Recently, one of our clients faced an issue on their server which they were hosting with a well known managed provider (traditional dedicated hosting approach). Let us compare the consequences of their problem in both the old fashioned approach of having a dedicated server at a collocation center or a managed hosting provider and in the Cloud based hosting.
Old Fashioned Approach:
Suddenly, their server’s hard disk failed. He contacted the datacenter and after a series of back and forth emails and phone calls, the datacenter asked the client to backup their data so that they can do a hardware test. Even though the client has a good backup policy, their backup was more than 6 hours old and their website is a fairly dynamic media site with a popular forum. In spite of the regular overnight backups, the client has to do another backup by booting the server under read-only mode (as it was not booting up normally). Once he completed the backup, the datacenter added a new disk, reloaded the OS and put the backup disk back on the server. The client then secured the server with the usual security procedures, restored the data for all their domains and, finally, the server was up and running after 10+ hours.
Cloud Computing Approach:
Under the Cloud Computing approach, the client will not face any issues related to disk failures. The architecture has been set up in such a way that such drive failures are inconsequential. Users will never face a hardware issue under a well architectured Cloud Computing model. Let us consider the same website on Amazon EC2. A base operating system with the necessary LAMP stack can be set up and secured. It can, then, be bundled as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) and stored on Amazon S3. This AMI can be registered to run as an EC2 instance. The Mysql and other web files can be stored on an Elastic Block Storage (EBS) with an optional backup on S3. This EBS volume can be mounted on a EC2 instance to serve up the website. In the event of any issue with the running EC2 instance (BTW, no hardware issues here), one can just kill the running instance, start a new instance from the AMI stored on S3, mount the EBS volumes and, boom, the website will be up and running. The total time lost will be few minutes with a proper initial planning and configuration.
Compare the 10+ hours of downtime for a very popular media site and forum with just a few minutes of downtime (which can also be minimized with proper automation). it is easy to see why the Cloud Computing route is a better option than the traditional one. In fact, the economics also favors the Cloud route for this client. Even though it is a personal story of our company’s client, I am sharing it here because it will be a good lesson to any small businesses taking the traditional route to hosting. Even if we take out the economics from consideration, the other advantages with the Cloud based hosting makes a compelling case for moving the Small Business hosting to the Clouds.