Comparing Atlassian Cloud vs. Server vs. Data Center

When you’re entering the Atlassian ecosystem, you’ve got plenty on your plate, from determining what pricing model makes sense to which Atlassian platforms you want to adopt. One of the most critical decisions you have to make is choosing among Atlassian’s three available hosting options: Atlassian Cloud, Server, and Data Center.

Does your enterprise require the control and customizability of Server and Data Center, or would it benefit more from the ease of use that comes with Cloud? Let’s find out!

Atlassian Hosting Options: Cloud, Server, and Data Center

To get started, here’s a high level look at each hosting option, before getting into the weeds of what differentiates them.

Cloud

Atlassian Cloud allows you to run Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, and other software while Atlassian hosts and runs your Jira deployment. In addition to the standard benefits that come with any quality cloud hosting service, like scalability and reliability, Atlassian Cloud offers the convenience of a quickly available Jira instance that requires only minimal setup. You can also take advantage of automatic updates to your Atlassian products.

Who should use Atlassian Cloud?

In general, Atlassian Cloud makes the most sense for organizations that want a software-as-a-service (SaaS) experience and don’t require the customizability or control offered by Atlassian Server and Data Center. It’s also a good choice for organizations whose needs fluctuate wildly from month-to-month, as its tiered pricing solution is based on the number of users who have accessed your instance in the last month.

Server and Data Center

Both Atlassian Server and Data Center let you host Atlassian’s products on your own infrastructure or by using a third party cloud provider. Running and maintaining Atlassian software yourself does require more work — and technical expertise — than using Atlassian Cloud, but it provides control over all aspects of your deployment, from updates to security. In addition, depending on your setup, these options may perform better than Cloud.

As Atlassian Server has been deprecated as of February 2, 2021, and new licenses are no longer sold, Data Center is now the only option for organizations who are new to the Atlassian ecosystem. Thankfully, Atlassian Data Center provides superior security, customizability, and reliability compared to Server, though at a higher cost. Data Center is the most performant, robust option available, and it can meet the needs of even the largest enterprises.

Who should use Atlassian Data Center?

Organizations that require control over their infrastructure due to performance, security and compliance, or integration needs should look to Data Center. And if disruptions to service have a serious impact on your company, Data Center’s multiple node instances and high availability are great ways to maximize uptime.

Atlassian Hosting Options

To learn more about Contegix fully managed data center solution, download our comparison PDF.

The Big Differences Between Atlassian Cloud, Server, and Data Center

Now that you have a basic understanding of your options, it’s time to get into the details. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know to make an informed decision between Atlassian Cloud, Server, and Data Center.
 

 
Cloud
Server/Data Center
Hosting
Atlassian takes care of hosting 
your deployment remotely. You 
avoid the hassle of installing, 
setting up, and maintaining your 
Atlassian products.
You take care of hosting, either 
using your own infrastructure or 
by contracting with a third party 
vendor. You’re able to fully 
customize your deployment to 
meet your organization’s unique 
needs.
Pricing
Pricing is determined based on 
how many users access Atlassian 
products. Both monthly and 
annual subscription plans are 
available, with a discount for 
annual subscriptions.
Pricing is determined based on 
how many users access Atlassian 
products. Atlassian Data Center 
licenses are only available as 
annual plans, while Atlassian 
Server licenses are no longer 
available for purchase.
 User Limits
10,000 users per product, with the 
exception of 5,000 for Jira Service 
Management.
Unlimited, subject to what your 
license allows and infrastructure 
can support.
Management
Administration is significantly 
streamlined, with only limited 
responsibility for managing and 
configuring Atlassian software. 
Atlassian now offers the ability to 
create sandbox environments to 
test changes alongside production 
Cloud instances, but this requires a 
Premium or Enterprise Cloud 
subscription.
You are responsible for managing 
all aspects of your Atlassian 
deployment, from the applications 
themselves to infrastructure and 
updates.
Upgrades
Atlassian performs upgrades 
automatically, so your tools are 
always fully patched. This provides 
convenience at the cost of control 
over your upgrade schedule, and 
you may experience difficulties 
with adapting to a new interface or 
newly introduced bugs.
You choose when to upgrade your 
deployment. While this leads to 
additional administrative overhead 
due to the need to create a 
schedule and handle the upgrades 
manually, it also provides the 
freedom to hold off on an upgrade 
if it introduces incompatibilities or 
would otherwise disrupt 
operations.

You also have the ability to test 
upgrades in a staging environment 
beforehand.
Customization
Customization is limited to options 
provided by the UI of your 
Atlassian platforms.
Fully customizable, with the ability 
to create tailored addons and 
integrations.
Accessibility
You lack full access to your 
database and infrastructure. 
Directly connecting to an LDAP 
(Lightweight Directory Access 
Protocol) directory is not possible, 
although you can sync your LDAP 
directory with one of Atlassian’s 
supported identity providers using 
Atlassian Access.
You have access to your database 
and the backend of your systems. 
LDAP connections are immediately 
available.
Scalability
Quickly scalable. Adding users past 
the limit of your current plan will 
bump you into a more expensive 
pricing tier.
Scalability is dependent on your 
organization’s capabilities. Adding 
users past the limit of your current 
plan will disable the ability to 
create issues until you upgrade to 
a more expensive pricing tier. 
Taking advantage of a third party 
hosting provider can deliver the 
same easy scalability as Atlassian 
Cloud.
Performance
Performance and responsiveness 
may suffer for teams of more than 
a few hundred users.
Performance depends on your 
infrastructure or the third party 
vendor you employ, but you can 
fine tune your hardware to drive 
the performance you need.
Security 
and Compliance
Atlassian handles security and 
guarantees compliance with a 
variety of standards.
You are responsible for security 
and compliance. However, third 
party hosting providers can 
provide additional compliance 
certifications, like FedRAMP, 
HIPAA, and more.
Plugins
Available through the Atlassian 
Marketplace. No manual 
installation required, but some 
apps’ features are only available on 
Server and Data Center.
Available through the Atlassian 
Marketplace. Downloading and 
installation of plugins on your own 
server or third party infrastructure 
required. Some Cloud-only plugins 
are unavailable.


