ISV Hosting Options

Last Updated:
October 25, 2023

Windows ISV Hosting Options

Windows ISVs evaluating hosting options to deliver their application from the cloud have their work cut out for them due to the variety of alternatives available. In this post, we’ll cover those alternatives to make your search and evaluation easier.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Hosting Option

When choosing a hosting option, first consider the following factors:

Budget for implementation, ongoing operations, and anticipated growth, including:
  • Redundant operations
  • Physical, IT infrastructure, and data security
  • Industry, corporate, and regulatory compliance demands
  • Data storage
  • Servers and software licenses
  • Personnel
Technical expertise

Does your current team have the expertise to implement, support, and secure your preferred hosting option? Will you need to engage a consultant or consulting firm for implementation and support? If you chose to train your staff to implement and support the hosting option, how much will training cost, and how will the training timeframe impact your schedule? If you chose to augment current staff, how will that impact your budget—and will you be able to find and hire the right people in a reasonable timeframe?

Application requirements

Does your application have requirements that create hosting challenges or additional cost? For example, does your application include graphics that demand more CPUs to run? Is your application subject to regulatory demands?

Scalability Needs

What are your current and future scalability needs? How many customers do you currently serve, and where are they located? How, where, and when do you anticipate growth? Do your customers use your application throughout the day, at certain times of day, or periodically (i.e., at month- or quarter-end)? Will users tolerate occasional latency, or do they expect consistently fast response?

Control Level

What is your desired control level? Do you want to control every aspect of hosting your application, or are you willing to cede control to another entity in specific areas? Control comes at a cost. For example, when using a public cloud, you can opt for dedicated servers to mitigate potential latency, but the cost is considerably more expensive than a shared server option.

Customer Support

Will your new cloud platform necessitate customer training? Can your helpdesk team accommodate the additional support requests while customers acclimate to the new delivery platform?

The best choice for your Windows application hosting will depend on your specific use case and goals. It's also essential to keep in mind that the hosting landscape continues to evolve, and new options may emerge over time.

Hosting Options for Windows ISVs

On-Premises Hosting

On-Premises Hosting, also referred to as “on-prem”, “self-hosting”, or “private cloud”, is the practice of deploying and managing an IT infrastructure—including servers, load balancing, data management and storage, networking, and security hardware and software—within your organization’s physical premises. In this model, your organization is responsible for purchasing, installing, configuring, and maintaining all the hardware and software required to host your application.

Pros of On-Premises Hosting:
  • Full Control: you have complete control over your infrastructure, allowing you to customize it to suit your specific needs and requirements.
  • Data Security: having direct control over your data and retaining it within the physical boundaries of your location can enhance security and compliance.
  • No Hosting Setup or Ongoing Service Fees: while initial hardware and software investments can be substantial, you are not subject to initial setup or ongoing hosting fees.
  • Fewer Performance Surprises: using your own data center allows you to fine-tune and optimize the hardware and software for your application, ensuring predictable and consistent application delivery performance.
Cons of On-Premises Hosting:
  • High Initial Costs: setting up an on-premises application delivery infrastructure is expensive since it involves purchasing and implementing hardware and software—plus increased costs like insurance and utilities.
  • Ongoing Support and Maintenance: you will be responsible for maintaining, patching, securing, upgrading, and troubleshooting every aspect of your infrastructure, which is time consuming and requires a highly-skilled IT team.
  • Scalability: setting up an application delivery infrastructure must include future scalability considerations. Scaling an on-premises infrastructure is complex and expensive; accommodating growth is significantly more complicated than simply adding an additional server. And, while unexpected growth is highly gratifying, accommodating that growth quickly can be hair-raising. Additionally, as your user base grows, you may need to consider building a new data center in another region, multiplying cost, complexity, and personnel requirements.
  • Ensuring Redundancy: accommodating the corporate disaster recovery plan in addition to best practice data redundancy may require a secondary data center, increasing costs and overall complexity.
  • Limited Flexibility: making changes to your infrastructure can be slow and cumbersome, limiting your ability to adjust to changing business needs.
  • Security: while you have complete control over your infrastructure’s physical and cyber security, you also have full responsibility and liability.
  • Staffing and Expertise: adding an on-premises hosting facility adds significant task and time demands on current staff and will probably necessitate additional hires. Additionally, depending on your existing IT team’s skill set and experience level, you may need to hire new staff or retrain current staff. Finally, if your user base is located in multiple time zones, you will need staff working 24x7 to monitor and address issues as they happen.

On-premises hosting is a viable option for organizations with specific security, compliance, or performance requirements that necessitate full control over their infrastructure. However, it requires a significant upfront investment and ongoing maintenance, making it less appealing for smaller ISVs. Instead, many ISVs are considering hybrid approaches, combining on-premises infrastructure with cloud-based solutions to gain flexibility and cost-effectiveness (see the Hybrid Cloud Hosting section below).

Public Cloud Hosting

Public cloud hosting refers to the delivery of cloud computing resources and services—including servers, load balancing, data management and storage, networking, security hardware and software, and cloud infrastructure management services—by a third-party public cloud provider. Public cloud service providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). These organizations maintain and manage the cloud infrastructure that allows Windows ISVs to deliver their applications to customers via the cloud.

