Data Center vs Cloud Is the Wrong Approach [How to Think About Data Storage Options]


Ever Googled “data center vs cloud”? If so, you surely found thousands of articles, guides, and how-tos on this topic.

There must be something there since everyone seems to write about this topic. Can thousands of people be wrong? Yes, it’s been known to happen and this is one of those cases.

“Data center vs cloud” is a fake dichotomy. We’re not signaling it just because we like to be pedantic about language. It’s important to call it out because a fake dichotomy can prevent you from making the right decision for your business.

Here’s why:

Cloud Storage Is Data Center Storage

When you choose cloud storage, you don’t have access to the hard drives where your data “lives,” so it’s a common misconception to assume that it’s completely different from data center storage.

In fact, cloud storage providers are simply data center operators. Your data may live far away from your HQ, but that doesn’t mean it’s floating on an actual cloud. From small cloud storage providers to the biggest players in the world, like Amazon or Microsoft, each one operates a data center (or hundreds).

You cannot have cloud storage without data centers.

A clearer dichotomy would be the one between public cloud and private data centers, which are the data centers a business operates itself. In this case, yes, we can talk about significant differences:

  • Higher security risks when you don’t know where and how your data is stored
  • Higher costs to operate and maintain a data center versus the monthly feel you pay for cloud storage
  • Better data accessibility when you operate on your own data center

There is more nuance to this comparison and, when it comes to data, nuance is important.

Private Data Centers Aren’t the Only Alternative to Cloud Storage

A lot of companies have started to migrate their data from the cloud to colocation facilities. Colocation is the middle-ground between operating your own data center and storing your data in the cloud.

If you opt for colocation, your data is often in a facility close to your HQ (so you have the accessibility cloud storage doesn’t have) or close to your end users at the edge. Colocation balances the benefits of having complete, transparent access to your data while also eliminating the high costs associated with operating your own data center.

Colocation is data center storage—you’re storing your data in a data center operated by a partner like Heartland Technology. It also bears some resemblance to public cloud storage:

  • You’re not the only one using that facility/data center—you share it with other companies, which helps bring costs down.
  • You’re not responsible for the maintenance of the facility, so you don’t need to worry about hiring networking engineers or security experts
  • You can scale up and down as your data volumes grow or decrease

By offering the best of both worlds, it’s no wonder the demand for colocation will continue to increase in the next few years. 

Hybrid Approaches Are Gaining Popularity: It Doesn’t Have to Be Either/Or

Think you have to make a choice between the cloud and your own data center and never look back? Despite what the thousands of articles that rely on a false dichotomy preach, that’s not the case.

In fact, the winning bet is a hybrid approach in most cases. Why would we say that when we’re a colocation data center provider?

Because we know there is no one-size-fits-all in data storage. Moreover, Gartner predicted a long time ago that hybrid approaches will see increased adoption, and they were right.

There are some applications for which public cloud storage is preferable—usually the non-mission-critical ones. For the rest of them, your safest bet is a combination of private data centers (if you can manage the capital expenses), colocation, and private cloud.


Take uptime, for instance. Most cloud storage providers advertise a 99.9% uptime, which sounds nearly flawless. However, if you need access to your data precisely during the 0.01% downtime, you can’t have it. Depending on when that happens, it can mean serious business losses.

This doesn’t happen with colocation or private data centers. This is why it’s become increasingly popular to store sensitive data and mission-critical applications in storage environments you can control.

Colocation supports the hybrid cloud approach. Any security and networking advisor worth their salt will tell you not to put all your eggs in a single basket.

How to Choose the Right Storage Option and the Right Provider for Your Data Storage

With the needless dichotomy out of the way, you can think outside the box: 

  • Which data do you need quick access to? → Store it privately or in a colocation facility
  • What is your least sensitive data? → Store it on the cloud
  • Need enhanced security but don’t want to pay for the maintenance of your own data center? → Use colocation

That is, of course, a simplified look at options. More than likely, you’ll require a mix of solutions—the hybrid approach. 

Not sure how to find a provider you can trust? Start here

Not sure if colocation is right for you? We can help! Talk to our consultants and let’s find a custom solution for your data storage needs.