Why You Should Use Dedicated Over Cloud Hosting

Do you get tired of hearing about the cloud?

Me too.

You can blame Google CEO Eric Schmidt for the cloud computing.  He’s credited with introducing the term at a conference in August, 2006.

While network computing had been around since the 1960’s, Schmidt was the first to pitch cloud as we know it today.  You may be fielding a lot of questions from your boss, your customers or development team about why you’ve not moved to the cloud.   After all, who would not want the scalability, redundancy, on-demand, services the cloud promises?

The cloud offers considerable potential, but few small businesses can leverage what the cloud has to offer. Inflexible operations, inexperience and basic business needs often mean a dedicated server is the better hosting solution.

If you are not convinced, here are X reasons why you should still use a dedicated server.

Performance

We find that dedicated servers offer the best performance – especially on a per-dollar basis.

We have used Rackspace, Softlayer and AWS.  None can deliver the power of a properly configured dedicated server.

This is especially true when it comes to disk IO.  With most cloud systems, the network and underlying storage are shared among customers. This can cause disk I/O to be unpredictable.   If another customer starts to send large amounts of write requests to the storage array, you may see slowdowns.  The upstream network is shared so you can experience bottlenecks there too.

When we fix performance problems for customers using cloud or VPS, we typically find disk IO issues. These are often not fixable within the cloud framework.

Most cloud vendors give you more storage, not faster storage.

While you can easily scale up CPU and RAM with most cloud vendors, scaling disk IO is often not possible.   Even while Amazon offers some high disk IO instances, many users still build RAID arrays out of EBS instances to get the performance they need.

In short, if your operations are relatively simple, a single dedicated server with RAID 10 will usually out perform more costly and complex cloud offerings.

 

Transparency

When debugging performance issues, transparency is key.  Transparency is why we are fans of NewRelic.  NewRelic allows you to peer inside of your application and find the bottlenecks.  This transparency is key to solving complicated performance and reliability issues.

With many cloud vendors, you cannot peek behind the curtain to see what is really powering your operations.

Cloud services often obscure hardware and network problems.

  • As a shared service, cloud suffers from two key issues that you typically do not occur with dedicated servers.
  • Other users directly impact your workloads

Underlying hardware errors are the reason for outages

With cloud, you share resources with others.  This includes disk, RAM, CPU and network.   Cloud software attempts to fence in your neighbors, but the fence has holes.  Often due to inherent design or more often configuration choices, a single user can overwhelm a local compute node.  This can result in temporary outages and performance issues for your operations that have nothing to do with you.

Unfortunately, most providers will never recognize or even catch this problem -leaving you to track performance phantoms.

Hardware errors are another issue.  With SoftLayer’s service, when we have suspected hardware issues on a computing instance, there’s no way for us to confirm our suspicions.  We simply migrate the instance to another physical node to see if the problem persists.

Cloud makes these migrations easy, but a dedicated server may make these migrations unnecessary.  With a dedicated system, we can easily check the hardware and rule out issues.  This allows us to focus diagnostic efforts on the right problems.

 

Redundancy

A common misconception about the cloud is that it is inherently redundant.  This is often not the case.

A node in a cloud computing service is usually no more reliable than a single dedicated server.

With cloud computing, the compute node is usually just a commodity server minus the storage.  If that node dies, so does your workloads.   This is not much different than a CPU, RAM or power supply failure on a dedicated server.

Even with the cloud you have to build redundancy into the system. Moving to AWS is not going to make your SMB’s hosting service more reliable or more redundant unless you make it that way.

Just take a look at this setup on AWS.  This is very complex and requires significant time setting up, monitoring and maintaining.

Example of redundant web hosting architecture built on AWS.  Requires seven different AWS services.

 

Due to the added complexity and lack of transparency, you may find that single cloud instances are less reliable than their dedicated server counterparts.

Complexity

Complex is not good.

As you can see in the example above,  a truly redundant cloud operations can be very complex.

Cloud infrastructure, especially with AWS, adds layers of complexity that you may not need.  With AWS, your IP addresses are not automatically bound to any specific EC2 instance.  If you stop and start that instance, you must remember to re-associate your IP address.  Similarly, the EBS storage can be terminated by error.  AWS offers various tools to help keep you from making mistakes, but you have to enable them.

