Understanding Bare Metal Servers vs Virtual Servers

Posted on April 23, 2020 Servers

When you get ready to set up a server, one of the first questions you’re going to run into is whether you should run bare metal servers or virtual servers. You may have heard of virtual servers as being somehow related to the cloud before, but what are bare metal servers? Which is better, and how does each one work? 

Bare metal servers can be a good option for companies that need rock-solid security and are prepared to handle server maintenance. Virtual servers are great for companies that need flexibility in their server access options. Read on to learn more about each and discover which one is the best choice for your company.

What is a Virtual Server?

Virtual servers have the capacity to share software and hardware resources with alternative operating systems and refer to different ways that server software can be managed. If you own your own bare metal servers, you can use a virtual server to allocate power to different server needs as required.

A virtual server imitates physical server functionality. You can implement multiple virtual servers on an individual bare metal server as they utilise virtual infrastructure and virtualization software to create and maintain virtual environments. 

So, for instance, if you’re running a database and an online portal on a virtual server, you can dedicate more bandwidth to the online portal during heavy traffic loads and shift bandwidth back to the database during evening hours when the portal isn’t getting as much traffic.

Virtual servers can also refer to server space rented on someone else’s servers. Companies like Google and Amazon rent out space on multiple servers located around the world. This removes the burden of you having to maintain the physical infrastructure of servers while still being able to have the server access you need.

The predominant benefits of virtual servers are that they are cost effective, offer resource isolation and save energy and space. The biggest challenge faced by a virtual server is resource hogging, this is when too many virtual servers overpopulate a physical server causing a negative impact to overall performance. 

What Is a Bare Metal Server?

In simplest terms, a bare metal server refers to the physical object that houses a server. It refers to the metal, circuitry, wires, and all of the physical pieces that make the server work. Every server, virtual or otherwise, functions on some sort of bare metal server.

But in a more advanced sense, a bare metal server refers to a single-tenant physical server. This means that you, and you only, are working on this server rather than sharing it with several other people. Think of it as the difference between a single-family home and an apartment building.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Virtual Servers

Running on virtual servers can provide greater flexibility in your server management. Not only can you handle situations like the one we described earlier, but you can also get greater scalability with a virtual server as your business grows. You can also take advantage of the economies of scale that come from running larger servers without having to manage all those server banks. Resource isolation is a benefit because independent user environments make sure that software testing, for example, doesn’t impact all current users.

Virtual servers do pose a slightly greater security risk simply because you are transmitting information between physical locations. Hackers may have more opportunities to intercept your information, so you might need to put additional security measures in place to counteract this. You also don’t have as much direct control over your servers if something does go wrong. A further disadvantage is resource hogging which can overwhelm a physical server and be detrimental to performance.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Bare Metal Servers

One of the biggest advantages a bare metal server offers is greater security. It’s going to be much harder for a hacker to get into your server if the connections are all physically located on-site. You can also guarantee greater performance if you have personal control of your server.

While running a bare metal server can be more private, it does offer a risk to your information security. If your location gets struck by lightning and your servers get fried, your information may be lost. You also have to take on the responsibility of maintaining and updating the physical servers when you’re running a bare metal server.

When to Stick to Bare Metal

In general, if you’re running a small operation where security is a paramount concern, sticking to a bare metal server might be a good idea. Small server operations should be manageable for your business, and the security benefits may outweigh the maintenance requirements. This can also work if you have someone on your team who’s very experienced with server management. 

If you plan to use a bare metal server, make sure you have solid information backup systems. You may want to use physical backup options, such as backing up every day to an external hard drive that gets disconnected from the server every night. Also, make sure you can set up a space that meets both power and cooling requirements for proper server maintenance.

When to Choose Virtual Servers 

If you’re running a large operation or one you expect to change size very rapidly, it’s a good idea to work with a virtual server. You can dial your server usage up and down or shift it to fit your needs as they change. This is also a good way for companies with no specific server expertise on their team to manage server needs.

If you plan to use a virtual server, make sure you research the company you intend to work with thoroughly. Look into their security measures and make sure they meet your company’s needs. Ask about how they handle problems when they arise and shop prices for server space among various companies.

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