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How to Decide Between Data Centers vs. the Cloud

By: Kayla Matthews on February 25, 2020

One of the most common questions facing business owners who have digital files, apps and other things associated with the online realm is whether to use data centers or the cloud

What Is a Data Center, and What Is the Cloud?

You may be asking, what is a data center? It's generally an on-premise building filled with hardware that you own to house all of a businesses' critical files. You'll also find colocation data centers that allow renting the equipment, space and computing resources inside a structure shared with other customers. 

Conversely, the cloud is an off-premise storage arrangement whereby you hire an outside company that has the computing resources you need. This remote facility enables accessing your files via an internet connection. 

Is the cloud or a data center a better choice for you? No single answer is right in every case, but here are some things that could help you confidently answer the data center vs. cloud question.

Think About the Potential Staffing Requirements

If using a traditional data center setup, you'll likely have on-site IT team members responsible for managing it. In the case of the cloud, part of the fee you pay to store stuff there ensures the staff members at the facility have income, and you don't need to hire them internally. 

Some businesses prefer to know who's working in the data center, particularly if there is a strong element of earned trust. However, if you don't currently have a data center team and would rather not take the time to hire one, a cloud data center may be preferable.

In that case, ensure you take the time to choose a provider that has a long-standing history of reliability and can answer any questions that arise. 

Be Mindful of Security

Security is another aspect that typically comes up when people weigh the pros and cons of data center vs. cloud storage. However, both options can offer tight security if you use them well. 

A data center physically connects to your company's local network. That aspect makes it easier to monitor the data and ensures that only company-approved staff members access it. You could also stipulate that when they're on the network, they only use devices that your company has checked.

However, there are also several ways you can secure data in the cloud, including encrypting it before uploading and choosing a provider that encrypts stored materials for you. 

Something to keep in mind is that you don't have to migrate all of your data to the cloud. If security is a particular concern for some of your data, it may be most appropriate to keep it on-premise. 

Consider the Disaster Recovery Options

Perhaps you're in a situation where you'd like to automate your disaster recovery strategy. That desire is one of the most common reasons why companies move to the cloud since its built-in resilience and durability provides a secure backup solution. 

An on-premise approach to data recovery is possible, but it usually requires purchasing substantial amounts of hardware and hiring the staff to test the equipment regularly. Also, if the weather caused the disaster you're facing, having your data off-site could speed the time required to return to normalcy. 

Ponder Your Scalability Needs

Is your business in a growth phase? Maybe you've just finished one and feel ready to pick a storage and computing resources solution that fits your current state. If scalability is not an urgent need or something you foresee needing soon, an on-site data center could work well. Plus, if a company wants complete control over the hardware used and the data stored, an on-premise data center is an ideal choice. 

However, scalability can happen faster — usually instantly — with a cloud data center. Scaling up would mean you pay more to the provider to match your increased requirements. However, the delays you may face when scaling up your on-premise facilities shouldn't happen. 

Don't Feel Locked Into One Choice

Many business leaders agree that it's old-fashioned to decide that everything you need to store must go into a traditional data center or a cloud data center. They often make their decisions on an application-by-application basis or reassess their choices as business needs change to ensure they're still appropriate. 

Even as companies continue to see the cloud as an appealing option, they understand it's not ideal in every case or for each type of data they have.

For example, some of the things businesses choose to keep in their own data centers include the master copies of archived information and niche applications, such as some of those used in healthcare that are not always compatible with what cloud providers offer. 

Data Centers vs. the Cloud — Take the Time to Make a Smart Choice

As this overview indicates, there are specific considerations to make when it comes to choosing between a data center or the cloud.

The ideal approach is to research your options thoroughly before deciding. Getting informed and using what you've learned to steer your actions should help you feel more at ease about selecting a solution that's most appropriate for your business now and later. 

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