With a dedicated server, these issues do not exist. Why pick a complex infrastructure when you will not actually utilize it?

I’ve managed infrastructure for over a decade, and one thing I have learned: simpler is better.  This is why I continue to recommend dedicated servers for simple hosting operations.

Also, complexity adds cost – both in terms of hardware and getting expert help.

Costs

Cloud costs more.

This is true for many small businesses, especially web development and design firms.

Consider a web marketing firm that hosts their customer’s sites.  Typically you will have common applications such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other popular CMS programs.  You also probably need a hosting control panel such as Plesk or cPanel.

When you examine the technical requirements needed to ensure reliable performance for your sites, you will often find that dedicated servers give you the best bang for the buck.

The main reason is disk performance.  I often see VPS or cloud systems struggle with either a large number of sites or high concurrency.  You can solve disk IO issues with cloud by building RAID arrays out of the storage units, but this drives up costs.  By the time you add bandwidth, control panels and IP addresses, the cost savings starts to evaporate.

Dedicated Server AWS M3.XLarge
CPU 8 Core 8 vCPU
RAM 16 GB 15 GB
Storage 500GB RAID 1 500GB EBS
IPs 8 8
Bandwidth 10 TB 1 TB
Panel cPanel None
Cost $195/month $375.00/mo

And the AWS fee does not even include cPanel – that adds another $20-40/mo.

Finding direct cost comparisons between cloud and dedicated is difficult.   Sometimes, you may want to over-deploy your cloud infrastructure to solve some performance issues.  Even when you know what you need, costs are not fixed with many cloud services.  Just take a look at AWS’s “simple” monthly calculator. There’s nothing simple there.

Lock-in

Don’t get locked-in.

As a kid, I attended a overnight lock-in at a stake rink.  That was fun.  Getting locked into a vendor’s platform  is not. Migration can be painful and costly.
While the compute portion of cloud services is generally similar between vendors, advanced services such as object based storage, database abstraction layers and other technologies often have different APIs. If you build your app to use Amazon’s S3, you may have to reengineer it to work with another object based storage model. This can make migrating challenging and expensive.With many cloud vendors, if you begin to integrate more complex services, you may find you are locked into their solutions.  This can be dangerous if their support, services or pricing changes. Even if the vendor does not change, your business or technical requirements may change. So you need to evaluate your migration options before you select a cloud vendor.

Often, I see companies use cloud vendor’s advanced services when neither the business or technical needs require such a solution. This creates vendor lock-in where it could be avoided.

Dedicated servers are commodities. If you use a hosting control panel such as Plesk or cPanel, migration to another server or service provider is a simple, well-documented process.

So when a dedicated server can meet your business and technical needs, why risk vendor lock-in?

Scalability

You are not ready to scale.

One of the chief marketing points for cloud services is scalability.   While you can scale your computing resources, your applications or operations may not be ready to scale.

If you use a hosting control panel, your scalability options are limited.  You can increase your CPU/RAM or add a dedicated database, but you already have these options with dedicated servers.  Cloud just makes it easier.

As I mentioned earlier, scaling disk IO is often not available or limited with cloud.  In our performance optimization work, disk IO is often the main performance problem, especially with shared hosting operations.

Don’t be fooled by the advertising.  You cannot simply plant your operations in a cloud vendor’s garden and expect it to grow magically.

You must build applications and manage them with scalability in mind.   Trying to cram legacy applications into a modern, scalable, cloud framework often results in failure.

Also, ask why you need to scale anyway?

If your web sites are slow, perhaps optimizing your server’s configuration and fixing bottlenecks in your application will fix the problem.    The cloud will not solve fundamental programming inefficiencies.

Go Dedicated

If you are a small business with relatively simple hosting operations, then don’t ignore dedicated servers.  I know the pressure from customers to use the cloud is powerful, but that’s because they only see the marketing hype.

The reality is that a dedicated server, properly managed, will generally provide greater performance and reliability at lower costs than current cloud service options.

