Servers are an important part of a business’ technology infrastructure. They house files, applications, websites, provide remote access for your employees and more.

Without servers, IT operations would come to a halt. That’s why it’s so important to make the right decision when choosing your business server environment.

The first step is understanding the different types of environments servers can run in. These environments are:

1. Onsite servers, traditional and virtual

Onsite servers are housed in a company’s office, either in a server closet or on-premise data center.

These servers can come in two forms — physical and virtual. Physical servers only run one operating system, while a virtual server can run multiple operating systems using software like VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V. Onsite servers require a dedicated space within an office and must be properly cooled and powered.

2. Offsite data center

Local and regional data centers allow companies to rent space for their servers and network equipment for a monthly fee.

Companies can typically purchase an entire secure server cabinet or half cabinet, depending on the space needs. Servers at a data center are maintained by your company’s IT staff or an outsourced IT provider.

3. Cloud-based

Cloud-based servers, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, allow companies to purchase space on servers hosted in different regions across the globe. Users are given access to a portal where they can access their servers and cloud infrastructure, without having to worry about server hardware.All physical hardware and data center security measures are the responsibility of the cloud provider.

With so many options, you’re probably wondering which server environment is right for your business. Here are four things to consider:

1. IT staff and maintenance capabilities

If your servers are on-premise, it is your responsibility to maintain the hardware, software and server racks. Storage, cooling and power must also be considered. This is a big responsibility for companies that do not have adequate internal IT staff. And missed or delayed maintenance could result in an unexpected outage.

One option is to outsource server maintenance to a managed service provider. Many companies are also turning to cloud-based servers, which require limited maintenance from internal staff. Keep in mind, your data is only secure if servers are properly maintained. So, it’s important to work with reputable organizations that you trust.

2. Budgetary restraints

The second consideration is budget. Some companies may need three to four servers, which can be housed in a single virtualized server. Others may require five, 10 and even 20 servers. The cost of buying the hardware and creating a dedicated server room could be as low as $10,000 and increases exponentially based on your company’s needs.

Not all companies have the budget to purchase the necessary equipment for on-site servers. Also with physical server hardware purchases, companies run the risk of overspending if they never use the full potential of their hardware. Leasing space from a data center, on the other hand, is a direct expense that doesn’t require a large capital expenditure.

Cloud server solutions allow companies to pay for the resources they need — such as storage space, memory and processing — when they need them. Cloud solutions also offer full flexibility to scale up or down at any time.

3. Disaster recovery and up-time needs

If your servers go down unexpectedly, can your business survive while they reboot or restore? This is a question to ask yourself before deciding which server environment your company should choose.

With traditional servers, it can take hours or even days to restore data — that is, if the damage allows for restoration at all.

On the other hand, a virtual server can be restored within a few minutes to a previous date or time using a virtual snapshot.

If your business cannot survive with even minutes of server downtime, a data center or cloud-based server environment may be the right fit. These data centers — both local and cloud — have the resources necessary to keep systems up and running. The cloud also has built-in redundancies that many companies cannot afford in-house.

It’s important to note that cloud-based servers are not bulletproof; however, they are the most reliable.

4. Scalability and growth

If your business is growing quickly, it’s likely that your server needs will grow, too. Take this into consideration before you choose a server environment for your business. What will your needs be in two or even five years? Adding new servers to an in-house data center can get expensive very quickly. However, adding space on the cloud is easy and more cost-effective.

Medium-sized companies can also purchase space at a data center to create private co-located environments. Servers can be added as needed, and the space, heating and cooling is all managed by the data center.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a server for your business. Rely on advice from a strong internal IT team or reputable managed service provider to make sure you make the right decision.