My business has about 15 people in a single location. We've lived forever off a local Windows Server for file sharing (about 800 GB) and access to our accounting system, which is also file system based (meaning it isn't client-server, rather you access it over a shared drive). My server is nearing the end of its life and I am considering the alternatives.

My fundamental decision is whether to implement a new server onsite or bring things to the cloud. By 'cloud' I mean a number of different things - it could be an infrastructure as a service (IAAS) implementation where I maintain the file server but just stick it in the cloud, or it could mean cloud-based file sharing, etc. I am not presupposing any answer.

Replacing the server with a new one is the "easy" answer, because it's a known entity. But again I am trying to be open minded.

One of my hangups as I think about the cloud is user's behavior and patterns when it comes to file sharing. Today, users access a shared folder, files are locked when opened so there's no problem having single version of the truth, and people are used to working in Explorer in a very "interactive" way, meaning they work in projects that have many files that are constantly opened, edited, closed, etc. Many files are accessed by the same people and as I said there is no issue with collisions because file access is exclusive for writes. Most cloud solutions are either sync-based, but this is a problem for me because the file set is > 250 gb and it's not practical to put that data on all workstations (all users need all) not do I want to distribute it that much from a security perspective, or web-based which is a huge slowdown from a workflow point of view, eg browse to file, download it, open it, save it back up, etc. vs. Explorer.

Another hangup I have is that after the purchase cost of a new server (

I think a lot of the challenge originates from the fact that I have an existing environment vs. being able to start fresh. If starting fresh I'd have no constraints and could define any answer I want.

I'm not looking for an answer of which option is better per-se, but rather I am looking for guidance on how I should consider the factors associated with each option so I can make a good decision.

What are your thoughts about this?

  • 2
    I think you haven't given an actual reason that "the cloud" would actually benefit you. Go buy a nice new server, rack it up, and get on with your business. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 17:57
  • Opinion Based -- every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 18:02
  • Not opinion-based, because he gives good examples of what his users are doing and what problems he's trying to solve for.
    – mfinni
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 18:04
  • 2
    If he needs locking, especially of large files, than a cloud-and-sync solution won't meet that need. Hardly "just an opinion."
    – mfinni
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 18:16
  • 3
    Oh dear god. QuickBooks in the cloud? That's just a horrible idea. You'll get the company file open by lunchtime...maybe. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


Your use cases of large files with a requirement for locking, plus a file-based database, definitely are good arguments against putting those across a WAN link from your users - ie in the cloud.

Keep a local server. Hopefully a cheap workgroup NAS with a good backup will serve you well. The backup can maybe go to a cloud provider, if they can meet your RTO and RPO - consider restore times!

In the broader discussion, things like email and individual files? Heck yes, pay

  • 1
    +1. Bandwidth is the one killer argument against the Cloud (plus the cost of it). If you dela with a large file set then the opening/closing will be seriously problematic. No 1gigabit link in most places ;)
    – TomTom
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:24
  • Well, this example problem is really an issue of latency, not bandwidth as such.
    – mfinni
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:26
  • It turns fast into bandwidth when multiple people need to download.
    – TomTom
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:28

I'd argue that, above all else, you should consider the amortized cost of a new server. Off-premise hosting seems inexpensive on a monthly cost basis, but a $2,500.00 server running a FOSS NAS distribution w/ a 3 year warranty and expected operational lifetime is an amortized cost of under $100.00 / mo.

Consider leasing the server if this is an "OPEX" versus "CAPEX" decision.

You can "start fresh" with an on-premise server just as well as with an off-site server (and likely faster since you'll have gigabit per second bandwidth and sub-millisecond latency between the machines).

Remember that storing files in an off-premise host doesn't absolve you of the need for backup. Your file hosting service may store prior generations of files, etc, but consider retention windows, ability for prior generations to be deleted by users (or malicious actors), etc.

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