The three different types of server hosting
One of the most misconstrued aspects of computing is what exactly a server is. A server is nothing but another computer that is offering services (such as a website) that is accessed by one or more other computers.
With that said, there are three ways to host a server- self-hosted, hosted, and co-located. In reality, these have many options within each of them, but these three serve as the basis.
A self-hosted server means that you have it internally within your office. For instance, many organizations will have a file server that they utilize to share files between individuals, as well as consolidate data.
The benefits of this method are internal speed and control. The drawbacks are cost, in both labor and bandwidth, and reliability.
An internal office network is generally much faster than the internet bandwidth to the same office. If we look at a simple file transfer of a file between two desks in an office, it will take 1/10 the time to copy the file internally, rather than uploading the file externally, then downloading the file to the second computer. The file also never leaves the office, meaning there is a greater level of control over the access that is allowed to the data.
However, A self-hosted server must be routinely maintained, otherwise there is a risk of data loss or a security breach. Since a self-hosted server is often one of a few within a business, the cost of the maintenance is often higher than the cost of externally hosted options. The other aspect is that a small business often does not have the resources to offer redundancy at the level offered by other solutions.
A co-located server is one that a business sends to a host, usually a data center, where it will reside while it provides the services that are needed. At the data center, the server will have redundancies in power sources (often to the power plant level) and internet connections, as well as efficiency of scale for the facility and cooling.
However, a co-located server must still be maintained by the business, with the added caveat of fees associated if the host needs to perform actions on the device. The co-located server must be accessed through a business' internet connection, which is often a bottleneck in terms of speed.
Hosted servers can take many forms, but the basis is that the hosting company provides and manages the hardware that the business' data is residing.
Because the hosting provider is providing this service to other companies as well, their management of each business' service is a fraction of the cost that the business would incur for the same performance.
The drawback is that the business' data is now on another business' hardware. Depending on how this is handled, and what data is hosted, the business may be in violation of HIPAA, PCI, or Sarbanes-Oxley. Issues may also arise due to other businesses being hosted on the same hardware.
Hosting companies are aware of these drawbacks, and have products to eliminate them. I'll discuss them in a future article.