Whether speaking with clients, customers, suppliers, or your internal team about where and how you will host software, applications, databases, storage, websites, etc. you might find yourself impeded by the challenges presented by the variety of terminology. But it's not because it's a rather technical subject matter that is difficult to understand, it's because individuals and organizations often can call the same thing a few different names, inadvertently call different things the same name, or apply the same set of names to the same set of definitions but in a different arrangement than others. So confusing. But it doesn't have to be. The reality is that these things boil down to a few categories and subcategories and once you have them structured, you can create a definition set that will act as the Rosetta Stone for subsequent conversations.

So, let's start with a definition. In simplest terms, hosting provides a place for your digital stuff -whether it's storage, applications, or websites- so it can be accessed and/or utilized by those who you would like to access it. There are a few different ways you can accomplish this, so we need to define some categories: 1. Data Center (In-house, Third Party, Colocation), 2. Dedicated Hosting, 3. Cloud. Again, everyone has a different take on this, but if we stick to these three categories, we can find a place to put just about every subcategory. So, some more definitions:

1. Data Center: A place for customers to store their own, physical hardware. For an in-house datacenter, the organization is responsible for managing its own hardware, and all ancillary considerations such as real estate/space, power, climate control, and hardware maintenance. Third party data center providers allow customers to own and manage their equipment but take over the rest of the considerations mentioned above. Colocation would also land in this category alongside third party data centers with the key differentiator being that network and/or Internet service and connectivity is available within the same space.

2. Dedicated Hosting: Also known as Dedicated Hosting Service, Dedicated Server, or Managed Hosting Service is a type of hosting in which the client leases an entire physical server not shared with any other customers. The customer typically has either limited (Managed Hosting) or full full control over the specification, administration, and management of the physical server(s). Allows the customer to focus solely on its applications, by placing responsibility for managing space, power, climate control, hardware ownership, and maintenance on the provider.

3. Cloud: Combines capacity of multiple physical servers. Hosting requirements can be readily met on demand facilitated by the elasticity and scalability of a virtual server environment. The cloud hosting environment can be offered as a private, public, or hybrid of public and private infrastructure. Providers typically share the underlying, physical infrastructure with other customers.

With these primary categories identified and defined, hosting discussions become much simpler. The set of questions, concerns, and other considerations is filtered through these buckets and can be quickly focused in upon. For example, if there is no capital budget for equipment, in-house data centers will not be a good option. The a highly flexible and on-demand environment is needed, cloud will be the direction to head.

Further, this categorization provides a means to understand other, similar offerings like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). There are a wide variety of flavors and hybrids of these types of offerings, but understanding their underlying nature is key to understanding how costs will work and how contracting will be managed. In some cases, the "as a service" offerings are exactly like what they sound like, services for which you pay for what you use. In other cases, software may be provided but the hosting element is separate and can be purchased from the software licensor. In those cases, it's important to understand how that relationship works and what the technology provides. Is it cloud and therefore be easy to grow? Is it on dedicated hardware and therefore may have better security but is less scalable? Of course, the list goes on, but at least you know which questions to ask with this basic understanding of what the environment might look like.

There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty in the world of hosting and what is often sold as software (or otherwise) as a service. Mostly, this is due to the variety of marketing terms we are barraged with all of the time, but in reality it all comes down to the methodology of making the applications, data, web content, etc. available to users. The best fit approach to accomplishing that should take each of these methodologies into consideration. For assistance in developing a hosting strategy or sourcing equipment and/or services related to your hosting needs, visit Source One's website at www.SourceOneInc.com
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David Pastore

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