Pros of Public Cloud Hosting
  • Scalability: public cloud services offer virtually limitless scalability. You can easily increase or decrease resources to accommodate changes in demand, making it suitable for growing ISVs, unpredictable customer growth, and ISVs with seasonal users or unusual usage patterns.
  • Cost-Efficiency: while public cloud services charge initial setup fees, that cost is far less than the initial investment in the hardware and software necessary for implementing a private cloud. Each public cloud services provider offers a variety of billing options, so ISVs should thoroughly evaluate those options to select the model that best accommodates their business.
  • Fewer Maintenance Requirements: public cloud providers handle infrastructure management, including hardware maintenance, software updates, and security patches, reducing the burden on your IT staff.
  • High availability and reach: public cloud providers offer redundancy and high availability across their data centers, reducing the risk of downtime. And, since the public cloud providers mentioned above have data centers distributed worldwide, you can deploy your application from a location physically close to users, reducing application latency and improving performance.
  • Comprehensive Services: public cloud providers offer a vast ecosystem of services, including computing, storage, databases, AI, analytics, and more, enabling you to leverage cutting-edge technologies without the need for hiring that expertise in-house.
  • Security, Backup, Compliance, and Disaster Recovery: public cloud providers provide a wide array of security measures, including data encryption, access controls, and more, helping to protect your customers’ data. If you’re in an industry where compliance to industry standards like PCI or HIPAA is critical, make sure your public cloud provider is certified and can ensure compliance with most standards. Additionally, each cloud service provider offers data backup and disaster recovery solutions,making it easier to protect and recover your data.
Cons of Public Cloud Hosting
  • Limited Control: public cloud service providers control their entire underlying infrastructure, leaving ISVs with very limited or no control over their applications versus a private cloud infrastructure. For some ISVs this can be a deal-breaker. Before committing to a public cloud service, carefully evaluate its services, technology approach, and policies to ensure the best fit for your use case.
  • Data Privacy: storing sensitive customer data on public cloud servers has the potential to compromise data privacy and regulatory compliance. Ensure that your public cloud service fully supports all data privacy and industry regulations that could potentially apply to your customers.
  • Changing Providers: migrating away from a specific public cloud provider can be complex, leading to vendor lock-in. It's essential to consider this when choosing a provider and architecture. Conduct due diligence prior to engagement to ensure your provider can fully address your use case.
  • Data Transfer Costs: public cloud providers may charge for data transfer in and out of their platforms or across regions,which can add up for data-intensive applications. For example, AWS Workspaces charges a fee when a user in one region sends files to a user in another region. Understanding your customer use cases will enable you to evaluate your true cloud costs with a specific provider.
  • Application Performance Variability: your application performance may vary depending on shared resources, and there can be "noisy neighbor" issues when other organizations on the same infrastructure consume resources in excess.
  • Cost Control: as noted above, ISVs should thoroughly understand their use cases and customer behavior versus a cloud service provider’s billing options prior to selecting a service to avoid unpleasant surprises. As noted above, AWS charges for data transfer between regions; ISVs with widely distributed customers should understand the cost implications before signing a contract. For any cloud service provider, an ISV needs to rigorously monitor and manage their account to avoid unexpected costs.(NOTE: for more information about AWS Workspaces pricing, read this blog post.)

Public cloud hosting is a highly flexible and scalable solution for Windows ISVs that want to deliver their application from the cloud without the need to invest in and manage their application infrastructure. Careful planning, management, and attention to detail are essential to maximize the benefits and control costs.

Managed Cloud Service Hosting

A managed service provider (MSP) is an organization that offers a range of services to help their clients plan, deploy, monitor, maintain, and optimize their cloud infrastructure and services. These providers specialize in handling the technical and security aspects of cloud computing so that ISVs can focus on business strategy, core operations and application development and enhancements. Managed service providers usually work with one public cloud service provider, delivering services on that provider’s cloud platform.