 

Source: https://www.rackaid.com/blog/dedicated-cloud-hosting/

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Cost of Server Ownership: On-Premise vs. IaaS

Source: https://www.sherweb.com/blog/total-cost-of-ownership-of-servers-iaas-vs-on-premise/#https://www.sherweb.com/blog/microsoft-azure-certification/

Take a good look at those servers sitting in that closed room at the end of your office hallway. They’ve probably given you a lot of good service during the last few years. Think of all the data you’ve processed and stored there, not to mention the applications that ran on them every day. Have you ever stopped to wonder how much time and money you’ve invested to keep those machines running? You might be surprised by the numbers if you did. There’s a lot of talk about cloud server solutions these days and you might be tempted to take the leap. But, before you make any kind of decision, you should have a clear idea of what you’re spending now and how it compares to the price of cloud solutions.

The first thing you have to do is look beyond the initial costs of an in-house solution vs. the monthly cost of the cloud. The real picture of what’s cheaper goes far beyond the cost of a new in-house server or an annual subscription to cloud servers or Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Look at ongoing costs instead. What are you really paying to operate, maintain and upgrade an on-premises solution over its lifetime (usually a five-year period)? What other costs are involved in a cloud solution? Only then will you be able to make a sound decision. Need to know the total cost of your infrastructure right away? Download our total cost of ownership tool here.

How to calculate total cost of ownership of servers

The best way to calculate the cost of ownership is to take a look at all your costs: direct, indirect or hidden. Here’s a breakdown, in case you’re wondering what we’re talking about. Direct costs are linked to any of the hardware required for an on-premises solution. This can range from your actual servers to the server room where you store them. It also includes electricity and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning). On the other hand, indirect costs are related to the salaries you pay your System Administrator and any other IT staff member who maintains your hardware or fixes software bugs. And hidden costs? Lost productivity due to downtime is a good example.

How much does it cost to move to the cloud?

No matter which costs you want to analyze, our cost calculator tool can help. It evaluates all the factors involved in building your own solution and compares that with the overall cost of the cloud.

How much vCPUs, RAM and disk space do you need to run your operations? Using our cost calculator tool, we entered sample amounts of resources that most SMBs would use every month (2 vCPUs, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of disk storage). Then we played with the uptime target numbers to reflect a typical SMB situation. We looked at availability and what this meant for downtime hours each month. The numbers vary. Some providers offer 98.0% of availability, which equals about  14.4 hours of allowed downtime per month. A respectable on-premises solution is also around that previous percentage, so when you compare to switching to the Cloud, you can start with that data as your guaranteed uptime. On the other hand, other providers give their customers a service-level agreement of 99.9% of availability. This means only about 44 minutes of downtime a month. After all, downtime is a hidden cost for your business. When your site is down, your data is unavailable. In a 2011 study published by CA Technologies, researchers tried to evaluate the toll of downtime on the costs of businesses. Of 200 surveyed businesses across the USA and Europe, a total of $26.5 Billion USD is lost each year due to IT downtime. That’s an average of about $55,000 in lost revenue for smaller enterprises (Source). The higher the percentage of availability, the better uptime your site has and ultimately, the better it is for your business.

In our scenario, and using our tool, we took into account the recommended hardware refresh rate for an on-premises server (generally 3-5 years). As part of our price comparison for cloud servers, we set the refresh rate to 48 months. Most in-house servers would start to lose their ability to adapt to increasing workloads after four years. However, with a cloud server, you can scale your resources up or down to suit your needs. Finally, we entered another important indirect cost: the average annual salary for a system administrator or technical employee. For this example, we used an average number of $60,000. That number was rounded off from a researched by Payscale.com

The tool calculated that the average cost for this on-premises configuration would be $1,476.31 a month. In contrast, the monthly cost for a cloud server with the same configuration is $313.90. This translates into an average monthly saving of 79%.  The total cost of ownership tool also displays tables and graphs which compare this on-premises solution to a cloud solution proposed by SherWeb.

 

cost-of-cloud-servers

Five-year price comparison

Let’s assume that you refresh your infrastructure every five years. You’ll buy your new server in the first year and as we mentioned, you’ll replace it in the fifth year. Our tool calculated that over this five-year period, a company would save an average of 79% in its IT budget by opting for a cloud solution.

