Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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5 Bare Metal Server Facts Businesses Should Know

What is a bare metal server?

A bare metal server is a single-tenant physical server installed directly on a machine. Unlike a server on a virtual machine, a bare metal server can make use of all the resources of the physical machine it resides in.

People occasionally get picky about the definition of bare metal, and hold it to a strict standard of having the server installed without being contained in an OS. For all but the most data-intensive purposes, this distinction is not necessary. A dedicated server contained within an OS can do almost all the things a non-OS-based server can do.

People choose virtual servers when they want quick upgrades and easy scaling. They choose bare metal when they want to avoid latency issues and handle heavy applications like processing large datasets and high network traffic.

Simplicity and performance

Long ago, all servers were bare metal. All computers were, in a sense, bare metal. They had one program installed, they ran one program, and that was that. Only in the 1960s did people develop operating systems which could let more than one program run on the machine, and eventually, let more than one program run at one time. Unfortunately, this introduced greater possibilities for computer errors, as it was possible for programs to interfere with each other.

According to Ian McClarty the President of Phoenixnap.com,  “The bare metal approach creates a private room, so to speak, and thus avoids the noisy-neighbor effect created by a multiple-tenant virtual server setup.”

This is important for small businesses with servers running all hours of the day and night. Such a workload requires a server to be as reliable as possible. If a small business works in areas involving operations where time is critical, such as financial trading firms, and law firms, server downtime will cause a loss of business.

A server running on bare metal can dedicate all the resources of its hardware capabilities to the task. This will make it easier to handle the terabytes of bandwidth involved in high internet traffic. High performance can also make running a cloud cheaper on a per-workload basis than it would be for a virtual server.

Security And Compliance

Some businesses operate under strict regulations to keep their records private and secure. Hospitals, for example, are bound by HIPAA to keep their patient’s data in secure storage. Law Firms are bound by vested interest and law to keep client data private. Banks operate under the same requirements. Police forces as well need a secure data storage option.

Normally hosting such information in a cloud would pose an undue data security risk. However, bare-metal dedicated servers can host private data clouds. This allows users access without compromising security. On the off chance a server suffers a breach, bare-metal servers run in isolation from the rest of the servers in an institution. This prevents a breach in one server from affecting another.

For example, legal teams which frequently work from multiple remote locations will want to be able to link their case records to their devices. They will want a remote server they can all link to to access the large amounts of data a legal team usually deals with. But they will also need the connection to be secure. A bare-metal server can fulfill both requirements.

Scalability and flexibility

Small growing businesses need data storage space.

Bare-metal servers can scale up their functions in two ways: vertically or horizontally. Vertical scaling is a matter of spreading a data load between the CPU and RAM resources of a single machine. There is only so much vertical scaling possible before a machine hits the limits of what one lonely server can do, though, and hitting the upper limit will cause server downtime. Horizontal-scaling, where each part of the node contains only some of the data, can be done indefinitely.

But small business owners can set up their hardware as they please. Bare-metal servers come in a wide variety of configurations. They can be customized according to the needs of a business. Some small businesses may have small data requirements, and so go for the cheaper and less powerful end of the scale. Some businesses, especially law firms, may have high data requirements so that they will need powerful machines. Typical storage options go from 8 GB RAM at the lower end to 64 GB RAM at the higher end.

Price

Price is flexible when it comes to renting or leasing bare-metal servers. Some small businesses may decide they only need server functions by the hour, and so choose to pay for their server use by the hour. Hourly billing can start as low as five cents and go upwards of $1.50 . Businesses keeping their server on for every minute of the day find it more feasible to pay by the month. They will typically have a monthly bill in the range of $118 to $250, but they will, at least, know what the bill at the end of the month will be.

Maintenance, upgrades, and customization

If a small business wants to repair or upgrade a server, they must have someone who knows know how to work with the literal bare metal of the machine. Upgrades to virtual servers run in the scale of minutes, but upgrades to bare-metal servers run in the scale of hours. Sometimes upgrades and repairs run in the scale of days, depending upon availability of parts and people to install the parts. Manipulating the hardware of a such a server takes time and mechanical skill.

Any upgrade which does not involve replacing the whole machine requires two expenses: ordering the parts, and finding someone to install them. A small business may have someone in-house who knows how to repair and upgrade servers. more likely they will have to call in a trustworthy technician. In either case, the process depends upon how quickly the parts can be procured and installed. Some parts may take weeks to arrive, requiring that upgrades be scheduled weeks in advance instead of being done on the fly.

Then there’s the question of how fast your repair technician gets there. Nobody wants to wait a day for the repairman to fail to show up. People have enough trouble with long response times when it comes to the plumber. If a small business leases its hardware, the package may include fast response times for repair, but if the business owns all its servers, then they will have to figure out maintenance on their own.

A small business engaged in physical upgrade after physical upgrade will find that it has custom-built its hardware to meet the specific processing needs of the software. Bare-metal dedicated servers benefit from customization to maximize performance. Many server-leasing companies offer to custom-build servers for their clients. It is up to a small business whether they want to automate their server now or deal with upgrades later.

Bob Buskirk
the authorBob Buskirk
About 10 years of computer experience. Been messing around with electronics since I was 5, got into computers when I was in highschool, been modding them ever since then. Very interested in how things work and their design.
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