Cloud Vs.On-Prem Guide

Flexibiity: Scaling on the Cloud vs. On-Prem


When it comes to flexibility, the cloud beats on-prem - after all, flexibility is its USP. 

CTOs ranked flexibility as the biggest challenge they would face if they moved away from the cloud.

Flexibility: Scaling Up and Down

When do you need the Cloud’s flexibility?

  • Starting out - when you don’t know how many servers you will need when you launch. DHH remarked that being on the cloud saved them when they launched HEY and suddenly had 300,000 sign-ups in three weeks instead of their forecast of 30,000 in six months.
  • Scaling out - When you need to grow to either meet increased demand or launch new features - the cloud gives you that flexibility that you can’t get on on-prem. With pure on-prem, buying new servers and switches might take 6+ months due to supply chain issues. I know a company whose on-prem setup choked them when they needed to scale, causing them to fail.
  • Scaling down - We live in volatile times. If you were a travel provider during the pandemic, you appreciated being able to scale down your tech as the demand waned. 
  • Seasonal Surges - Especially in e-commerce sites dealing with Black Friday /Cyber Monday traffic. They don’t need that capacity for the whole year but need to be able to meet the demand at that time. 

How can you get Cloud-like flexibility with an On-Premise setup?

In the above cases, it is hard to compete with the Cloud in terms of flexibility but what if you are an average company with an average workload - how can you set an on-prem infrastructure that gives you that flexibility for the typical surges in demand?

On-premises infrastructure can also be flexible, but it requires a significant investment in hardware and other infrastructure. This means that businesses need to carefully plan their capacity and make sure they have the necessary resources in place to handle any potential spikes in demand. 

The one option to explore is reserved instances. Jasper Post writes on LinkedIn “You save up to around 70% for committing to that instance, but if you buy a bare-metal server you are also committed for at least that same period.” 

For BaseCamp, this ability to scale up or down wasn’t much of a concern for their use case. Wlll,who worked at BaseCamp until 2015 wrote on HackerNews that their traffic was pretty predictable - ramping up in the EST and tailing off in the PST evening, with their European traffic being substantially less than their US traffic. He states that it still costs far less to buy/rack/power etc. their servers 100% of the time than it would have done to use the cloud and scale up and down with demand.

Is the Flexibility of the Cloud worth the cost?

In terms of cost, cloud infrastructure is generally more expensive than on-premises infrastructure, at least in the short term. However, many businesses find that the flexibility and scalability of cloud infrastructure more than makes up for the higher cost. By being able to quickly and easily add or remove resources as needed, businesses can avoid over- or under-provisioning, which can save them money in the long run.


Overall, the decision between cloud and on-premises infrastructure will ultimately depend on the specific needs of a business. For some, the flexibility and scalability of cloud infrastructure may be the deciding factor, while for others, the upfront cost savings of on-premises infrastructure may be more important. Ultimately, the best solution will depend on a careful evaluation of the specific needs and requirements of each individual business.

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The Hybrid Set Up

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