Back to our calculations. In the first and fifth years of the cycle, your expenses include server installation, configuration, initial maintenance and support. But, if you have a cloud server, your staff would spend little to no time dealing with these tasks. That’s why in our example, the company saves 90% in the first and fifth years with a cloud solution. For years 2-4, the costs for both on-premises and cloud solutions are limited to maintenance and support. The costs linked to hardware, such as HVAC, aren’t necessary with a cloud solution. Consequently, the company saves up to 58% with cloud servers.
cost-of-cloud-servers-vs-on-premise-servers

TCO: understanding the big picture

A number of key elements should be included in your decision-making process, such as system uptime, technical support, redundancy in case of power failure and the costs involved in refreshing your servers. Most companies replace their on-premises servers every five years. Wait any longer and you might regret it. It could be more difficult to find spare parts or do necessary upgrades. Or, your server might become too slow and inefficient to deal with spikes in demand. Electricity is also a major factor. As we mentioned earlier, power is a direct cost, and an important one at that! A recent article by ZDNet showed that in the U.S., it costs about $731.94 per year to run an average server. If you have several on-premises servers, that could translate into a big expense. Price is one thing, but it’s also important to factor in the value you’ll get on top of the price tag.

What other things should you consider? All the gravy that is provided by cloud servers that you don’t necessarily get with an on-premises solution. With Infrastructure-as-a-service, the datacenters hosting your solutions are usually better maintained, updated and upgraded compared with what you’re running in an on-premises environment. Next up is security. Most datacenters running cloud solutions are Tier 3+ and subject to stringent security regulations. In other words, your data will be the safest it can be. Your closest won’t even compare! We’ve talked a bit about hardware and software, but here’s the deal. The platforms used in cloud solutions are regularly updated to conform to industry standards. That’s another thing your business won’t have to worry about. You don’t even need to pay the SysAdmin doing the work, it’s all included in your price. And if you have any questions? Most providers offer free technical support.

So, crunch those numbers. If you don’t understand what your five-year TCO looks like, you’ll never be able to make a valid comparison of in-house vs. cloud solutions. Our TCO calculator below will help you get a grasp on your numbers.

Want to find out more about the total cost of ownership for cloud servers? Download our free cloud cost estimator here. Do the math yourself and make the right decision for your business!

9 Hidden Features in the WordPress Media Library Only Power Users Know

The WordPress media library can do a lot more than just store your media files. It is a powerful tool that covers all of your media management needs and more, and I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about it.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can leverage your library to its full potential – discussing everything from image uploading to image compression and uploading limits to the effects of cropping.

I’ll also cover media management in WordPress and image editing using the library. Finally, I’ll present you with techniques on how you can organize and download your entire library without having to use an FTP client.

Let’s get cracking!

The WordPress Media Library.
The WordPress Media Library.

An Introduction to the Media Library

The WordPress Media Library is essentially a directory of every single media file that has been uploaded to your site (whether it is ultimately published or not).

Media files include images, videos, audio and even documents. Regardless of where you upload the media to your site, it will show up in the library from where you can view, edit and manage it.

You can also integrate various plugins with your library to kick it up a notch. It’s flexible, portable and customizable. Its advances in recent versions of WordPress have made it one of the most polished features in the world’s most popular content management system.

How to View and Search Your Media Library

You can access the library by clicking Media in the sidebar. You have two viewing options: grid (shown above) and list:

The media library list view.
The media library list view.

WordPress also enables you to filter and search for images by file type, date uploaded and keyword:

Media Library search and filter functionality

How to Change the Media Library Upload Limit

If you’ve ever attempted to upload large media files, you may have come across an error message along the following lines:

The uploaded file exceeds the upload_max_filesize directive in php.ini

Fortunately, this problem can be solved relatively easily.

But before we proceed, it’s sensible to note that upload limits are there for a reason. Unless you’re uploading a video or audio file (most people will tend to host these on specialized external services), there should be no reason for your media files to exceed your upload limit. Files that take a long time to upload will take a long time to download (which will of course negatively affect the user experience), not to mention the strain put on your server.

Disclaimer aside, Jenni McKinnon wrote a comprehensive piece on increasing the media file upload limit. Check it out if you’re technically minded, but if not, a decent alternative is the free Increase Max Upload Filesize plugin.

