There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to host something yourself or use a service from a hosting provider. When it comes to server virtualisation, both the cost and the responsibility for the hardware need to be taken into account.

What is server virtualisation?

In a non-virtualised environment, each server will be assigned a different task. They can use different OSs and have different processes, but due to their nature as separate pieces of physical hardware, they are each dedicated to one application.

Server virtualisation involves creating virtual machines – servers that are created and run within physical servers. There are two main use-cases of server virtualisation – the first is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which involves splitting up a server into multiple desktop computers.

These can then be treated like replacements to a normal desktop machine, running popular operating systems such as Windows 10 or Ubuntu, for instance. This application can be helpful for creating temporary workstations, or for adjusting resources between specific virtual machines.

The other main reason virtualisation would be used is for workload and server consolidation. This involves pooling the resources of multiple servers to apply them to different applications.

What are the options?

If you’re intending to use virtualisation in your server setup, there are two main options as to how you can go about it. You might choose to create it yourself, which involves having the server machines in-house, and setting up and maintaining the system with your own staff – giving you more control.

Alternatively, many hosting providers offer virtualised server setups. While you don’t get physical access to the servers, this means you’re not responsible for managing or replacing the hardware, nor the management of resources across multiple servers.

Why do it yourself?

The main benefit of having your virtualisation setup in-house is the level of control you get. All of the machines are fully owned by you or your business, and you can change how the servers are set up whenever you like.

While the initial cost of acquiring the necessary hardware can run up a big bill, you won’t need to pay a monthly subscription fee. It also means that if you don’t require the machines at any given time, you can shut them off and restart them at will.

Another upside of hosting your virtualisation setup in-house is that you don’t need to deal with other users on the servers. In some outsourced solutions, ‘noisy neighbours’ can eat up virtual server space, slowing down other users. If you own the servers, only you will be able to make use of them.

You’ll also be able to tailor the allocated resources of each virtual machine to your individual needs, and change them exactly as you like. However, it does mean that if something goes wrong, you’ll be entirely responsible.

Why outsource it?

On the other hand, choosing to have another company handle your server virtualisation comes with its own set of perks.

For one thing, if you’re intending to run more than one virtual machine in a self-hosted setup that’s running Windows, you’ll need to pay for a data centre license. This is all bundled into the cost of renting the server from a hosting provider.

Another reason you might want to outsource your virtualisation is that you won’t need to worry about the underlying hardware. Some virtualised environments can be very sensitive to the hardware that’s being used, and if any part of the infrastructure fails, may require an exact replacement. This can get costly and time-consuming, especially if a virtual machine has been running for a long time as the hardware has become outdated.

At Fasthosts, we make use of AI which gives our Cloud Servers intelligent load balancing. In practice, that means that our servers are always being used in the most efficient way possible. As the load increases on one server, traffic is automatically diverted to other servers under less load to keep everything running smoothly.

On a self-hosted solution, this is unlikely to be as efficient, with manual changes needing to be made depending on how each server is being used.

Which should you choose?

Choosing whether to manage your own virtualisation setup or whether you pay someone else to depends on your needs, and the resources you have available.

For example, if you already have the space to store servers, keep them climate controlled, and have staff to manage them, then you might be more inclined to self-host your virtualisation for the increased control it gives.

However, if you’re not equipped with these resources, going for an outsourced solution is likely to be the most affordable choice by far. While you don’t get absolute control over resource allocation, an intelligent load-balancing system such as that used on our Virtual Private Servers can make an outsourced system a more efficient solution.