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When your business is focused on growth initiatives, your technology is going to need to be scalable, to accommodate that growth.  Scaling technology requires elasticity – which means that your technology will easily scale up, scale down, and scale out to meet peak demands and market fluctuations.  In this article, we’ll explore the difference between horizontal scaling, vertical scaling for on-premise or outsourced networks – and the best cases for both.

What is Horizontal Scaling?

Horizontal scaling is adding additional elements (i.e., machines, nodes, servers, etc.) to your infrastructure.  This is also referred to as ‘scaling out.’  These additional elements may seem simple, but they can make your operations, support, and integration more complex.  The simple pros & cons of horizontal scaling include:


  • If you’re relying on a single node and you scale horizontally, you may increase redundancy and fault tolerance.
  • It may be easier to manage downtimes because you don’t have to ‘take a machine down’ for service or upgrades.
  • For networks, there are more endpoints and the load is delegated across multiple machines. Endpoints may also create additional vulnerabilities, so this can have a downside too.


  • Increased complexity of support, maintenance, and operations.
  • A more complex backup and recovery system is required for synchronization and efficacy.

What is Vertical Scaling?

In a vertical scaling model, you are adding power or capacity to existing equipment.  You are likely adding more memory, storage, or network speed versus adding additional equipment.  It’s important to realize that every machine has a threshold and will need to be upgraded but in a vertical scaling model, costs and resources can be planned strategically.


  • Upgrading equipment typically costs less than purchasing new equipment.
  • Less synchronization and generally faster response times, since there are fewer machines to communicate with.
  • There are fewer endpoints which may lead to fewer vulnerabilities.


  • You may have a single point of failure if your data is not backed up to another device.
  • Upgrades may require downtime.
  • This approach can often lead to a forklift upgrade, down the road.

Cloud Scaling

Your cloud services must be scaled too, but the burden of upscaling is on the cloud services provider (CSP).  However, this convenience does have some additional considerations:

  • Does your CSP have adequate investment in technology and scaling initiatives to accommodate your needs, in real-time (most do), but the one-off brands may be worth a deeper dive.
  • Auto scaling by your CSP, especially during peak demand, may cost you! Auto scaling is a great benefit if your business is highly unpredictable.  Unfortunately, the downside is that most businesses won’t realize these costs, until after the fact.

There is no one size fits all; however, a holistic approach to these kinds of technology decisions can be invaluable.  Every business has different needs and those needs and technology change rapidly.  A valued technology partner can help you understand your technology metrics, within your business’ context, to make the right decision about on-premise vertical, horizontal scaling, or cloud migration.   Do you need help scaling your business technology?  Conscious Networks can help!  Schedule a consultation.

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