Are traditional servers a thing of the past ?

The traditional “Server / Client” infrastructure so common a few years ago is under attack from the implementation of traditional applications into the cloud environment.
One of the most common questions that I am asked when talking to clients, both new and existing is why they should move from the traditional server and client systems that they have to a cloud-based infrastructure.
There is a current trend to say that cloud is right for every user, my experience, especially in rural environment is more that partial cloud is a good solution for the majority, however, due to what can be very poor infrastructure in the form of Broadband and Fibre provision makes it very hard to create value to the client by moving them to a total cloud environment.
The one exception is email as there are almost no case that I can put forward not to have email servers located in the cloud rather than an on- premise.
The demise of the popular Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) product in 2012 has meant that the current replacement iterations of servers are focussing on the provision of Email services via various cloud-based providers, Office 365 with Microsoft and various flavours of hosted Microsoft Exchange Servers from many hosting providers, this is a much more sustainable option for email which has to be high availability and able to centralise such options as virus and spam removal in addition to providing great connectivity to multiple devices.
If we can assume that Email in the cloud is not at question, what can we consider to be applications that benefit from being on-premise and why?
Firstly I would suggest that we look at the connectivity that is mentioned above, if you have a great Fibre or EFM Connection with bandwidth to spare then this opens many doors to move your applications to the cloud, however we know that in the UK and definitely in rural areas, this is not the case and as such the 3-4Mbits of download and 448k of upload is not going to provide a good experience to users, even for single users this will not be acceptable.
The comparison between an older on-premise server solution and the internet or cloud-based replacement is directly comparable in the client’s eyes, and to make sure that the user experience is at least the same is imperative. Failure to take this into account when looking at whether Cloud, On-Premise or a Hybrid Solution is the most effective will potentially a relationship at a time that their system is bound to experience challenges due to upgrade.
We know that hosting databases in the cloud connecting to applications at the client, not an option unless some significant N-Tier provision is in place, and even then the user experience can be poor. We have clients that have tried to connect databases in this way (a really common one is Sage data at the office and the user trying to connect to this from home) and this can’t work due to the way that the data is read and written to, even for emergency use it is almost impossible, so moving the whole application into the cloud either via Web Services so the user views the data in a browser, or via Remote Desktop is the only real option if Cloud is a requirement.
If the user decides that remote access is the best way, this then puts additional challenges typically for the likes of Printing, high on the agenda for user satisfaction.
Currently to answer the question “are traditional servers a thing of the past”, my answer is an equivocal “no”, they are now, and will be in the foreseeable future, the best option in businesses where large amounts of data is collected, collated and distributed, where connectivity is anything less than excellent, and finally where security or confidence in security of data is of concern to the Company.

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