Ben  Franklin Ben Franklin | 27 Jan 2020

I’ve been a Quban for over a decade. In that entire time we have always used dedicated managed hosting (i.e. a physical box living in a warehouse with first-rate security). There were a few reasons for this approach. 

Firstly, we wanted complete control over our estate without having to worry about how third parties might affect it. Secondly, we had built up a great relationship with our hosting provider and they provided us with great support. And lastly, clients have confidence if you manage everything yourself. Whilst it had held us in good stead for a long time, more and more we started to come across problems with this type of hosting.

The "Stack"

When you have your own ‘stack,’ it is ultimately a finite resource. You provision a fixed number of CPUs, RAM and hard drive space, and allocate this accordingly throughout your virtual machines. Initially this is fine, but as soon as you need to scale up, it becomes problematic. Sure, you can add more resources in, but they must be installed by the provider, so there is a time delay (usually days). You are then contracted in to this resource, and if you need to scale down you are stuck paying for something you don’t need. Furthermore, there is always a set cost no matter how many clients you are hosting. You generally need underlying infrastructure to run virtual machines on top of, such as hypervisors (think of them as a ‘rack’), as well as firewalls, DDoS protection, SAN storage and many other items. Virtual machines can be switched on and off at will, but the underlying infrastructure cannot. This means you have a fixed base cost no matter how many clients you have, which can mean the difference between a profit and a loss depending on the volume of clients. Ultimately, we reached a point where this approach was holding us back, not just in terms of hosting but also in other benefits. It was time for change. Convincing our clients, however, was another matter. After all, from their perspective, everything was running just as it always had done, which was just fine. We had to do our due diligence to make sure this would be better not just for Quba, but for Quba’s clients, too. 

The "Cloud"

We knew we wanted to change to a more fluid service, and go cloud based. ‘Cloud’ can mean a lot of different things, but for us, we are talking about utilizing a cloud provider to host our websites without having the limitations of physical hosting. There are a plethora of cloud hosting providers, but from the start we were always leaning towards Azure. We are a Microsoft Partner and primarily work within the .NET sphere, so the obvious path was Azure as it is part of the same ecosystem. We did investigate other technologies such as AWS and Google, and whilst they are also great systems, Azure fit the bill. This brings me back to a previous point about holding us back in other areas. We are no longer in a world where hosting is just hosting; it now includes so many other areas and technologies. As a business we want to continually grow, learn and ultimately offer our clients opportunities via technology. Azure gives us this. Advances in cognitive services, AI, geolocation and bots (to name but a few) allow us to expand our service offering and do some really cool stuff! Once we had decided on Azure, it was important to create an environment that was at least comparable, but ideally better, than the previous offering. As we now have complete control over the estate, we are able to implement a setup that better suits our needs and includes features such as SQL high availability and monitoring through application insights. Not only have we migrated our live environment, but we also moved our local development and QA environments to Azure. This has aided in testability due to all environments having the same architecture, so there are no gotchas when we move between them. 

Show me the money

So far, I haven’t mentioned cost. Obviously, this is a big factor in any migration, but it wasn’t the driving factor in this case. What was more important than the overall cost was the flexibility on cost. Rather than being tied into long term contracts, we now have the option to scale up and down easily without it having a large impact on overall costs.  One thing that is worth mentioning is that Azure allows you to buy upfront with a significant discount. If you know you’re definitely going to need a resource for a year, this is definitely one to investigate (plus you don’t lose your money should you change your mind!).

In summary

Overall our decision to move to Azure was based on wanting to have more flexibility as well as move into new technology markets. What this means for Quba clients is the opportunity to tap into a very powerful ecology of cutting edge business tools, as well as a faster turnaround for implementing some solutions. It’s scalable and secure, so there’s a peace-of-mind that comes with Azure as well that you can’t get with physical server hosting.  If you’d like to discuss migrating to Azure, then do get in touch and we can discuss how best to go about it.