AMS basics: What’s the difference between a cloud and on-premises hosting environment

When it’s time to look for your next association management software (AMS) system, one thing you need to decide is what hosting environment you want. Do you want your AMS hosted in the cloud or on-premises?

It’s important to understand the differences between the options before you make a decision. So, let’s take a look at some key aspects of the two hosting environments.


At the most basic level, the difference between cloud and on-premises solutions is about where the hardware and software reside:

What is an On-premises Hosting Environment?

In an on-premises environment, you physically house the AMS and the hardware it runs on on-site. It can be managed by you or a third-party, but it’s yours and you’re responsible for it.

What is a Cloud Hosting Environment?

In a cloud environment, the computing system you use is accessed over the internet through a web browser. Within the cloud environment, there are two options: public cloud and private cloud.

The public cloud is the most common form of cloud computing. In this environment, the technology infrastructure is owned and operated by a third-party vendor. This is often referred to as “Software as a Services,” or SaaS. In a public cloud, you share the same hardware, storage, and network devices with other organizations (also called cloud “tenants”), which makes it a cost-effective solution. You access computing services and manage your account using a web browser. This option is ideal for organizations who want flexible, scalable technology without the hassle and costs of managing software, hardware, data storage, and data security themselves.

A private cloud consists of computing services used by only one organization. The private cloud can be located on-site at your organization, or it can be hosted by a third party. Either way, the computing services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network, and the hardware and software are dedicated to your organization. This option typically costs more than a public cloud option, and is ideal for organizations, such as government agencies, that want to access computing services over the internet via web browser, yet maintain a high level of control over their computing environment.


Another basic difference between cloud and on-premises AMS environments is how they’re priced:

  • On-premises – In general, on-premises software is priced under a one-time perpetual license fee (you buy the software and own it in perpetuity). You also incur the costs of the hardware needed to run the software.
  • Cloud – Cloud software is priced as a monthly or annual subscription (essentially, you pay X amount of dollars per user, per month or year to access the software online), with possible additional fees for training, support, and product updates.

The choice between the two pricing models largely depends on whether you want to pay more up front and save in subsequent years or pay a premium to spread payments out over the lifecycle of the system. Your accounting department or board of directors might also have a preference based on cash flow constraints and how your organization depreciates capital expenditures.

So, which is better: cloud or on-premises?

The truth is that there isn’t one answer. The answer depends on which option better fits your organization’s needs:

  • On-premises – The on-premises option might better suit your organization if you want complete control of your IT infrastructure, including data compliance and security (though many cloud-hosted solutions today offer solid levels of security). Also, on-premises solutions often offer a greater ability to customize the system at a deep level, which can be attractive to organizations with unique processes. Keep in mind that accessing an on-premises solution via mobile device might require additional software or applications.
  • Cloud – A public cloud-hosted solution might be more attractive to your association if you want to transfer the cost and hassle of running hardware and software to the AMS vendor. The vendor manages things like software upgrades, security patches, and hardware upgrades for you, taking the burden off of your organization – especially your IT department. Most cloud solutions are easy to access via mobile device. And, while cloud solutions do not always offer the same level of deep customizability as some on-premises solutions, some do offer a great deal of configurability to meet your organization’s requirements.

The power of choice

Solutions such as NetForum Enterprise provide you with ultimate flexibility, with cloud-based hosting and on-premises hosting options to meet your organization’s specific needs. Still not sure which hosting environment is right for your organization? Let’s connect, and find out why NetForum Enterprise might be the right solution for you.

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