It’s hard to imagine now, but less than a decade ago most businesses didn’t have access to or a need for enterprise-level hardware. Owning and operating servers and storage devices was a need most often reserved for larger businesses running complex operations. Small businesses and sole proprietors used desktop workstations and laptops not just for day to day activity, but also as a way to store all company data.

How times have changed! Now, even the smallest organizations might have a need for enterprise-grade servers and storage. Even more amazing is the fact that the options currently available and any associated costs can fit most any need and any budget. From Amazon’s Elastic Cloud to Dell PowerEdge servers, from Microsoft’s Azure platform to IBM blade servers, there is quite literally a custom option available for every need imaginable. But how do you choose the right solutions for your organization? How do you decide between owning and operating your own hardware, leasing space in the cloud, or combining the two in a hybrid solution like those found with many colocation providers or in third party applications?

  • Cost:  As with many business considerations, budget and expense are driving factors in any decision around IT hardware and systems. The capital required to purchase hardware like servers and network attached storage (along with any required licenses) can seem overwhelming at first, compared to the monthly cost of colocation and leasing or cloud provisioning. That said, make sure to calculate the entire cost of the product’s use over the next three to five years. In many cases, purchased hardware and licenses are significantly less expensive over time than any leased or licensed solutions.
  • Flexibility.  One of the key benefits to cloud or colocation solutions is the ability to expand or contract your infrastructure with just a few key strokes. Provisioning a new virtual server on Azure is much faster then buying a new server and standing it up in your own datacenter. Colocation providers can offer the best of both worlds by quickly providing leased physical hardware for you to work on instead of virtual machines. Planning for a future of both growth and size reduction will be instrumental in deciding what IT infrastructure is best for your organization.
  • Manageability.  Even if your cost analysis and future planning have set you in one direction or another, make sure your choice closely aligns with the resources you have available to manage your enterprise IT infrastructure. For example, colocation providers often have in-house engineers to help with server maintenance. Even though this often adds cost to the solution, it is certainly preferable to purchasing a server on your own without the expertise to make sure it is properly monitored and managed on a day-to–day basis. There are a lot of great options available for businesses of all sizes;  make sure to account for the resources you will need to manage, monitor, and support any servers, storage, or software you choose to integrate in to your business.
  • Compatibility.  One of oft-overlooked parts of enterprise IT infrastructure planning is confirming that all software and data will integrate completely with the chosen hardware or virtual machines. For example, some software requires a dedicated server instance to run and cannot be installed on a virtual machine. In some cases, storage appliances offered by a third party provider are incompatible with in-house hardware.
  • Compliance Requirements.  When considering cloud solutions, don’t forget to inquire about any compliance concerns you may have. For example, very few third party providers are ITAR certified, which can create quite a challenge for small businesses needing this type of compliance. Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd Frank, ISO 9001….there are a number of certifications and systems that you may require now or in the future that absolutely must be considered early in the process.

Choosing the right hardware, software, and services for your business is never easy. Because of the varied options, price-points, and capabilities available, you are likely to find a number of directions your organization can go and experience success. Be thankful that you are in a position to take advantage of this technology – it wasn’t long ago that small businesses lacked the IT resources of large organizations. No more! Consult with experts, perform your research, and (most importantly) consider ALL aspects of a solution and how it fits in with your organization now and in the future. The tips above should be a great resource for dialing in your network and IT infrastructure. Click here to learn more about how Mosaic NetworX plans and deploys solutions both in the cloud and colocation facilities!