It is easy to get confused between virtualisation and private cloud-based storage, but fact of the matter is that these two storage systems are not interchangeable and the difference between the two could be stark depending on the nature of your business. In this article I explain the differences and some of the benefits for businesses considering a private cloud or a virtual data centre.

Imagine you store the same piece of data both on a private cloud system and on a virtual datacentre. This data is sensitive, priceless and incredibly important for the future and integrity of your business. Storing it on a virtual datacentre is essentially storing it on one single physical server which is split between a numbers of users, perhaps between those in a single department in your office.

The data stored on the private cloud, however, is distributed across multiple physical servers, but you only see these servers as one consolidated storage space. It is still shared between your departments, but thanks to the multiple systems behind your one system, there is built- in resilience in case of hardware failure.

While the data is stored on physical devices in both cases, another major difference is the location of the server itself. Files stored on a virtual data centre is hosted on a server at an offsite location, usually that of a third party web hosting provider. Despite it being a physical object, there is no way you can touch it or have any control over where exactly it is located. On the other hand, your data on the private cloud is going to be stored at your own on-site data centre, or at a location of your choosing.

You’ll also find a difference in flexibility when you come to storing your data. If your file is constantly being updated, you will find that eventually you will need to expand to another database, or you might need another server altogether. With your own hardware, you just bring another server online. Expanding your hosted private cloud will require very little effort and will most likely only involve a few clicks on your PC.

However, any modification to your virtual data centre will not be quite so easy, as you will need to send your request off to the provider, call technical support and deal with company administration before you can get the update to your server.

One big question for businesses is often the cost of the server and there is always the issues of cost versus value. Well, the control supplied by your own private cloud system will set you back a fair bit more than the virtual data centre, due to the costs of the hardware, installation, set-up and maintenance.

This cost can be lowered if you choose to go via a company who will host your cloud server for you, but you will lose an element of control. On the other hand, a virtual data centre is considerably cheaper than a private cloud based server, mainly thanks to the fact that none of the hardware or installation is shouldered by the business and it does not need to be maintained on site.

In contrast, the virtual data centre is less accessible in terms of physical access and bespoke modification, but the system is cheaper. It is only one single resource and one server which is shared by everybody in your company or at the very least everybody in your department. What this does mean is there are more risks when it comes to loss or corruption of data, and making any modifications will involve a whole series of hoops to jump through. Hence the payoff is between price and comfort. Ideally this choice should be made depending on the sensitivity of your data but no business should take this decision without understanding the differences between these options.