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Leaving the Cloud: The Finale

Wed Jul 12 2023
self-hostingdata centerscloud servicesapplication migrationbudget optimization


37 Signals successfully completed their move to self-hosting, deploying seven major applications and their email service on their own servers. They gradually migrated applications, starting with the least critical one, and moved their most critical app piece by piece. Renting data center space proved to be a more feasible option than building their own data center. They optimized their cloud budget through long-term contracts and regular expense reviews. Post-move considerations include backups, server tasks, cleanup, and future decisions on customer data.


Self-Hosting vs Cloud Services

37 Signals' move to self-hosting highlights the benefits of having control over infrastructure and questioning existing processes.

Gradual Application Migration

Moving applications gradually, starting with low-criticality ones, allows for risk minimization and process refinement.

Renting Data Center Space

Renting data center space provides security and infrastructure without the need for large capital investments.

Optimizing Cloud Budgets

Optimizing cloud budgets through contracts and expense reviews helps prevent overspending.

Post-Move Considerations

Post-move tasks include backups, server management, cleanup, and decision-making regarding customer data.


  1. 37 Signals' Move to Self-Hosting
  2. Moving Applications Gradually
  3. Renting Data Center Space
  4. Optimizing Cloud Budgets
  5. Post-Move Considerations

37 Signals' Move to Self-Hosting

00:00 - 06:59

  • 37 Signals completed the move to host their products on their own servers instead of cloud services.
  • The move took only six months and they were able to deploy seven major applications and their email service on their own servers.
  • They built their own tooling and used existing solid tooling like KVM and Docker for deployment.
  • The operations team had to figure out many open questions regarding logins, failover, and data centers.
  • This move allowed them to question existing principles and processes and treat it as a green field launch.
  • They ordered new powerful machines from Dell with 192 threads each, enabling multiple services on a single machine.
  • All major applications are now running on their own servers.

Moving Applications Gradually

06:32 - 13:09

  • The least critical application, Tidalis, was moved first to minimize risks.
  • They honed their process and addressed technical questions on this low-criticality application before moving on to more complex ones.
  • They moved out of the cloud in multiple steps, gradually migrating different components and services.
  • Having a collocated data center close to the cloud allowed them to do partial moves without significant delays or degradation in service.
  • Their most critical and complex app, hey, was moved piece by piece to ensure smooth transition and address any issues along the way.

Renting Data Center Space

12:54 - 19:38

  • The company has two data centers, one in Virginia and one near Chicago.
  • They rent the physical location for their servers and don't go there physically.
  • A service company called Deft helps them set up the servers in the data center.
  • Renting space in a data center is easier and doesn't require a big capital investment.
  • Data centers provide security guards, fire suppression systems, and generators.
  • Building a data center requires huge capital outlays and expertise.
  • Deft rents rooms in a data center facility from someone else who builds the infrastructure.

Optimizing Cloud Budgets

19:20 - 26:16

  • The company had good pricing with AWS due to Jeff Bezos' minority stake in their company.
  • They optimized their budget by signing long-term contracts and reviewing monthly expenses.
  • Optimizing cloud budgets is important as overspending is common in the cloud.

Post-Move Considerations

25:48 - 29:05

  • Backups are done both on-site and shipped to Amazon S3 for offsite storage.
  • Technicians at Deaf4 handle hands-on tasks for servers.
  • Cleanup is still needed after moving out of the cloud.
  • Search cluster for Basecamp and logging facilities still need to be moved.
  • Decisions on what to do with customers' data on S3 will be made next summer.
  • Taking a breather and solidifying processes is important after the project.