In a nutshell, provisioning is the step in the deployment process where the IT infrastructure for a project is set up. Importantly, provisioning isn’t the same thing as configuration, even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (when they really shouldn’t be). Before you can configure anything, provisioning has to take place — it’s a completely separate stage of deployment.

The different levels of provisioning

There’s no singular set definition for “provisioning”. In fact, it can refer to several different levels — depending on the context — which we’ll break down in more detail below.

Server provisioning

First up, server provisioning is the term used to describe the process of setting up a server to be used within a network. This includes everything from sorting out the physical hardware in the data centre to installing the different software needed, like the chosen operating system (e.g. Windows or Linux).

Another key part of the server provisioning process is connecting up any storage, networks, applications and middleware — in essence, you’re creating a new machine and clearly establishing its desired state prior to configuration.

This can get pretty technical, but the good news is that — when you rent a server from a hosting provider like us — we handle the provisioning stage for you, before leaving you to work out your ideal configuration. It’s super speedy too, for example, a VPS (Virtual Private Server) can be provisioned in just a few minutes or less.

Quick tip — the phrase cloud provisioning” is another, similar piece of computing terminology, but it’s not one of the key types of provisioning. This usually refers to the allocation of a cloud hosting provider’s services and resources to a customer. If you’re reading about the integration and deployment of cloud computing services, cloud provisioning is likely to come up.

Network provisioning

By contrast, network provisioning is the act of establishing a network (or networks) which can then be accessed by different authorised users, devices or servers. This is also one of the most important provisioning levels where security is concerned, as it involves connectivity and the process of setting up access.

One of the biggest challenges in network provisioning is the number of different devices that need connecting — and how this number can rapidly fluctuate for projects that scale up or down.

Service provisioning

As the name suggests, service provisioning relates specifically to the process of setting up a service. Unlike the other levels in this list, this term is more often found in a context related to telecommunications, to describe the process of provisioning a service for a customer.

Application provisioning

With application provisioning, administrators can create and deploy custom-built application configurations, which are often called “packages”. It’s a solution that allows you to optimise performance for the precise IT environment of a project or business.

User provisioning

Remember the IT infrastructure we mentioned? Well user provisioning (also known as “account provisioning”) is essentially a form of identity management which oversees the creation of individual users and their designated privileges.

This term also covers any modifications made to user permissions, as well as disabling or deleting users altogether — you might find the act of taking away access is sometimes described as “deprovisioning”.

User provisioning is arguably the most crucial level to the day-to-day operations of a project, as authorised users and their access need regularly updating whenever someone new joins the team, or someone leaves.

Now you know the meaning of provisioning

If you’re renting a server, and you have questions about provisioning — be it setting up a network or sorting out your authorised users — our expert team will be happy to help. We’re available online or over the phone 24/7 with friendly support, so if you're looking to take your business to the next level, talk to our sales team.