By now, people are familiar with the concept of “the cloud” (hint: it means “other people’s servers”), and may also know the advantages of hosting applications and data there: fast deployment, flexible hardware resources, and enhanced speed and security. Essentially, when you opt for the cloud you are choosing to outsource IT responsibility, or at least part of it, to people who are experts in maintaining hardware and networking infrastructure so your business can avoid hiring those people full time. And for many businesses that makes terrific sense.
So I won’t waste time telling you it’s a great idea to host your stuff in the cloud. Instead, I’ll explain how xTuple is using the cloud to help our customers save money, stay current with their software, and be prepared for disaster, should it strike.
First, a word about what we at xTuple mean by “the cloud.” In our case, the cloud is server space that we rent from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the largest single provider of cloud hosting services in the world, as reported by Fortune. As of the end of 2015, AWS had 31% of the worldwide cloud market share, according to Synergy Research Group. We use Amazon because we have found them to be affordable, reliable, well-documented, and available worldwide.
AWS has data centers across the U.S. and around the world, so in most cases we are able to locate our customers’ data in a regional facility that is close enough to the customer site that network latency is not a problem. In the few cases where the customer is too far from any AWS data centers to get great performance, other cloud hosting providers are used. We have a large customer in Mexico, for example, whose data is hosted in an IBM facility. So, more accurately, for us “cloud” means AWS, except when we need to look elsewhere.
How does xTuple Cloud save you money?
A quick glance at xTuple's pricing sheet shows that we actually charge MORE ($100 per month, plus $30 per user per month) to host the software than if you were to just license the xTuple software and host it yourself. For example, if you were to buy an annual license for 10 users of Enterprise Edition, you would pay a monthly fee of $1,485, assuming you hosted that yourself. If you host in the xTuple cloud, you’ll pay $400 more, or $1,885 per month. So, how does paying $4,800 a year in cloud fees save you money?
- You don’t have to own (or maintain) the hardware. We recently purchased not one, but two servers, at a cost of over $20,000 each, for a customer who wanted to host their own database on-site. They wanted full redundancy and a RAID configuration (redundant array of independent disks). For a variety of reasons they feel that onsite is the right solution for them. But you can see how renting space in the cloud would be less expensive, or would at least allow a company to spread the cost out over time.
- You don’t have to employ IT staff. Of course, a server is only part of the cost. The biggest cost is the expense of employing someone to feed and care for it. Servers are complicated and difficult to get right in terms of performance tuning, software updates, and security. You might have an IT staff already that can handle these tasks. If not, you probably don’t want to hire an employee or consultant to mind the server for you. The xTuple cloud service fee covers the time that xTuple operations staff spends installing, maintaining and optimizing databases on cloud hardware.
- You don’t have to worry about updates. After installing and configuring software for a customer, the next most difficult IT-related task is updating the software. We are often hired to assist customers with updates both on-site and in the cloud. The xTuple Cloud service does not provide software updates for free, but it does make them much easier and therefore potentially less expensive than on-site updates. This is because we have full 24-hour access to the hardware of customers in the cloud. We know the environment and the network. In the cloud we know what state the hardware and software are in before we start. We can spin up a pilot and make it available in a matter of minutes, and when ready we can update the production database quickly and efficiently.
- You don’t have to worry about business continuity. Finally, one of the biggest benefits to customers in the cloud is the promise of quick recovery. A database hosted on-site is subject to all manner of hazards: power outages, hardware failures, natural disasters, spilled coffee, etc. These same hazards, of course, can occur in the cloud (it’s just other people’s servers, remember?), but the difference is xTuple has a backup of your data, and we can quickly deploy that backup to a new cloud server. We promise that a cloud customer will be back up and running from a backup after an outage in 24 hours or less. In practice, the few times customers have had to use this service, we have been able to recover from the backup in considerably less time than that. If you are hosted on-site, where are you backing up your data? Where do you deploy it if the hardware fails? In the cloud, we’ve got your back, and your backup.
- You don’t have to be locked into anything. xTuple gives every new customer the option of up to 90 days (3 months!) in the cloud for free. If you don’t find it to be the right choice for your business, we’ll be happy to transfer your database back to you for on-site hosting.
I’m sure you've heard the triangle model of project management: Fast, Good or Cheap. You can only pick two. With xTuple Cloud, you get all three, and you can add Safe to the mix.
So, given the benefits above, shouldn’t you give it a try?