Many small business start ups need very basic server resources to host their websites. But cloud-based REST APIs, auto scaling or high-performance compute clusters are often overkill, especially for small content providers that sell products online, host blogs with a small amount of customization, and at their core represent an online presence for their brick and mortar businesses.
That being said, what is the right way to go to maximize the effectiveness of your site and lower the cost of hosting? I find it interesting when I see traditional content providers migrate their online presence to cloud services.
Traditional outsourced hosting solutions have been around for a long time. And although they might not be in fashion like they used to be, they can easily service your small business just the same as a cloud solution, but at a lower cost and with less complicated configurations.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS): If you need remote access (RDP/SSH) to a dedicated server, you should look into VPS as a cost effective and viable solution. A VPS is a dedicated virtual server that allows you full console access to install applications, manage services, and tweak system settings. Depending on the businesses needs, this could cost from ~$30-75 monthly for a server with resources to host a moderately trafficked site(s).
Shared Hosting: If you don’t need any console access or full controll to fine-tune the operating system or applications, then shared hosting is a better – and cheaper – solution if you need to host a static, Word Press, or Drupal site. Shared hosting is a service that hosts your files and databases on a shared partition. You will normally receive an interface such as cPanel or Plesk to manage local system settings such as email, databases, user access, and site stats. This option is perfect for small businesses that just need their site online with little other fuss of intensive OS configurations. The cost for this solution is anywhere between ~$4-$25 depending on the resources you require.
For small businesses VPS and Shared Hosting are cheaper and easier to manage and use than most cloud offerings and should be considered as the preferred method of hosting.
Many small businesses and organizations with branch offices use broadband routers from their ISPs to act as firewalls to guard their networks. Unfortunately, these devices are not true firewalls and base their security on Port Address Translation (PAT) or Network Address Translation (NAT) to protect the connected computers. Although some broadband routers have very basic firewall capabilities, they often lack the features and performance that small business offices need. For these reasons, we highly recommend the Adaptive Security Appliances (ASAs) family from Cisco, specifically the 5505 model, for small offices.
The Cisco ASA 5505 is the entry-level product in Cisco ASAs firewall lineup, but it’s full of enterprise-class features that can be used as a business grows or their needs change. For example, if you only need 2 SSL VPN connections to remote connect to your network from anywhere in the world, you have that from the start. If you need remote users, you can simply buy a one-time expansion license to bump up to 10 users, and continuue scaling up from there.
One of the great features that we integrate in many clients’ infrastructures is SSL VPN. Using the Cisco AnyConnect client, you can connect to the ASA from anywhere. While this is a nice feature for securing local resources, it can also be used to protect remote resources. For example, a business has a remote resource, say a web server, and one IP – the main office – should be able to SSH or RDP to the server. However, the business works with several freelancers and remote staffers, who will be working from multiple IP address anywhere in the world. So how do you tunnel them into one IP to allow them to access the server securely? By having them use the ASA 5505′s SSL VPN client, we can establish a virtual link between the remote workers and the office. Thus all traffic for the web server will be proxied through the ASA. This secures the web server link and sets up per-user accountability.
The Cisco ASA 5505 is a great firewall with enterprise features that will fit any IT budget, especially for small to medium sized business. With robust features, this is a great starting point for any office’s IT infrastructure.