Atlassian Cloud vs Server

By Mick Flanigan

Atlassian advertises that over 125,000 companies are using their products with more joining those ranks every day.  It may come as no surprise that for those that are just about to begin using the Atlassian tools, and even those that are already, there is one consistent question, "Do we use the Atlassian Cloud or Server version?" 

The answer generally lies in the expectations of the team or company that is using the tool, but in my experience,  there are 5 determining factors that have the most sway in making the decision. They are as follows:

1. Size and Scalability

First and foremost is size and scalability.  If you are planning on remaining a small shop of under 50 users and have little anticipated flexibility, then the Cloud might be for you.  There are only a few remaining hard limits to Atlassian tools as far as sizing (5,000 users and an anticipated tiered pricing for heavy data users) and if you don’t see those applying to you, this is your tool.

2. Performance

Second on the list is performance.  Atlassian has a hard limit of 5,000 users, but if your expectations are for a highly responsive tool at anything above a few hundred users, you should definitely tip the scale to the Server side option.  With the Server version you will have control over the horsepower driving the best performance for your team, and if you want even more you can easily upgrade to the Data Center option for nodes and traffic routing to really fine tune the tools. 

3. Upgrade Process

The third most important consideration is the upgrade process.  There are pros and cons for each of the options.  If using the Cloud, you have no responsibility for the upgrades and no direct cost in manpower to maintain that instance.  With that lack of responsibility also comes the lack of control.  You will be upgraded when Atlassian puts you on their schedule.  You will have notice but no chance to experience or test the new version so come Monday morning after an upgrade, expect some hackles at a new UI.  If you own a Server instance you will have the option of upgrading when you want.  You will also have the option to stay away from the bleeding edge where bugs run rampant, and will also have the ability to test out the upgrades in a staging environment (free with a Server license) where user can test the upgrade, configuration changes and anything else before pushing to Production.  The joy of no surprises does come at the cost of having to pay for the manpower and time to perform that service.  That choice is yours.

4. Active Directory Connection

One major factor, and fourth on the list, is an Active Directory connection.  This has always been immediately available with a Server license and almost made the Cloud version a non-starter for many larger companies as that wasn’t even an option.  Atlassian did roll out a new pay-for add-on called Atlassian Access that allows you to sync your Active Directory to Atlassian with Okta, Azure AD, OneLogin, Bitium, or Idaptive.  Hats off to Atlassian for meeting the need of their Cloud customers with a very inexpensive add-on that you have to purchase.

5. Customization

Last on the list is customization.  The Atlassian tools are already extremely flexible and with the 3,000+ add-ons available, there are so many options to meet just about any team’s needs.  But, given the option, some teams will want more and with the Server instance they have that ability because they have access to the back end of the systems, have complete control and the ability to make add-ons, custom integrations and just about anything else their heart desires.  With Cloud, you will be limited as access to anything not presented in the UI will not be available.

There are many other important considerations to this decision and Atlassian has documented a few more HERE for full transparency to help you make the right decision.

Even beyond the basics, if you do decide that the Server version is the route to take, you've got further decisions to make.  Where will that Server instance reside?  Under your desk (please, no!), on a Contegix public or private cloud with managed support and FedRAMP and HIPPA compliance already baked in?  AWS? Azure?  The list goes on and on but suffice to say, there is an option most appropriate for you and talking with an Atlassian Solution Partner can help you make the right decision for you now and as you grow as a company.

The good news is that your decision today doesn’t even have to be a final one.  Migrations from Server to Cloud and Cloud to Server happen every day.  There are certainly costs that come with a migration: monetary, time, loss of functionality, and probably some hair.  But there are always options for change as your team changes.

Contact us today for help with your Atlassian migration.