How to Enable Image Compression for Uploaded Media Files

Image file size is important for a number of reasons, and fortunately, it is possible to compress images with little to no noticeable difference.

You can read my complete guide to image optimization, but for the purposes of this post, the key step you should take is to install WP Smush. (Oh, and don’t forget to check out the even better premium version, which leaves the competition in the dirt!)

Once installed, this plugin will simply do the job for you – no further work necessary.

How to Disable WordPress’ Default JPEG Compression

Awesome penguins

By default, WordPress compresses JPEG images to 90% of their original compression level. In case you’re wondering, the photo on the left shows the difference.

You’ll struggle to spot it, which is probably why the core developers saw fit to include this feature.

However, you can encounter problems when integrating additional compression solutions (such as WP Smush); your double-compressed photos can start looking pretty messy.

Fortunately, there is a way around the enforced compression. Just follow Raelene Wilson’s simple guide, or download the super simple Disable JPEG Compression plugin.

How to Prevent Duplicate Image Files

Whenever you upload an image file to WordPress, is likely to duplicate it into multiple sizes. This can be highly useful if you, for example, would like to display image thumbnails and link to larger versions. However, for most people, those extra image files represent nothing other than a waste of space.

And if you’re anything like me (read: anal-retentive), all of those redundant files will bug the hell out of you.

Let’s start by checking out the different image size that WordPress wants to create by navigating to Settings > Media:

Media settings

The solution to this issue is simple and as old as time itself. Well, actually Timothy Bowers handled it back in 2011. Seems like a long time ago, right?

Just change the width and high numbers to 0 and WordPress will stop producing those pesky extra image files.

While you’re at it, if you’ve got a huge archive of redundant images, use the free Image Cleanup plugin to eradicate them in just a few clicks:

Image Cleanup
2222 images! I’ve got some cleaning up to do…

How to Edit Images Within WordPress

My general advice would be that you edit your images before you upload them, but if you’re here I’m going to assume that you’re interested in editing image files within WordPress.

Well, you’re in luck, because for a content management system, WordPress offers pretty damn sophisticated image editing functionality. Just click the Edit button within the Media Library and you’ll be presented with a screen something like this:

Image editing screen

You’re able to rotate, flip, scale and crop any image in your Media Library, as well as add a caption, alt text, description, and change the filename. You can apply the changes to all sizes of the same image if you’d like by clicking the “All image sizes” radio button under Thumbnail Settings.

The rotate, flip and undo/redo tools are all self-explanatory, so let’s focus on cropping and resizing.

Cropping an Image

Using WordPress you can crop images in multiple ways. The simplest way is exactly how you do it on any other image editing tool: Drag the selection box to choose how you’d like the image to be cropped.

The other way involves one extra step but ensures that the aspect ratio of the image stays intact. Enter the values for your preferred aspect ratio, press the shift key and adjust the selection box.

The third way to crop an image using WordPress’ inbuilt tool is by manually entering the dimensions of the selection box. The dimensions must be entered in pixels. If your pixel estimation game is strong, you can use this last method to crop images.

Does all of the above leave you a little confused? Don’t worry – WordPress has really handy tooltips to help you along the way. Whenever you’re at a loss, just hit one of the blue question marks for more information:

Editing tool tips

Scaling an Image

Scaling images in WordPress is a lot simpler than cropping and resizing them manually. All you have to do is enter either a new width or height (the other will adjust to keep the ratio correct) and click Scale. Yes, it really is that simple.

The only downside of scaling is that you can only scale down. Scaling up would ruin the pixel density. If you accidently scale your image down to a miniscule size then instead of re-uploading it, press the Undo button and have a go at it again.

How to Download Your WordPress Media Library

Have you ever felt the need to download your entire media library? It may be because you have an excellent collection that you want to have backed up on your system or simply because you need the media files for distribution.

With a bit of googling you’ll find some techniques involving FTP clients. But for WordPress development dummies (don’t worry – I’m one of them) we have an easier way to download the entire Media Library. Just download the free downML – Download Media Library plugin and you’ll be able to download a zip file of your entire library!

Note that, depending upon the size of your Media Library, using this plugin could lead to a timeout. You may need to discuss how to best utilize this plugin with your hosting provider.

Source: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-media-library-hidden-features/