Pros of Working with a Managed Service Provider:
  • Expertise: MSPs have expertise in cloud hosting-related domains, like cloud migration, application hosting, cloud service management, and cloud security. Using an MSP’s services provides ISVs with access to high-level knowledge and skills they might not have in-house. When vetting MSPs, ISVs should look for a skill set that aligns with their application use case.
  • Cost Savings: ISVs utilizing an MSP avoid the high implementation costs associated with building an on-premises hosting infrastructure, like purchasing hardware and software. Additionally, using an MSP reduces the need for hiring, training, and retaining specialized staff. Also, MSPs can help ISVs better manage their cloud costs based on the MSP’s familiarity with the cloud service provider’s billing model.
  • Scalability: MSPs work with public cloud providers whose infrastructure is designed to enable virtually limitless scalability. As noted above, using an MSP enables an ISV to easily increase or decrease resources to accommodate changes in demand.
  • Access to Advanced Cloud Management Tools: MSPs invest in technology and tools to streamline service delivery. Working with an MSP gives ISVs access to advanced tools without the need to purchase, implement, or use them.
  • Support and Monitoring: MSPs provide 24x7 support and monitoring for their clients, ensuring the availability and security of systems and services and eliminating the need for ISVs to expand their IT teams. Many MSPs are willing to include performance KPIs in contractual agreements for additional assurance.
  • Enhanced Security: many MSP organizations include a security-focused team, or partner with MSSPs (managed security service providers) that specialize in cybersecurity, offering proactive threat detection and response to enhance an ISV’s security posture.
Cons of Working with a Managed Service Provider:
  • Cost: when working with an MSP, ISVs will pay for cloud services plus the services of the MSP. ISVs need to carefully consider the value an MSP delivers versus the additional cost for the service.
  • Loss of Control: when working with a cloud service provider, ISVs cedes control over the cloud infrastructure to that provider. Using an MSP forces an ISV to also give up control of application management and data security. Again, ISVs need to balance the need for control versus the convenience of engaging an MSP. How does the loss of control affect the ISV’s business continuity objectives? What vulnerabilities does an MSP engagement create for an ISV? Is the MSP willing to be contractually obligated to resolve those issues?
  • Security and Customer Privacy: sharing sensitive information about the application and entrusting a third party to secure customer data raise privacy, security, and regulatory  concerns, as ISVs must trust the MSP's security measures and practices.
  • Changing Providers: migrating away from an MSP and their public cloud provider partner is highly complex, leading to vendor lock-in. ISVs need to consider whether or not the relationship with an MSP and their cloud provider partner is viable over time, since moving to a new provider is a painful process, even if the ultimate outcome is better for the ISV.

The decision to engage an MSP must be based on a careful evaluation of the ISVs specific business and technical needs, resources, and objectives. ISVs should weigh the potential benefits against the challenges, choose an MSP with an excellent track record and clear alignment with the ISVs business goals, and enter the relationship with realistic expectations.

Hybrid Cloud Hosting

Hybrid cloud hosting is a cloud computing model that combines elements of both public and private cloud infrastructure. In a hybrid cloud, an ISV uses a mix of on-premises and public cloud services to host and manage its applications, data, and workloads. The goal is to create a seamless, integrated environment that provides flexibility, scalability, and the ability to address specific business needs.

Pros of Hybrid Cloud Hosting:
  • Flexibility: a hybrid cloud model allows ISVs to choose the right cloud environment for each specific workload or application. For example, sensitive data can be stored in a private cloud, while less sensitive data or processing can be in the public cloud. Maintaining a private cloud also allows ISVs to test application or infrastructure changes/updates on a limited customer set using an infrastructure managed by the ISV.
  • Scalability and Performance Optimization: ISVs can leverage the elasticity of public cloud resources when application workloads experience spikes in demand, ensuring that they can meet performance requirements and customer expectations without investing in additional on-premises infrastructure. ISVs can apply the same principles for critical workloads to ensure that applications deliver consistently high performance.
  • Data Security and Compliance: sensitive or regulated data can be kept within an on-premises infrastructure to maintain control and compliance with industry or governmental regulations, while non-sensitive data can be stored in the public cloud.
  • Cost Control: Hybrid cloud allows businesses to optimize costs by using public cloud resources only when necessary, helping to manage expenses and avoid over-provisioning.
  • Disaster Recovery: data replication and backup in a different cloud environment (public or private) can provide robust disaster recovery capabilities, ensuring that the ISV's application and its customers’ data remain available.
Cons of Hybrid Cloud Computing
  • Complexity: hybrid cloud environments are complex, requiring expertise in various cloud platforms and technologies and creating integration and data synchronization challenges. ISVs that co-manage hybrid cloud computing environments with an MSP face additional complexities, making role definition and efficient, timely communication mission-critical.
  • Cost: while hybrid cloud environments can offer cost savings, they also introduce cost management complexities. It can be challenging to predict and control expenses across multiple cloud providers/MSPs and on-premises infrastructure.
  • Security and Regulatory Compliance:  Securing customer data across different environments is more challenging than managing a single infrastructure, as it requires maintaining consistent security policies and controls in every environment, requiring additional effort and oversight. The same challenge applies to maintaining compliance standards.
  • Data Transfer and Application Latency: Data movement and network considerations are essential to control application latency when designing a hybrid cloud architecture. Additionally, transferring data between cloud environments can incur additional and unexpected costs.
  • Changing Providers: ISVs using multiple public cloud providers and/or MSPs may risk vendor lock-in if they rely heavily on proprietary services or tools that are difficult to migrate.

Hybrid cloud hosting is ideal for ISVs that want to balance the benefits of the public cloud's scalability and cost-efficiency with the control, security, and compliance of private/on-premises infrastructure. However, successfully implementing and managing a hybrid cloud architecture requires careful planning and expertise to address the significant complexities and associated challenges that can arise.

ISVs have a lot to consider when evaluating application hosting options. It’s good to know that GO-Global works on any cloud platform to efficiently and cost-effectively deliver your Windows application to your customers located anywhere, on any device with a browser.

To learn more about GO-Global, request a demo here or download a free 30-day trial.