Networking • Last Updated 3/14/2024

Bare metal vs. cloud computing: What’s the difference?

Learn whether bare metal servers or cloud computing is the best option for your business’s IT infrastructure.

Kelsie Anderson

By Kelsie Anderson

Ever since cloud computing became commonplace in the early 2000s, the tech world has stood divided: Should you choose bare metal servers’ raw power or cloud computing's dynamic scalability to undergird your business’s infrastructure?

Whether you're a developer looking to streamline your workflow or a business owner aiming for efficiency and scalability, it’s crucial to understand the differences between these two powerhouses. We’ll help you dive into the world of dedicated resources with bare metal or explore the flexibility of cloud computing. Once we’ve demystified these concepts, you can make an informed decision on whether bare metal servers or cloud computing is better for your business’s unique needs.

Understanding the basics: What are bare metal and cloud computing?

Let’s peel back the layers of tech jargon and simplify our two core concepts: bare metal and cloud computing, two different approaches to deploying and managing computing resources. Understanding these foundations is key to navigating the vast landscape of modern tech solutions, so let’s take a closer look.

Bare metal environments

Bare metal refers to physical servers dedicated to a single tenant. They’re used for high-performance computing, data-intensive applications, dedicated gaming servers, and scenarios demanding maximum security and regulatory compliance.

Using a bare metal setup provides full control over the hardware, leading to optimized performance, security, and customization. These environments are ideal for high-performance computing, large-scale database applications, and situations where regulatory compliance dictates physical data segregation.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing, on the other hand, involves virtualized resources over the internet. Businesses can leverage these services for scalable web hosting, data storage, software applications, disaster recovery, and to support remote work with flexible, cost-efficient resources.

Services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform offer flexible, scalable, and cost-effective cloud computing solutions.

Now that you understand the basics, we’ll explore the factors you should consider when deciding between bare metal servers and cloud computing for your business needs.

How to choose between bare metal servers and a cloud computing setup

We’ll go into detail about each of these considerations. But here’s a quick comparison between using bare metal servers or cloud solutions for infrastructure.

Bare metal serversCloud solutions
Physical space requirementsNeed secure, controlled, dedicated spacePhysical setup managed by cloud service provider
PerformanceFaster processing speeds and lower latencyNot as fast but highly scalable as resource demand fluctuates
CostPHigh upfront investment and ongoing maintenance costsRecurring pay-as-you-go pricing models based on usage
SecurityEasier to isolate and secure in a way that's tailored to your organization as long as you have a dedicated security team to manage issuesShared responsibility model makes cloud provider responsible for infrastructure protection and tenant responsible for data security
CustomizationCompletely customizableLess customizable
FlexibilityMore difficult to modify quicklyHighly flexible if you’re willing to pay for more or different services

With a high-level understanding of the differences between bare metal and cloud setups, you’re ready to absorb some of the nuances between the two.

Physical space constraints

Let’s start with an obvious limitation when choosing between bare metal servers and cloud computing: your available physical space.

Bare metal

Bare metal servers require significant physical space, not just for the hardware but also for associated cooling and power infrastructure. Businesses must consider the availability and cost of physical space, which can be a limiting factor in scaling operations.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing minimizes the need for physical space in business operations, as the infrastructure is hosted off-site by the service provider. This setup allows businesses to scale up their IT resources without worrying about space constraints, making it an ideal solution for those with limited physical locations.

Performance considerations

When it comes to driving your projects forward, performance is paramount. Bare metal servers offer control and lots of power, making them performance behemoths. On the flip side, cloud computing has remarkable scalability and efficiency, ensuring your resources flex with demand.

Bare metal

Bare metal servers deliver unmatched performance. For applications requiring the fastest processing speeds and lowest latency, bare metal servers are often the superior choice. They provide dedicated resources without the overhead introduced by virtualization, ensuring maximum performance for high-intensity computing tasks.

A bare metal environment is particularly beneficial for resource-intensive tasks like video rendering or scientific simulations.

Cloud computing

Cloud environments excel in scalability. They can quickly adapt to changing workloads, offering resources on demand. This scalability is crucial for businesses with fluctuating demands.

Additionally, cloud providers use advanced technologies to optimize resource allocation, ensuring efficient performance even during peak times. And while the cloud isn’t yet as fast as bare metal setups, advancements in cloud technology—including options for dedicated instances and high-performance computing clouds—are narrowing the gap. These improvements make cloud computing a competitive option for speed-intensive applications, as well.

