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Server or the cloud: which is the right choice? The cloud v. server comparison by IONOS

You know what you need—and we’ll help you build your project

A comparison of cloud solutions and servers: IONOS offers you interesting options

Conventional servers are still a good option if your web project starts off on a tight budget and may become more complex later on. Cloud solutions may be the right choice if you might experience surges in traffic and are looking for a simple way to cushion the load. But anyone planning to make all or just parts of their proprietary IT infrastructure fit for the future will require an IaaS solution with sufficient security, flexibility, and ease of use to work efficiently in the long term. IONOS has the right solution for any scenario.

  • VPS or dedicated server   

    For a small- to medium-sized personal or business website.

  • Managed Cloud

    The Managed Cloud eases the load on developers and agencies when configuring stacks.

  • IONOS or Enterprise Cloud

    A company that needs a sophisticated IT infrastructure in addition to its website will profit from the flexible features of the IONOS Cloud or the Enterprise Cloud.


Virtual private servers are the ideal choice to get started in the server world, e.g. as:

  • web or mail servers

  • community and blog servers

  • smaller shop servers

Dedicated servers

Dedicated servers are best suited for medium-sized to larger projects. They are available as inexpensive developer servers and as high-end professional models.

The cloud version offers flexibility and a pay-as-you-go payment model.

Managed Cloud (PaaS)

This option is particularly suitable for agencies and freelance developers that need different combinations of web servers, databases, and programming languages for test and development purposes. Services are billed according to usage.

IONOS Cloud (Iaas)

Ideal for fluctuating requirements, e.g. seasonal businesses, or if there are significant variations in traffic, e.g. broadcast of major sporting events, live concerts, etc.
Services are billed by the minute.

Enterprise Cloud: IaaS

Navigating the digital transformation: Companies are migrating some or all of their on-premises IT infrastructure to the cloud. Services are billed strictly according to usage in this case as well.

“Mail server” scenario—even the VPS packages give you flexibility

The preinstalled mail server by IONOS is usually enough for beginners and private users to get started immediately. Anyone needing more options can install open source software like PostFix to set up their own mail server. They will need a Linux operating system and root permissions for the server. But that’s no problem, as the IONOS VPS runs on both Windows and Linux operating systems and allows the necessary root access.

“Uploading files via an FTP server” scenario

FTP (file transfer protocol) is a convenient way of uploading and downloading files to and from a server. This requires a program like FileZilla (available free on the net) that you install on your local computer. But you can also use your browser to transfer files by FTP, although it is not as handy as an FTP program. Another advantage of FTP is that file transfer is lightning quick. You can also assign dedicated access rights. An FTP server is available to you, even with a VPS.

“Set up terminal server” scenario

One of the areas in which a terminal server may be helpful is if a company wants to give all its staff access to certain programs without installing them individually on each computer. Example: A terminal server is a good way of running image processing software if it is used only sporadically. The benefits: Programs are updated only on the terminal server and are then available to all users. It is also a good way of keeping license costs down. What’s more, admins can use the terminal server to monitor and maintain the system externally, e.g. when on call.

The terminal server software LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project), for example, is easy to install on any Linux server with root access. It’s important to bear in mind that the terminal server may take up a lot of resources, depending on how often the software is used, so it is advisable to pick a dedicated server with sufficiently powerful CPUs, as well as enough RAM and hard drive space.

“Using various web servers” scenario

The standard configuration on many Linux servers includes an Apache web server combined with an MySQL database and the script language PHP. That’s entirely sufficient for commonly used CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and Typo3, as well as for many forums and wikis. But what happens if an application needs to run on other systems as well? The IONOS Managed Cloud also allows you to mount web servers like Tomcat, Passenger, or Nginx combined with MariaDB and MongoDB as databases and Java or Node.js as programming languages.

“Web shop with seasonal business” scenario

Let’s assume that your web shop sells decorative items of all kinds. You will probably introduce lots of special offers for festive periods like Christmas or Easter. As a result, more email and telephone support will be required. In this case, for security reasons, it is advisable to set up different servers for the products (one for live operations, another for backups) and to connect them using a load balancer. You would then outsource the mail applications to a separate mail server and protect this server with a dedicated firewall. Building slightly more sophisticated IT structures like this is child’s play with the IONOS Cloud. This way you pay to assign more CPU power, RAM, and hard drive space to the various servers as soon as you launch a promotional deal. Between special offers, when you need fewer resources, you pay less— This allows you to save money, but preserve your flexibility.

“The junk in the basement is written off and any new equipment we buy might soon be obsolete” scenario

Companies who run physical servers for their IT infrastructure regularly face the problem of having to replace their hardware bit by bit. The risks associated with computing power, storage space, security, and service life can be predicted more or less accurately. This is why more and more companies are starting to migrate parts or all of their IT infrastructure to the cloud. The Enterprise Cloud can create a precise replica of your current on-premises IT architecture in the cloud — IaaS the way it’s meant to be.

Summary of our cloud v. server comparison:

The answer to the question of whether you should rent a server or use one of the IONOS Cloud solutions depends on the complexity of your project. Smaller or moderately sized personal or business websites can be hosted on a VPS or dedicated server. Most developers and agencies prefer to use the Managed Cloud, as it eases the load when configuring stacks. A company that needs a sophisticated IT infrastructure in addition to its website will profit from the flexible features of a cloud server like the IONOS Cloud or the Enterprise Cloud.