Cloud vs. Server vs. Data Center for Jira and Confluence

The differences between Atlassian Cloud, Server, and Data Center extend to Atlassian’s individual products. These include Jira — a comprehensive project management platform — and Confluence — an easy-to-use knowledge base tool.

Jira Cloud lacks some capabilities offered by Server and Data Center. Many relate to customizability, accessibility, and extensibility, as indicated above. For instance, you won’t be able to use the features of some Jira plugins — like many of the scripting functions of ScriptRunner or the Dashboard Gadgets of BigPicture — on Cloud, or tailor email templates outside of some limited customization offered by Jira Service Management.

However, Jira Cloud does provide some advantages and features that aren’t present by default in self-hosted Jira deployments. As an example, Jira Advanced Roadmaps (formerly Portfolio), an Atlassian-developed project portfolio management tool, is available natively on Cloud Premium but only as a plugin on Server and Data Center. And next-gen projects are only available on Jira Cloud, so if you ever migrate to Data Center, you’ll have to move the relevant issues to standard projects.

Confluence Cloud shares some of the same relative limitations as Jira, but also comes with some of its own. These include the inability to customize themes, import text files into Confluence, or use multiple fonts.

If you’d like more information, Atlassian has a comprehensive look at the functional differences between Server or Data Center and Cloud for both Jira and Confluence.

Migrating Between Atlassian Cloud, Server, and Data Center

If Atlassian Cloud isn’t performing well or offering your organization the features it needs, it’s time to consider moving to Data Center. To prepare for the migration, you should first back up your Cloud instance as often as possible. This is every 48 hours, but you can reach out to Atlassian if you require more frequent backups. You’ll also want to create a test environment with the latest version of Jira, a database (preferably using MySQL or PostgreSQL), the proper licenses for any Atlassian products you’re using, and a written plan for carrying out the migration.

You have several options when it comes to the migration itself, depending on what Atlassian products you need to move. Atlassian offers migration assistant apps for both Jira and Confluence that can streamline the process. You can also handle the migration yourself. With Jira, you can export your entire instance, which is likely the best manual option if you require your current Jira setup largely intact. Confluence only requires you to export your spaces to an XML file and then import that file to your new Confluence instance. You can choose to include all your attachments as well, regardless of their size.

You’ll want to test the new instance thoroughly in the environment you set up before it goes live. During this process of user acceptance testing (UAT), look for major differences between your current deployment and the new one, and prepare for any training you’ll need to give your team. Look for any potential incompatibilities, bugs, or other issues that the migration may cause as well so you can resolve them before they disrupt operations. And make sure you announce the migration well in advance, so employees can prepare themselves for the transition and any accompanying downtime.

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What about moving from Server to Cloud or Data Center?

If you’re interested in migrating from Server to Cloud instead to streamline your operations or due to Server’s deprecation, you’ll need to ensure that your version of Server is compatible, you’ve cleaned the data in your Server instance, and you’ve selected the correct Cloud plan for your user base, among other tasks. Cleaning data in particular can be a complicated process, involving everything from removing duplicate information to standardizing custom workflows. You have the option of then either using the Jira Cloud Migration Assistant app or simply importing your database into your new Server instance.

Your migration timeline can be hard to estimate, and the process may be longer than you think — up to several months, in some instances. Running a test migration helps ensure your assessment is accurate. You’ll also have to assess relevant factors, like the state of your data and the impact of the migration on your business and customers.

Check whether your current plugins are compatible with Cloud as well. You don’t want to find out that an app your team relies on is unavailable after you’ve migrated. See whether there are alternatives available on the Atlassian Marketplace for any incompatible plugins.

Migrating from Server to Data Center is relatively straightforward. Once you’ve upgraded your license and updated any plugins, you’re set, other than potentially changing your setup to run Data Center as a cluster.

Atlassian has excellent resources covering these and aspects of migrating, but even with this guidance, seeking assistance from an Atlassian Solution Partner is prudent when carrying out such a complicated and important process.

Make the Right Choice with a Trusted Partner

Deciding between Atlassian’s three offerings isn’t a choice to take lightly. You must carefully evaluate your organization’s needs both now and in the future, taking into account what Atlassian products you’ll be using and which option makes the most financial sense. When considering all these factors, it helps to have a team of experts at your back.

Contegix is an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner with the expertise to align your Atlassian deployment with your business needs. From hosting — whether on Contegix’s BlackMesh Cloud or elsewhere — to installation to migrations, Contegix is your holistic Atlassian resource.

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