Cost implications

In the landscape of tech solutions, every penny counts. Bare metal servers represent a significant upfront investment with long-term rewards, while cloud computing offers a flexible, pay-as-you-go model that can adapt to your budget. Understanding these cost dynamics is crucial for strategic financial planning in tech deployments.

Bare metal

While bare metal servers require an initial investment, they can be more cost-effective in the long run for consistent, high-demand applications. They eliminate the recurring costs associated with cloud services, offering a predictable budgeting advantage for established enterprises with stable workloads.

However, those budgeted costs include both the physical hardware upkeep and costs related to software updates, security patches, and the infrastructure needed to house and cool the servers. In addition, businesses are responsible for all aspects of server health and performance, which requires dedicated IT staff and resources.

Cloud solutions

Cloud computing operates on a pay-as-you-go model, making it cost-effective for businesses with variable usage patterns. Recurring fees typically cover the maintenance, updates, and security of the infrastructure, offloading these responsibilities from the business to the cloud provider.

While cloud services can introduce operational expenses that scale with use, they eliminate the direct costs of physical hardware maintenance and repair, potentially offering a more predictable and manageable cost structure for businesses that prefer operational expenditures over capital expenditures—like most startups.

Security and compliance requirements

Security and compliance are more than just checkboxes. They’re foundational elements of your infrastructure. Bare metal offers a fortress of security with exclusive hardware control, while cloud computing provides a resilient shield with a shared responsibility model. Choosing the appropriate option for your needs is key to safeguarding your digital assets.

Bare metal

With bare metal, organizations have complete control over their security protocols, making it easier to comply with stringent industry regulations. This control extends to physical security, as the hardware isn’t shared with other tenants, reducing the risk of data breaches.

But complete control comes with complete responsibility. For bare metal servers, having a dedicated security, compliance, and regulatory team is often necessary, especially for businesses operating in industries with strict data protection and privacy regulations. This team is responsible for all aspects of security, from physical server protection to cybersecurity measures and compliance with relevant standards and regulations. The direct control over the hardware and software stack demands comprehensive management to ensure security and compliance.

Cloud computing

Cloud providers invest heavily in security, offering robust protection against a wide range of threats. However, security in the cloud follows a shared responsibility model, where the provider secures the infrastructure, and the client is responsible for protecting their data.

This model can reduce the burden on businesses since they don’t need to manage physical security or the underlying software stack's security. However, they still need to manage the security and compliance of their applications and data. This approach can streamline security efforts but requires clear understanding and coordination between the business and the cloud provider to ensure all aspects of security and compliance are adequately addressed.

Customization and flexibility needs

The ability to tailor solutions to your unique needs is invaluable for IT infrastructure. Bare metal stands out for its unmatched customization capabilities, offering control down to the hardware level. Conversely, cloud services boast considerable flexibility, adapting to your needs as they change over time. Let's explore how these options can mold to your vision.

Bare metal

Bare metal servers offer the highest level of customization. Users have complete control over the hardware configuration, operating system, and software stack, making them ideal for specialized applications that require specific setups. However, because you’re dealing with physical hardware, making changes to your setup as your needs change over time can be more difficult than with cloud computing services.

Furthermore, businesses leveraging bare metal setups have to go through more work to access resources remotely. Using many tools and security protocols, organizations can make their bare metal infrastructure securely available to those who need access. However, compared to cloud solutions, managing bare metal servers remotely often requires more direct involvement and hands-on management.

Cloud solutions

While cloud services have fewer customization opportunities, they offer exceptional flexibility. Users can choose from various service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and tailor resources to their specific needs. This flexibility extends to global reach, as cloud services are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection without the same restraints or necessary resources required by bare metal setups.

Choose the connectivity infrastructure that’s right for you

The choice between bare metal servers and cloud computing will depend on your organization’s performance, cost, and security needs, as well as the level of control and customization you require. Bare metal infrastructure offers high performance and customization, while cloud computing provides flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, allowing businesses to grow quickly.

After considering which setup is right for your business, you’re ready to choose a partner who can help make that setup happen.

Telnyx’s team of expert networking engineers built our multi-cloud network from the ground up to support thousands of communications customers every day. By leveraging both cloud and bare metal technologies, the Telnyx network allows customers using our network technologies—like virtual cross connects, VPNs, or edge routing—to experience the best of both worlds. Your business can use that network to connect devices, applications, and services globally via API, all powered by both cloud and bare metal solutions.

With over a decade in the connectivity space, we’re continuing to build solutions that serve our customers’ needs. Our infrastructure team is dedicated to building on our private network to support reliable, cost-effective hosting solutions that deliver 100% of the time for our customers.

Contact our team to learn how Telnyx’s programmable networking options can power your infrastructure.

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