The Hidden Costs Of Font Server Infrastructure

“Okay, let’s just start over! Sell the font server on Craigslist!”

Said no Creative IT Manager—or IT Manager for Infrastructure, IT Specialist, or Infrastructure Lead—ever. Nor anyone in leadership who’s trying to extract maximum value from their current on-premises font server technology to justify the huge capital expenditure. At least, not when it comes to moving from on-premises font servers (and digital asset servers) to the cloud.


We’re All Irrational


Can’t blame ‘em. We, as human beings, share a proclivity for chasing sunk costs. This weird phenomenon transpires because it’s tough to ignore how we feel about past decisions that led to large investments of time, money, and effort that have yet to pay off (or perhaps never will).

So what happens is, instead of making goal-focused decisions today that will build the future we want (i.e., ignoring sunk costs), we make decisions that justify, or help us feel better about, choices we made yesterday, last month, last year, or even ten years ago (i.e., chase sunk costs).

Which is totally insane! Because the past is gone, over, done, lost forever. And while the past shouldn’t be ignored (reflecting on the past is supposed to help us learn, right?), it certainly shouldn’t prevent us from building a future, or even a business, we’re proud of.

So what gives with agencies’ and production houses’ passionate commitment to the sunk costs of on-premises font server infrastructure anyway?


The Life And Times Of A Font Server


For starters, an organization’s willingness to move away from an on-premises font server depends on the investment already made and the current timeframe. End of Life (EOL) for font servers is 5-7 years. Most businesses will start thinking about changing (including selling) their font server infrastructure close to the EOL date, although enterprise-level businesses avoid selling EOL servers due to security concerns. (In most cases, they are recycled through a partner.)

So a company that just invested capital into font server implementation, or an organization that’s well far and away from server EOL, is less likely to move to a cloud product until they have extracted maximum value from the on-premises server. Even if the server is holding them back from the economic frugality, rapid innovation, and adjustable resources of cloud solutions.


Clouded Judgement


Speaking of “held back,” there are myriad other reasons Creative IT Managers and the like (plus Production and Creative Directors) hesitate to move to the cloud:

  • Migration and security concerns.
  • Not understanding infrastructure billing, which results in comparing apples with oranges when examining base costs.
  • Undervaluing the time (or time dedicated to non-billable activities) creative and IT departments spend getting their respective jobs done.

Yet other IT professionals across multiple industries are upskilling themselves in cloud technology and deployment. According to global ed-tech company KnowledgeHut (here’s a link to their accreditations), this is because cloud jobs and skills are ruling the tech market:



“Almost 89% of global companies use Software as a Service (SaaS). The fastest-growing Cloud service, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), has a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 33.7%.

— KnowledgeHut, Cloud Computing Demand: Overview of the Market, Jobs, Scope, Binod Anand, 2/23/2023.



Loving The Cloud


Hmmm, that sound like a bunch of IT people embracing the cloud (and the opportunity it represents) instead of chasing sunk costs. That’s because, besides taking on additional growth projects after ditching on-premises server infrastructure, an IT specialist has a lot of work to do in a virtualized cloud environment. Some hot items on an even hotter agenda for Creative IT Managers and Infrastructure Leads with their heads already in the cloud include:

  • Provisioning and deployment
  • Load balancing
  • Remote monitoring and management (change management/incident management)
  • Providing governance (service level agreements, permissions, liability, licensing management—including risk management, budgeting for fees, and legal costs)
  • Scaling (up or down) based on business requirements
  • Vendor(s) management
  • Security
  • Training
  • Integrations
  • Other cloud services management: font server SaaS, IaaS, and Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Bottom line: many Creative IT professionals seek innovative ways to work for themselves and their design teams in the cloud, instead of working for the machines. But others are stuck in the rut of on premises font server management and chasing sunk costs. The good news is, the ongoing, hidden costs of on-premises font servers can easily outweigh both the hard and sunk costs associated with their very administration and management. Which makes the hidden costs of font server technology the perfect leverage to escape the hosted data center rut.


Cloud Math


Here's what a large agency recently saved by moving to the cloud with Connect Fonts:


  Infrastructure Fixed Costs Annual Cost  
  ¼ Rack (co-location rental) $5,000  
  Power consumption (6 Amps) $4,300  
  Increasing Bandwidth Costs IP Transit (50Mbps) $1,200  
  Cross Connect (Cabinet to MMR) $600  
  TOTAL: $11,100  
  Variable Costs Annual Cost  
  Time dedicated to searching, comparing, and sharing assets $10,000  
  Remote and freelancer access controls, SSO, team libraries $1,200  
  Support And Troubleshooting Costs: VPN, asset, update, and maintenance-related IT tickets, as well as backup and disaster recovery $5,000  
  TOTAL: $16,200  


These savings point to increased productivity, revenue growth, and healthy profit margins. Of course, savings vary based on IT setup. And variable costs run the gamut, given the differences in how humans price time versus value time. A good rule of thumb is to quantify in salaries (price) or lost billable hours (value) the time your business dedicates to…

  • searching, comparing, and sharing assets
  • resolving VPN, asset, update, and maintenance-related IT tickets, as well as backup and disaster recovery operations
  • managing remote and freelancer access controls, SSO, and team libraries

…then add that number to your infrastructure fixed-cost total (there’s an infrastructure evaluation—complete with a calculation table—you can use here) for the estimated savings grand total.


Ignore Sunk Costs


We bet the result will have you rethinking the wisdom of both hosting your on-site data center and chasing sunk costs. Maybe selling your server on Craigslist isn’t a bad idea after all. In fact, it’s probably the next best step to building a business you’re proud of.

If you’d like to learn more about what we’ve been up to, check out our “What’s New With Connect Fonts” blog post. For a deeper dive on topics that matter to creative leaders—from listening and decision making to a changing creative marketplace and the future of font management—check out this Year In Review from Extensis CEO Toby Martin.

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