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I'm weighing my options on hosting apps that are built on the .NET stack.

1) Continue hosting in my office - I've got 4 web servers and 4 db servers and a few miscellaneous app servers. All are on Windows Server 2008 R2. The downside is that bandwidth is expensive - $750/mo for 3MB up/down. Also, there is a perceived security issue because the office is small (it does have a server room).

2) Use Hosting Service - I also have a few servers on softlayer. Their tech support is not particularly helpful. The bandwidth is great 1GB up/down, but the metered data may become expensive.

3) Cloud - I thought about use the cloud servers before, but the reliability of the Amazon servers seems questionable (several colossal failures in the past few years). I'm also against the cloud because they acted against wikileaks. The Microsoft cloud does not work for us because we use advanced features of SQL Server and send out email (which is not supported on their cloud).

Does anyone have any lessons learned or guidance on how to grow a small datacenter to a mid size datacenter?

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2 Answers 2

Rent dedicated servers from a provider until you need to have a rack full of servers, at which point colocation typically becomes a more cost-effective option. On top of that, you can use cloud hosting when you need to scale, as you'll only need to pay for a few hours of usage for cloud instances.

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Regarding option 1, 2 or 3...it's almost impossible to suggest something for your situation without knowing the details of your requirements (security, uptime, bandwidth, etc.).

In general, I'm a fan of getting servers out of a typical small office environment if they're primarily used by people outside of the office (e.g. web servers). Usually security is almost nonexistent...very little protection against theft, disgruntled employee with baseball bat, etc. Of course this depends on your requirements, but it doesn't sound like the servers have to stay in the confines of your building.

If you were to move to some sort of "cloud" service like AWS or Azure, you would want to review your apps to make sure everything will run on that service. You already mentioned some SQL Azure limitations that sound like a deal breaker. Also, consider things in AWS like the fact you can only have 1 local IP address per EC2 instance, which rules out using multiple SSL certificates on a web server (just one example).

Sounds like option 2 would be most likely what you need for now. Gekkz makes a good point about renting (from Softlayer, Rackspace, etc.) servers until it's cost effective to buy them. Seems like most dedicated server hosting companies will as involved or uninvolved in the management as you need them to be. Renting for a while makes it nice because you don't have a large capital investment and it includes bandwidth in one price.

We manage both dedicated servers and AWS apps for our customers. In general, the dedicated servers were customers that had in-house servers that ran a cocktail of random applications. Seems like AWS is a good solution for hosting web apps that can benefit from the AWS scaling and the other services (load balancing, monitoring, sns, etc.). That's not to say that AWS can't host a hodge-podge of apps, but you definitely want to review your apps and make sure they're compatible with the AWS limitations.

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