Cloud Server Vs Onsite Server Advantages & Disadvantages.

What is an onsite server?​

An onsite server is a traditional way to handle a business’ computer network.  It is a physical piece of hardware (kit) that sits on your business premises and provides services to the other computers on the network.  Some examples of the things it ‘serves’ are File-sharing, Network Addressing, Virus Scanning & Print Services amongst other things.  In many cases, you will end up with hardware that’s more powerful than what you require.​

What is a cloud server?

A cloud server is a more modern way to handle a business’ computer network.  It is a RENTED piece of equipment (or part of a piece of equipment) that is stored at a third party’s premises.  Typically, your organisation will be sharing space on the cloud server with other customers of the vendor providing the service.  You can tailor this to your organisation’s needs and so you only need to buy what you need.​

What are the key differences?


A cloud server can only operate on a pay-as-you-go model (revenue cost).  An on-premises server can either be purchased outright (capital cost) or leased (revenue cost)​


A cloud server is totally controlled by another organisation (the Vendor), whereas an on-premises server is in your complete control (or you can pass it to a partner to look after).  ​


A cloud server can usually be considered as always available as the vendor has large-scale infrastructure meaning they can have lots of servers all available to provide you with the resources you need.  On-premises servers are limited by the amount of capital cost you can provide (unless leasing).  You can have redundancy, but you have to pay for it.​


It’s very easy to buy additional resources when using a cloud server because the Vendor can supply it in minutes.  With an on-premises server, you have to upgrade the hardware which can take time and effort.​


Cloud providers put millions of pounds into keeping their infrastructure secure on your behalf.  So, it’s easy to be sure you are as secure as you can be.  On-premises requires more thought and consultancy to get the security right.​

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Servers? ​


  1. No need to allot capital expenditure for computing / server power.  Often within a business, getting approval to spend capital is a slow process.  ​
  2. Upgrading becomes easy, you just need to agree the extra spend and change a few settings and you have the extra capacity or power that you need.​
  3. Taking backups is usually a much simpler process and much more guaranteed in terms of its success every day. ​
  4. Availability is almost always on – it will likely be 99.99% uptime meaning that very important applications will always be available.​


  1. Costs will generally be higher over the lifetime of the solution and can often outweigh the benefits. 
  2. If your office internet connection is down, you won’t have access to any cloud services at all as they all rely entirely on it, so it’s usually a requirement to have a high-quality internet connection.
  3. ​Data recovery on a large scale can be tricky, and more time consuming with cloud solutions.​
  4. Some cloud solutions will have a maximum limit in terms of the resources you can add, which can cause problems later down the line.​

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of On-site Servers?


  1. Full, physical control over the servers, including backup and recovery.  No third-party vendor is required to handle any faults, your internal or outsourced IT department can handle everything. ​
  2. The level of IT Security can be controlled by your IT Team to a level that’s appropriate for your organisation. ​
  3. If your internet connection goes down, you can still access the files and databases that are stored on your internal server. ​
  4. It’s likely to be more cost effective over the lifetime of the equipment than cloud.  This is especially true if it’s OK to have a small amount of down time over the course of the year. ​


  1. Usually, you need a large capital outlay to purchase server equipment although Leasing can be used to combat this disadvantage. ​
  2. You need to have an internal or outsourced IT Team to look after the equipment, you can’t rely on a vendor for their support. ​
  3. Disaster recovery planning is all dealt with in house by the IT Team – so you need to make sure you have the right solutions and maintenance routines to be confident that you can restore in the event of a disaster. ​

What are the other approaches?

The word “Cloud”:

When people talk about “Cloud” services, they are often generalising too much.  There are hundreds of different cloud services available and all of them have different styles and types.  The above compares a “Cloud Server” versus an “On-premises” Server which are directly comparable, however many other cloud services are not comparable to a server in the traditional sense.  A traditional server would contain MANY different “roles”.  Each of those roles could be migrated to the cloud independently either to a single platform or to many different platforms.  Some of them are set out below.​

Email Server Role:

Emails for an organisation would typically be handled by an on-premises server, but Microsoft have changed this with their “Exchange Online” feature (or role), within the Microsoft 365 platform.  Most businesses now have their email server role in the cloud either with Microsoft or Google, or someone else and pay for it monthly.​

File Server Role:

One main feature that a server provides is allowing users to access a set of shared files.  Microsoft provide this function via “SharePoint” which is another feature of Microsoft 365.  It is a very different experience from using a ‘normal’ file server and training will be required to use it.  Again, it’s paid for monthly.​

Line of Business Application:

Many businesses would have traditionally had their line of business applications shared via a server.  Things such as Sage (50 or 200) and many others would reside on a server.  These are more difficult to migrate to a cloud feature/role UNLESS the vendor of the software offers a cloud option, although it is possible to move them to a “cloud server”.​

What are the obstacles to cloud migration?

With the growing developments in Cloud computing, many organisations are asking themselves, or their IT partners, “can we move our systems to the cloud?”.  As much as we’d like it to be, the answer isn’t always straightforward, as every business will have unique circumstances to consider.  Some of the things to consider are set out below.​

User Experience:

This is a big consideration! Users can be set in their ways and a cloud-based solution takes some getting accustomed to which can involve a great amount of time and co-ordination in training ( even after training you quite often find people struggling with a cloud-based option)​

Telephone System:

You might not think that this would be included in an IT discussion, but it could be impacted in various ways.  One way is that the on-premises server is currently used to provide some of the functions of the phone system, either by hosting the phone system or providing reporting for it.  Added to that, it may use the internet connection too and if you make every user utilise the internet connection more, you might have call quality issues for example. ​

Line of Business Applications / Finance Applications / Database systems:

Does your main business software that handles jobs / products / processes currently have a cloud option provided by the vendor? ​


How is printing handled in your organisation?  Does everyone currently print via the server, or some other method?  It needs to be considered when thinking about cloud migration.​

Graphical Software:

If you use software to design your products, it often stores it’s data on the server.​


It’s true to say, there are pros and cons to both solutions as we have explored throughout this blog post.  If you are looking to discuss this in more detail one of team from ESP Projects would be happy to help you.  Just use the button below to book a chat and we can go from there.