Secure file transfer has come a long way from its creation in the 1970s, and its latest evolution has seen a shift towards cloud-based file transfer. But are cloud-hosted file servers better options than onpremise file servers? Each file server hosting method has its strengths and weaknesses, and today we’ll be comparing the two: 

On-Premise File Server: Overview 

On-premise file servers have been used since the beginning of the internet, and for a long time they were the only option available. Although this environment may seem outdated in comparison to the recent development of cloud file sharing, a secure file transfer and storage server that sits on your company’s in-house hardware offers the security, control, efficiency and functionality advantages of being on your proprietary network 

While it may require more upfront cost and configuration time than a cloud server, on-premise file servers often provide a greater degree of customization options that may better fit the needs of administrators working in environments with specialized requirements.  

Cloud File Server: Overview 

Since the first solutions hit the market in the early 2000s, cloud file server storage has seen impressive growth fueled by Amazon and Microsoft, among others. Cloud-based file sharing offers significant scalability and set-up advantages thanks to its off-the-shelf configuration packages that automatically add storage and bandwidth resources, but can also contribute to higher infrastructure costs and security concerns when operating in strict compliance environments.  

There are pros and cons to each approach, which we’ve listed below:

 

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Security   

  • Stronger integration with directory services like Active Directory  
  • Straightforward configuration with existing company firewalls   
  • Software, servers, and infrastructure can be fully optimized for your unique business case   
  • Software updates are largely within an administrator’s control  
  • Security options are only as good as the humans who create and use them, and the security of your on-premise file servers rests on your in-house administrators avoiding any mistakes or oversights  
  • Software updates can be burdensome and introduce risk  
  • Two-factor authentication methods are often built in  
  • Administrators will have a smaller software updated load in this environment  
  • Possible limitation to file transfer protocols/ encryptions 
  • A third-party provider becomes a new threat vector  
  • Breach liability can be difficult to trace if cloud provider outsources data security  
  • Regulatory compliance in strict environments may prevent cloud usage  

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Access 

  • Flexibility to use proprietary/in-house security tools  
  • Greater control over directory access permissions  
  • On-premise file servers generally require more set-up time  
  • Configuring access for distributed users outside your local network can be challenging 
  • User access is generally straightforward  
  • Set-up is typically faster than an on-premise solution due to pre-configured options
    • Small visibility into all access activity on a shared server/data center  
    • Interactions with corporate network security protocols may require fine-tuning

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Data Control 

  • Administrators have full control over all data backup locations and file retention policies  
  • Logging and reporting can be fully customized based on the organization’s requirements  
  • For strict compliance organizations, on-premise file servers present the most transparent data custody  
    • Setting up and executing back-up and failover configurations can be time-consuming  
    • Monitoring and enacting file retention policies can be time-consuming  
    • Enforcing user policy adherence may take significant effort from administrators
  • Generally offers plug and play back up and recovery options that do not require additional administration  
  • Often have universal policy controls that make compliance requirements easier to implement  
  • Often no guarantee that providers will adhere to your data retention policies  
  • Your data may be exposed on your provider’s back-up or other servers without your knowledge  
  • Available logging tools may not provide the granularity your organization requires

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Speed  

  • File transfer is generally faster due to the data being stored on the same local network as your users  
  • Specific protocols can be chosen to enhance transfer speed  
  • Compression and encryption settings can be fine-tuned to optimize for speed
  • Distributed users may experience slow performance due to distance, VPN usage, etc.  
  • Organizations serving data across larger geographies may require distributed infrastructure to transfer files at speed   
  • Speed limited by server capabilities and network bandwidth  
  • Often provides faster transfer out of the box  
  • Transfer speeds can be more consistent across geographies  
  • Price tiers may affect file transfer speed  
  • Available file transfer protocols may not be ideal for all business uses  

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Scaling and Resilience 

  • On-premise environments can often be augmented with cloud solutions for load spikes  
  • Administrators can customize their failover solutions to fit business requirements
    • Bandwidth volume and storage space needs to be regularly monitored and adjusted  
    • Scale and failover investments often present significant upfront costs  
    • Failover testing requires significant administrative time beyond normal business hours
  • Bandwidth and storage is easily scalable and can be adjusted based on demand.   
  • Resilience is often baked in to a cloud solution, with automatic backups and a lack of risk due to distributed data centers  
  • Costs can rise quickly based on high bandwidth or session demand 

 

On-Premise File Server  

Cloud File Server  

Criteria  

Pros  

Cons  

Pros  

Cons  

Cost 

  • On-premise environments typically provide the most cost control  
  • Budgets have flexibility to be adjusted to fit business circumstances as opposed to a constant monthly bill 
  • Hardware and software expenses and upgrades will be ongoing budget line items  
  • Initial infrastructure expenses can be significant  
  • Cloud solutions often have extremely affordable entry prices  
  • You will not be required to purchase or update/upgrade any hardware  
  • Cloud solutions tend to rise in price over time  
  • Over the long term, cloud file transfer is generally more expensive 

Conclusion 

So which file server solution is better, on-premise or in the cloud? The answer depends on your business’s needs in the areas above, along with your file transfer requirements. If you need full data and cost control, and your administrators are up for the challenge, on-premise file server may be the way to go. On the other hand, if you want to simplify your infrastructure as much as possible and aren’t dealing with high-security data, a cloud provider may be the right fit.  

If you ever have any questions about file transfer solutions, or would like to discuss options with our file transfer engineers, please contact the Cerberus FTP Server pre-sales support team here. 

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