On-premise FTP Servers and cloud FTP environments both come with benefits and drawbacks, leading many IT managers and system administrators to set up hybrid file transfer/cloud storage solutions. In this guide, we review the key differences between on-premise and Cloud FTP solutions in order to help you make the best file transfer decision for your needs: 


1. FTP Server Network Environment – Distributed or Localized? (Flexibility vs. Performance) 

Cloud FTPs generally work best for organizations supporting highly distributed users with uncertain transfer volume needs due to their geographic distribution and ability to scale resources. 

Organizations operating within a confined network, on the other hand, often find that an on-premise FTP server provides better performance due to the proximity of its resources and the ability to optimize hardware and network settings to provide an ideal speed. 

If you prioritize flexibility in your file transfer environment, you’d likely lean towards cloud file transfer. If performance optimization is a bigger criteria, on-premise file transfer is the right solution. 


2. Operating Environment Configuration – How Specific Are Your File Transfer Requirements? 

Cloud FTP solutions typically require an organization to accept the provider’s available software and hardware configurations, which may not be optimal for all file transfer feeds (especially those that handle sensitive data, which is generally exposed to a third party in cloud transfers).  

On-premise FTP servers give administrators complete control over their infrastructure and eliminate dependency on external providers. This configuration is ideal for organizations with specific hardware, software, and data storage/handling requirements. Administrators also place the burden of managing upgrades, replacement and security for these areas on themselves, which comes with its own cost.  

Generally, the more specific and unique your file transfer requirements are, the better suited an on-premise FTP server will be to support them. 


3. FTP Server Deployment Time – Where Will You Spend the Most? 

Cloud FTP solutions are often advertised as easier and faster to set up than on-premise transfer solutions. But these solutions have their own learning curve, and on many occasions will require multiple iterations to figure out the exact required configuration. It is not unusual to encounter deployment delays and other hidden costs when using cloud ftp solutions, especially in situations where you are trying to adapt a resource to your business rules.  

On-premise FTP solutions, on the other hand, are often perceived to require a significant amount of time (and money) to stand up. In reality, set-up time varies widely by provider, and can be improved significantly depending on the support resources required.  

Your best option here is to spend time browsing reviews for your potential solution and asking advice on relevant forums. In many cases, the decision will be made by your own experience and the quality of the solution you’re researching. 

4. Ease of Maintenance – Who Will Be Performing Yours?

Cloud FTPs generally offer better uptime and redundancy options than on-premise solutions, due to their ability to draw on massive hardware resources for distributed storage and failover support. However, this peace of mind comes at a cost. 

Cloud FTP set ups often add an unexpected maintenance burden to administrators who were looking for a more turnkey solution. User account management and connecting shared resources are two of the most common frustrations, and the technical requirements for interconnectability can be daunting for the inexperienced. Additionally, cloud providers are known for making rapid changes to policies and services that may require more maintenance time than initially planned. 

A good on-premise FTP provider (like Cerberus) will require very little maintenance after set-up to keep the system safe and efficient, but will only be as reliable as your internal network resources.  


5. Cost to Run (OpEX and TCO) – What is the True Cost of Cloud FTP?

While cloud-based solutions often appear more affordable at first, their subscription costs can scale quickly and will continue until your contract ends. Cloud-based FTP costs are determined by many factors, including usage (throughput usage, number of user log-ins, number of files transferred, etc.) and specific configuration options (server RAM, processor speed, etc.). Because of this billing model, the true cost of running a cloud FTP service is less predictable than an on-premise solution. In addition, cloud FTP environments may also be more prone to usage abuse that impact the monthly bill.  

Once set up, however, on-premise FTP servers run like a set-and-forget type of solution, making service expenses confined and predictable. Generally, your operating expenses (software license, hardware, support costs, staff resources, etc.) are known well in advance and can be planned for.  

The deciding factor when considering costs is typically your comfort level with ambiguity. If you have the resources to support an unpredictable bill and have planned for usage (and cost) spikes, cloud solutions will likely be an option. If you are looking for a more cost-effective solution, on-premise FTP servers are the better choice.   

6. Scalability and Cost-to-Scale – How Flexible Do You Need to Be?

Cloud-based FTP services often offer flexible hardware scalability that allows you to easily add RAM, storage space, and additional servers at the click of a mouse. This flexibility is convenient, but carries a significant cost.  

On-premise FTP servers allow scalability as well, but that scalability will come with effort from your team to purchase, install and maintain the required resources. This situation offers the benefits of keeping your running costs predictable, but scaling expenditures are often a higher upfront investment. 

Either way, you’ll pay to scale your file transfer solution. The best way to make a decision on scaling is to price out your options (and don’t forget to include maintenance and support requirements).  


7. Data Control – How Sensitive (and Secure) Is Your Data?

In a cloud FTP environment, ownership of data is a constant matter of friction for both vendors and customers. Simply put, your applications and data are reliant on someone else’s network (and security) in the cloud. 

Despite significant security progress, cloud breaches are still common enough to concern many security experts. Data and encryption keys reside within your third-party provider, introducing a risk where if an unexpected event happens, you may be unable to access your data. And finally, data that enters and leaves your environment may not be desirable, depending on the task and nature of your industry’s practices. 

Multiple verticals such as government, banking, healthcare, corporate manufacturing and others handle sensitive information and must maintain a certain level of data exposure and physical location security that only an on-premise FTP server can provide. 

Using an on-premise FTP server ensures that enterprises maintain complete control of their data exposure, retention, and security. These solutions are ideal for companies in highly regulated industries with extra privacy concerns, or when security and compliance policies require file transfers to remain on your private network or moving data only between private endpoints.  


8. Regulatory Compliance – To What Requirements Must You Adhere? 

Many organizations are governed by significant legislation like GDPR, HIPAA, FERPA, HITECH and other data protection standards (including FIPS-140-2 transfer requirements). Using cloud FTP providers can complicate compliance efforts under regulations like these, as companies still must perform due diligence to ensure that their third-party provider is up to code. The company is also accountable for any compliance issues, making the use of third-party solutions an added risk factor.  

On-premise FTP server solutions ensure full visibility and control over compliance-required access and data security standards. These solutions reside 100% within an organization’s control, reducing risk and supporting enhanced security requirements and ensuring that you can validate requirements like file retention policies and data deletion are being carried out appropriately first-hand. 


How Cerberus FTP Server Can Help 

Cerberus FTP Server currently offer a complete on-premise solution. We also support a hybrid-cloud storage solution for specific use cases, and continue to develop Cerberus FTP Server to natively support full Cloud-FTP deployments in future versions. Our roadmap includes native support for third party cloud storage and integration, including AWS S3, Azure Blob, Azure AD, and more. To learn more about how we support cloud FTP solutions, contact our FTP server experts today