I have been managing all the IT for a small business (owned by a family member) of ~5 users for about 10 years. Since about 2 years the infrastructure is 100% virtual running on VMware vSphere on a single physical server (local storage) located at their office.

I would classify the users as light in terms of the applications (e.g. Excel, Word, PDFs, web, email) they use and the amount of data they produce. If I had to give an approximation of the current data I'd say less than 10 GB total.

In brief, I am planning on replacing the current setup with an improved one consisting of 2 vSphere hosts, shared storage etc. This setup will also be relocated to where I live because the business' office location will change next year and it is likely that users will not work in a central location, e.g. remote workers via VPN and home internet connections.


I have my hardware shopping list finalised and a conceptual plan for the new vSphere local setup ready to go!

HOWEVER, in the back of my mind I have entertained the thought of an alternative solution namely Amazon Web Services.

I do not have any experience with AWS apart from what I have been researching the last few days to get a better idea of how it works in practice. What I have noticed is that the majority of the AWS deployments involve web applications and services. I have not been able to find case studies and/ or stories of complete business IT infrastructure setups.

I have an understanding of the implications of using a IAAS provider in terms of data security, lack of control in terms of the underlying layers as opposed to 100% control in my local vSphere environment, the need for an internet connection to access the AWS resources. Nonetheless, before I spend a good amount of money on the new hardware and get going on setting up the vSphere environment I would like to know from any one who has direct experience with AWS and a similar sized small business whether AWS is a viable alternative.

By the way I believe that Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is the product I would be using and without a doubt I would have the data backed up to a physical device in my possession and location besides any backups made in Amazon's network.

In terms of the virtual machines we would need to run in Amazon VPC they are more or less as follows:

  • 1x AD/DNS/DHCP Windows Server 2012
  • 1x RDS (Terminal Server) Windows Server 2012
  • 1x File & Print Windows Server 2012
  • 1x Zimbra Email Ubuntu Server
  • 1x HylaFAX Ubuntu Server
  • 1x Vyatta Core
  • 1x Monitoring/ logging server

The only reason for needing Windows OS is due to the fact that core applications are Windows only!

  • possible duplicate of Active Directory in the cloud Dec 15 '12 at 23:08
  • Yes, this is possible to do with a VPC. Did you have a specific question, or is this more of a shopping question?
    – jamieb
    Dec 16 '12 at 6:01
  • No it's not a shopping question! I believe that I have been quite clear about what I'm asking for. In addition to the moderators who have closed this as "not constructive" I find that amazing when similar questions such as this [link] (serverfault.com/questions/322380/…) are permitted!
    – joshu
    Dec 16 '12 at 16:44
  • @joshu What did you end up doing?
    – ewwhite
    Sep 9 '14 at 12:48

To be honest, i'm wondering why you don't just setup 1 server and make it everything. You could get a Small Business Server and make it AD/DNS/DHCP/Terminal/File-Print/Exchange/Fax...I mean you've only got 5 users. I think I have a similar setup for about 9 users. Don't think i'd ever setup a RDS for 5 users.

If you're going to be running this from home (which I don't even recommend) you want as little as possible to be hosted local. I'd offload email to hosted exchange or maybe just use simple web-host mail if possible. That way is your power goes out at home, they can atleast check emails and work at home.

I think the setup you've listed is super overkill for 5 users.

  • Well there are numerous advantages to using virtualisation versus traditional IT. Having different virtual machines for specific purposes makes a lot of sense even for 5 users. Anyway this isn't relevant to my question as I am not looking to run Small Business Server in the way you have suggested. As an aside I don't want to use Windows OS more than absolutely necessary, so that is why I have different VMs with different OSs for different purposes.
    – joshu
    Dec 16 '12 at 0:14
  • Fair enough. Can you do all of this using AWS, yes. Is it practical, not really. Do you care at all about cost? May want to work out the cost differences first. If not then lets focus on fucnction. You can get all of this to work but what you can't control is the actual user's internet connection as far as latency and bandwidth are concerned. Assuming you'll face that problem whether Amazon hosts the servers or you do, then why not just virtualize the desktop environments then? Would make things much easier for you in terms of managing latency, security, and backups.
    – user72593
    Dec 16 '12 at 0:38
  • "then why not just virtualize the desktop environments then?" Just so we're on the same page there are no desktop environments in terms of user computers with Windows 7 or similar. The users have nothing more than thin clients which in turn connect via RDP to the terminal server for all their needs. If I've misunderstood your comment let me know.
    – joshu
    Dec 16 '12 at 0:50
  • No you're good, I just misunderstood how the office currently operates. Now that I have a clear picture then i'd say sure. You can take your whole setup to AWS, the only things to consider are cost (most likely over 3 years..and i'm willing to bet AWS will be much more expensive), security, and backups. Not sure what you were doing for backups before but you'd probably want to do something similar even though you put the servers in the cloud.
    – user72593
    Dec 16 '12 at 0:58
  • No worries. Yes, absolutely I will have to look into security, backups and cost in detail. Have you used AWS VPC in an IT infrastructure way for a company?
    – joshu
    Dec 16 '12 at 1:10

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