Email, websites, apps, and data are crucial to most businesses today. And that means servers. Managing, maintaining, and optimizing those servers is a time-consuming proposition — one that will only expand as your business grows. Many SMBs feel that the way to keep costs low and control high is to keep everything in-house. But as business needs change, and the demand for IT resources goes up, how do you know whether you can handle it all with in-house hosting? Follow these four basic steps.
1. Evaluate your hosting technology needs.
Whether you’re looking to host your organization’s web presence, email, digital transactions, or specific data or applications, each one requires a different mix of technology. Start out by making a list of the server specs that would best suit your needs.
- Hosting type
- Server hardware and storage requirements (CPU, RAM, storage type, etc.)
- Security and compliance requirements
It’s also important to recognize whether your hosting needs are short- or long-term. Many businesses have seasonal peaks, then return to a relatively lower pace. Sometimes an organization will have a one-time-only hosting need, such as hosting a specific chunk of data for a research project. Understanding the scope of your hosting technology needs, in terms of “speeds and feeds” as well as duration, will help you make a smarter decision.
Finally, evaluate whether you have the proper technology in-house and if not, what it will cost to procure it.
2. Assess your server administration and management needs.
For each hosting discipline, there are standard administration and management tasks — daily, weekly, and monthly. If you have an in-house IT person or team, work together to identify these tasks, the hours required to perform them, and the technical abilities and skillsets needed to do them well.
Tasks can include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- Managing the sheer volume of email sent and received daily, while protecting the network against threats
- Navigating and administering complex DNS services
- Staying on top of server system software and OS patching
- Tending to ongoing network and security management tasks (firewall configuration, malware scans, port monitoring etc.)
- Ensuring disaster recovery and business continuity
- Addressing escalations in data storage, backup and recovery requirement
Next, evaluate whether your in-house IT person or team have the necessary experience, skills, and up-to-date knowledge. You should also consider time and attention. In many small-to-medium businesses, people wear multiple hats. Keep in mind that your IT team’s responsibilities may extend to sales, accounting, marketing, or even HR. Server management and hosting can be time-consuming, complicated initiatives, so it pays to be sure you’ve got the bandwidth.
If you don’t have sufficient in-house IT resources, do you have the time and budget to hire somebody qualified?
3. Understand the potential risk factors
Handling hosting needs in-house means you assume certain risks. How do you know that the hardware has been tested and optimized for your specific hosting scenario? What happens if that server fails? How long can you afford to be without email, or to have your website down? And how does that affect your business?
What happens if your IT team doesn’t manage your servers properly? How would your business be affected in the event of lost data, downtime, or even lost business?
If you IT team lacks the time or expertise to manage your servers properly, this exposes your organization to potential losses should a server fail — including lost data, lost time, and even lost business. Can you afford the upfront investment as well as the risk?
4. Consider the possibility of change (both good and bad).
Change happens. Your business will hopefully grow. Projects can expand. New opportunities present themselves. If you decided to handle hosting in-house, do you have the server space and IT resources to react to change effectively? If not, do you have the budget for more hardware, software, and/or staff?
Hopefully this process has helped clarify whether your organization can handle all of your hosting needs in-house. But this is just the beginning of thinking strategically about your hosting needs. To dig deeper, download our white paper: Hosting: The Strategic Decision SMBs Should Take More Seriously.