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Physical vs. Cloud Hosting for Sitecore: 8 Benefits to Hosting Sitecore on Azure PaaS
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Momentum is building for moving web application deployments from physical hardware to the cloud. Over the last few years a growing number of businesses have begun to reap the benefits of the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model.

With PaaS, your organization pays for and manages the services offered by a third party in the cloud. The management of the underlying hardware and software infrastructure is handled by the third party.

Until recently, Sitecore was tied to the older model where Sitecore was deployed to physical or virtual servers complete with the operating system, web server, and other components necessary to support the environment. That all changed when Sitecore released Azure PaaS support in version 8.2 Update-1. With the release of Sitecore 9 in late 2017, that support has reached maturity.

There’s never been a better time than now to consider moving your solution! Let’s take a brief look at eight ways your organization may be able to benefit from deploying Sitecore on PaaS.

1. No More Windows Updates and Reboots

Does your IT team love Patch Tuesday? For the vast majority of sysadmins, dealing with reboots and ensuring that regular software updates don't brick the servers or cause unexpected issues is one of the least appealing aspects of their job.

When you deploy on PaaS, both you and your IT team can have peace of mind that the resources supporting your Sitecore environment are up-to-date. That's because Microsoft handles operating system-level updates to the infrastructure behind the scenes with no disruption.

2. High Availability is Baked Into the Platform

If your Sitecore solution is hosted on physical hardware, I’m sure you know that hardware is troublesome to maintain.

Physical components degrade over time, and it’s inevitable that at some point your team will need to replace a hard drive, network interface, or some other piece of hardware, and during that maintenance window your environment may experience degraded performance or be completely down. Eventually your servers will need to be replaced, requiring a migration of your environment to new hardware.

With PaaS, your environment is no longer tied to physical hardware, and hardware replacements happen behind the scenes without affecting your solution’s uptime.

3. Reduce Risk with Blue/Green Deployments

No matter how you slice it, deployments are risky. Even with the best QA and UAT testing, unanticipated problems can crop up during and after deployments.

Blue/Green deployments help you reduce risk by allowing you to deploy your code to inactive “slots” in your production environment. Your team then has time to test everything across your production environment and ensure that everything is working as expected, and then make your latest release live with the click of a button.

4. Simple Deployment of a Right-Sized Sitecore Environment

Even in the Sitecore 8 days, spinning up a new environment required a good bit of planning followed by configuration, installation, and deployment. Sitecore 9’s move to a microservice architecture increases the number of required servers substantially and brings restrictions on supported configurations. This additional complexity multiplies the cost of setting up a new environment.

With PaaS, in most cases the planning and configuration has already been done. You can simply select your environment size and your entire Sitecore environment will be spun up in the time it takes you to eat lunch. All you'll need to do is deploy your solution-specific code and configuration to it and you're off to the races.

5. Easier Sitecore Upgrades

Sitecore upgrades are much simpler if you’re already on PaaS, particularly when moving to a new point release.

First, update your solution to target the new version of Sitecore and make any necessary adjustments to API calls. Next, spin up a copy of your Sitecore environment in Azure. Deploy your updated code to your AppServices, test your new environment, repoint your DNS and you’re done!

6. Optimize Hardware Expenses by Scaling Up and Down to Meet Traffic Demands

Purchasing physical servers to support your environment requires very accurate forecasting. To do this successfully, you need to understand what your needs will be several years in the future as well as ensure that you have adequate resources to handle an unexpected spike in traffic.

With PaaS, you can optimize your spend by adding and removing resources in near-real time to handle things like short-term traffic spikes from advertising campaigns. That’s much better than buying or leasing more hardware than you need and being stuck with it long-term.

If you’re using Sitecore’s new subscription-based licensing model, you don’t even need to worry about acquiring additional Sitecore licenses to cover your new instances!

7. Eliminate Windows and SQL Server Licensing Management and Costs

With both physical and virtual servers, your company is on the hook for licensing both Windows Server and SQL Server as well as ensuring that each machine is allocated an appropriate number of client access licenses.

Azure PaaS simplifies things by removing that requirement, leaving you to only pay for the resources your environment consumes.

8. Shift CapEx Expenses to OpEx

Moving to PaaS from physical hardware owned by your organization means that the expense of supporting your Sitecore environment changes from CapEx to OpEx.

From an accounting perspective, those expenses are fully tax-deductible in the year in which they are made and are also subtracted from revenue when calculating your P&L. Since most organizations are taxed on their profit, being able to deduct those expenses should lower your tax bill— and that should make your CFO happy!

How Engagency Can Help

If you are considering moving your Sitecore solution to Azure PaaS, the Engagency team is happy to help.

For nearly a decade, we’ve helped a wide range of clients with Sitecore upgrades, infrastructure planning, data migration, and best practice implementation. It starts with a comprehensive Sitecore Implementation Audit, where we take a deep dive into the state of your code, content, and overall environment — including pre-upgrade issues and optimization opportunities, which can be addressed seamlessly through one of our Sitecore Managed or Dedicated Services plans.

Intrigued? Contact us to find out how Engagency can help your organization reap the full benefits of Sitecore, the world’s most powerful experience platform. To download a PDF version of this article to share with your team, click here.

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We’ll evaluate the current status and quality of work. Then we’ll provide recommendations on what corrective actions should be taken to prepare for future improvements, expansion, or performance tuning.

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Are you eager to host Sitecore on Azure, but a little overwhelmed by everything involved in planning, architecting, and implementing everything according to Sitecore best practices?

We feel your pain, and we have a solution that you're going to love. Let our Sitecore Certified Architects and Support Engineers help you plan, architect, price, spin up, and deploy all of your Sitecore sites on Azure PaaS.

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