What Is the Difference Between Cloud and Traditional Data Centers?

what is the difference between a data center and cloud computing?

If your organization creates and uses a large amount of data, then you need a secure place to store it. When deciding where to store your organization’s data, it usually comes down to two options—cloud services and data centers. But what is the difference between cloud and traditional data centers, and how do you determine which one works the best for your business?

Understanding what makes each option unique is key to making your final decision. Cloud storage options allow you to access and store data online—with plenty of popular options to choose from. Traditional data centers contain computer systems and components such as storage and telecommunication systems. Compliance, cost, security, and customization are key factors for choosing the right data storage option for your business.


What Is the Difference Between Cloud and Traditional Data Centers?

When discussing the difference between cloud and traditional data centers, it’s best to start by defining what they are. What designates cloud services from a traditional data center may seem obvious enough. However, there are some important differences that can have a big impact on your organization.


What Are Cloud Storage Services?

Cloud storage services are internet-based offerings that let you store and access data online. Rather than storing data on your device’s hard drive or on an external storage device, you simply upload your data to a cloud storage service. This can help you conserve computing power for important tasks instead of storing data on a physical device.

The cloud works by saving data on remote servers that are operated and maintained by a third-party provider. In some cases, a cloud provider even owns multiple data centers in different locations. This allows you to access your data anywhere and with any device that has an internet connection.  

There are many popular cloud storage options that you may have already heard of. They include:


  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Amazon Drive
  • iCloud


And that’s just to name a few. They offer a small amount of free storage in most cases and charge for added storage space along with other special features. Both options can provide a secure method for backing up important files and other data. 

This additional storage can help prevent data loss in cases such as:


  • Losing your device
  • Your device breaking
  • Your device getting stolen
  • Disaster recovery


What Are Data Centers?

Data centers are large facilities that contain computer systems and components such as storage and telecommunication capabilities. A higher-tier data center requires other specialized equipment such as cooling systems and backup generators for power. They keep the data center running and online in case of problems that would usually lead to downtime.

Data centers can be physically located in different places. For instance, some organizations have on-premises data centers with their own IT team running them. Other organizations don’t have the extra physical space so they outsource to a third party.

In both cases, a skilled team of IT professionals is necessary to:


  • Maintain equipment
  • Troubleshoot problems
  • Ensure security and reliability


Organizations can benefit greatly from data centers thanks to their size and power. They’re ideal for organizations that have a lot of information and data that they need to:


  • Store
  • Manage
  • Process
  • Distribute
  • Secure


With their robust systems, data centers are ideal for businesses, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and even governments working with large amounts of data. They can vary in size from an in-house data center room with one server to an off-site complex of multiple buildings owned and operated by a third party.

Data centers function as critical infrastructure in the digital age. Without them, the ability to create, store, and deliver information and services through the internet would be impossible. 



Why Should You Choose a Data Center Instead of a Cloud Storage Service?

We’ve revealed the difference between cloud and traditional data centers. Now it’s time to answer the bigger question: which should you choose? The benefits of cloud services and data centers are too numerous to list. With that in mind, it’s better to understand when you should use a data center instead of a cloud storage service.

This depends on a few factors:


  • Compliance
  • Cost
  • Security
  • Customization
  • Expertise



Compliance and regulatory requirements can be important factors depending on your industry. For example, a healthcare practice will need storage solutions compliant with HIPAA. In this case, choosing a traditional data center allows for more direct control over data than a cloud-based option. 



Cost is almost always going to be a main factor in decision-making. Fortunately, a traditional data center can be the more cost-effective option for some businesses. Using large amounts of data can add up quickly with cloud services since they charge by the amount. Data centers, on the other hand, may charge a flat rate for the amount of space you need to store your data or have scalable pricing and options based on the growth of your organization.



Security is important for cloud and data center options. However, a physical data center like TenHats has the added benefit of being in a secure, guarded facility. These extra layers of security can bring peace of mind to organizations, allowing them to rest easy knowing their data is safe.



Customization is a key factor for why businesses choose data centers over cloud services. They allow you to control your data and infrastructure in ways that cloud services simply can’t. This includes customizing the software and hardware that you use, making the cost of ownership much more worthwhile.



Expertise can be a helpful factor in choosing a data center. While it isn’t true for every data center, it is true for TenHats. When you call us, you’re talking to someone who can answer any of your questions, not a security guard who can do little more than turn it off and back on again.


Is choosing a data center the right move for your organization? Contact us today to start a conversation!


You need to understand the difference between cloud storage and data centers to determine which is best for you. Cloud-based options let you access and store information online. Data centers can be located on- or off-site with computer systems and their components. Factors for choosing a data center include compliance, cost, security, and customization.


In 2016, TenHats built the region’s first purpose-built colocation data center in over 20 years. Located in Knoxville, TN, our data center can serve any organization in East Tennessee and beyond. With our team’s IT experience, we provide a lot more than simply protected data. When you call us, you talk to a real IT expert, not just security. Connect with our team about our data center today!

Picture of Aaron Sherrill

Aaron Sherrill

Aaron is the Chief Technology Officer at TenHats leading the technology, cybersecurity, and data center teams of our organization. He has 25+ years of IT and security experience spanning across a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and software development.

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