In medieval times, there was great debate and fear of what lay in the oceans beyond the known world. On maps of the day, in the blank spaces of the great oceans, where nothing was known, there were often painted sea serpents and the ominous phrase, “Here be Dragons.”
On the network diagrams related in Part 1 of this series, in the blank spaces between the known worlds, we find the Cloud. Just a fluffy little bit of line art that contains what are still mysteries to many of us. So, let’s tackle one of the really big pieces of the Cloud and try to explain hosting. A hosting company acts as the host for the hardware and software required to serve up the necessary I.T. resources to your company. For example, you may have the hardware and software on-site to provide email to each of your employees. Or, you may choose to outsource your email function to a hosting company. We will discuss the advantages and costs of doing this in a later post. For now, let’s just learn to speak the language of hosting. With some help from our friends at RackSpace, one of the largest hosting companies anywhere, let’s work from left to right on this diagram and explore just how hosting companies work.
The traditional I.T. department consists of hardware and software and people who exist on the physical premises of the enterprise. A hosting company refers to these as on-premises resources (on-prem for short). Some companies choose to place part of their I.T. resources at another site, for redundancy or security. This equipment resides in a Colocation facility (many companies collocated in one facility – called a Colo). It may be said that this facility is hosting your I.T., but in reality, they are just providing the power, cooling and pipe for your I.T. hardware. You still maintain and manage these resources just as if they were on (your) premises.
But now, let’s get into the cloud and inside the hosting facility. Within the hosting world, there are three basic choices you have to make:
Unmanaged or Managed
The first is Unmanaged or Managed (green and yellow). Unmanaged implies that the hosting company allows you to manage your own hardware and software – it is unmanaged by them. In a managed solution, the hosting company manages the hardware and software for you. As you might imagine, an unmanaged solution costs less than a managed one.
Standard or Custom
The next choice is Standard or Custom (red and darker green). A Custom solution implies that you, the customer, can choose the hardware and operating system that you want (within reason). Conversely, a Standard solution is chosen by the hosting company for consistency and supportability. A Standard solution is less costly than a Custom solution.
Dedicated and Shared
Lastly, we choose between Dedicated and Shared resources. Dedicated resources are used only by one customer. They are dedicated to that one account; whereas, a Shared resource is shared by many companies simultaneously. For instance, a single server may host websites from several different customers at the same time. This is made possible by a technology called virtualization. We will save that one for a future lesson.
As you may see, there are two sweet spots for hosting companies: Managed-Standard-Shared solutions and Unmanaged-Custom-Dedicated solutions. However, there is no reason that you couldn’t choose any combination of the three choices. The choices are usually determined by what type of application the customer needs to be hosted. Some applications that require more control or security may demand dedicated hardware that is totally managed by the customer. Other applications, such as email or websites, may exist comfortably in a standard, shared environment.
In the real world, no single site or solution is sufficient to meet the needs of a growing enterprise. Most I.T. environments today are actually a hybrid of any or all of the choices. Companies today will likely have on-premises equipment and possibly some in a Colocation facility, as well. But over time, most companies will choose to host some of their applications with an outsourcing partner, like RackSpace. Likely, your I.T. resources will be some combination of on-prem and colo, managed and unmanaged, custom and standard, dedicated and shared.
How’s that for learning to speak Hosting in one easy lesson?
Watch for Part 3.