?
If your data are particularly sensitive, such as requiring HIPAA compliance, you will need to work with your hosting provider to see if they can guarantee a HIPAA compliant environment. You’ll also need to find out what they might require of you and your application design and architecture in order for them to vouch for an application’s compliance within their own version of HIPAA compliance.
In terms of reliability, it is safe to assume that all web hosting providers stay current with software versioning and Windows Updates, security patches, etc. If anything they may only offer versions of programming tools that are newer, more “bleeding edge” than you might be comfortable using, or for which you have licensed copies of the software for your development environment. But similar to our opinion on security, if you are comfortable with maintaining your environment, how could you have a better sense of your platform’s readiness/robustness/reliability than if you ensure that yourself?
In summary, all of the forgoing arguments lean towards a DIY (Do It Yourself) platform being better, and very possibly cheaper in the long run. When you manage it yourself you have greater control and fewer unknowns. But if you don’t have the expertise or the time, or you would just feel more comfortable leaving the details in the hands of the folks who do it all the time, our advice is: shop around and compare services. If you can find any opportunity to get your feet wet in one or more Cloud environments without spending too much money, the time spent poking around and getting the feel for the particulars offered is well spent.
Stay tuned to our MSAccessToWeb.com blog for an upcoming article on trends in Cloud hosting. There are movements afoot to consolidate (gobble up) some of the smaller providers into larger ones which could affect the quality tomorrow of what is available today.