Cloud vs Server: The Main Differences Explained

Posted on July 13, 2023 Backups & DR

If you’ve been on the data storage scene for a while, you’d agree that the cloud vs server debate is never far away during conversations. Of course, both sides of the debate always have strong arguments.

But here’s the million-dollar question — which should you invest in cloud servers vs physical servers?

A few years ago, the obvious answer would have been server. However, recent technological advancement has revolutionized how we store and manage data. Unsurprisingly, most tech enthusiasts now swear by cloud computing.

In this article, we’ll examine the key differences between traditional servers and cloud computing. We also share insight into the benefits, challenges, and unique features of each approach to help you make informed decisions as a business owner.

What is Cloud Server?

A cloud server, or a virtual server, is a computing method that leverages a cloud computing environment for its operations. Unlike traditional physical servers that are erected and managed on-site, a cloud service provider hosts and maintains a cloud server.

Generally, cloud servers are constructed by partitioning a physical server into several virtual servers that run on their own operating system and software. Then, each server is assigned its own computing resources, such as CPU, storage, and memory, based on the requirements of the specific users.

With cloud servers, users can access and manage their servers remotely through the internet.

One of the crucial advantages of leveraging cloud servers is how scalable they are. Users can scale up their computing resources as they need to, which allows for flexibility and better cost-efficiency. 

In addition, cloud servers typically experience less downtime as they are built on redundant infrastructure. Other benefits include enhanced security features, easy deployment, and automated backups.

What is a Server?

A server, or dedicated server, refers to a physical computer system that is solely responsible for handling the computing needs of an organization or individual. Compared to virtual servers, a traditional physical server is not shared with multiple users or separated into several instances.

A server typically consists of several hardware components, including a motherboard, storage drives, processors, network interfaces, memory, and a power supply. In addition, they are housed in a dedicated server room designed to provide high performance and reliability for applications and data.

Generally, organizations leverage physical servers when they have specific requirements for power, storage, or security and want maximum control over their server resources. Besides, physical servers allow users to directly access its hardware, which means easier customization. 

However, they are also more expensive to purchase, maintain, and scale compared to virtual servers or cloud-based solutions.

Key Differences Between Cloud and Servers

While cloud servers and physical servers essentially have functions and many similarities, there are also several critical differences between them. Here is some insight to help you during your next cloud vs server debate:


Cloud servers allow users to access them remotely from any location, as long as the device is internet-enabled. In addition, you can also access your cloud server across various devices, including laptops and mobile gadgets. 

On the other hand, since physical servers are located on-premises, you’ll have to be close enough to the server’s physical location to access it. In other words, servers have limited accessibility compared to the cloud.


Another difference between server and cloud is scalability. Scaling cloud servers is generally much easier than physical servers. 

With cloud servers, users can either scale up or scale down their resources on demand. However, scaling physical servers is significantly less straightforward. It is a complex and time-intensive process that generally involves buying new hardware and configuring it to integrate with existing resources.

Aside from the upfront costs of scaling physical servers, it is also worth noting that your servers may require some downtime during this process.

Cost Savings

Using the cloud as your data management solution will usually save you more money in the long run. This is because cloud servers typically operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. As a result, you only pay for what you use. Besides, you also avoid the expensive costs of installing physical servers and the associated operational or maintenance costs.


Another key point in the cloud vs server conversation is security. While cloud servers offer several solid security systems, including firewalls, data encryption, and periodic security updates, it still has one major weak link. The shared nature of cloud environments increases the risk of security breaches.

In the case of physical servers, users have direct control of the security measures they implement. In other words, organizations can apply their unique security protocols and limit both physical and network access to the server. However, such processes typically require unique expertise.

Level of Control

Yet another difference between server and cloud is how much control each option gives you. When it comes to the level of control you’ll have over the configuration and customization of your server, physical servers take the cake. While cloud servers do offer you some freedom to customize the cloud environment, you typically will have limited options. 

However, with physical servers, you have as much control as you need since you own the entire system. Therefore, you can customize and fine-tune your servers as much as you want.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Servers

While cloud servers have transformed our approach to data and application management for good, they are not without some downsides. However, you’ll find that the good far outweighs the bad. 

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of cloud storage vs servers:

The Advantages


Cloud servers offer users a high level of scalability as users can easily adjust their resources as they want. In other words, you can quickly scale up or down without requiring hardware upgrades or similar investments in your infrastructure.


Cloud servers operate on a pay-as-you-go model, which allows you to pay for only the resources you use. This helps you avoid the upfront costs of setting up server infrastructure and also eliminates operational expenses.


With cloud servers, there’s no restriction regarding where you can access the server from as long as you are connected to the internet. This makes remote work and team collaboration so much more seamless. Users can easily access the data and applications they need from anywhere and across a range of devices.

Reliability and Redundancy

The infrastructure of cloud servers typically leverages redundant components and backup systems. As a result, you’ll enjoy high availability, minimal downtime, and lower risk of data loss or service disruptions.


Cloud providers generally invest in robust security protocols to protect their infrastructure and customer data. Some of these measures include restricted access controls, firewalls, and encryption. All in all, you rest assured that you’ll enjoy a high level of security on cloud servers.

The Disadvantages

Dependence on Internet Connectivity

While the remote access that cloud servers offer is super convenient, it also means that the system relies heavily on internet quality. As a result, slow internet speeds or similar disruptions can significantly impact user experience.

Limited Control

There’s not a lot you can do independently when it comes to configurations on cloud servers.  You’ll typically have to rely on your cloud provider for upgrades, maintenance, and security protocols, which can be less than convenient.

Potential Data Security Concerns

There’s also the concern of data security. While cloud providers put several measures in place to secure the cloud environment, the shared nature of cloud resources may be a source of concern for organizations that work with sensitive or highly regulated data.

Cost Considerations

More often than not, cloud servers will help businesses or organizations save server related costs. However, it is not always the case especially with organizations that deal with high volume data transfers. You’ll also need to consider the long-term cost impact based on your workload pattern.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Servers

With all the buzz surrounding cloud servers, it is possible to forget about physical servers. However, these servers remain a tried and tested solution that continues to hold its ground in many organizations. Of course, they have their drawbacks too.

The following paragraphs examine the advantages and disadvantages of servers.

The Advantages

Enhanced Performance

Servers are generally designed to withstand heavier workloads and can provide high-performance computing abilities to support critical processes. Therefore, depending on your specific organizational workflow, superior processing speed may be a good thing to have.

Centralized Data Storage

With servers, you get a centralized location in a secure and controlled environment for storing and managing your data. As a result, you can enjoy better accessibility and a more efficient data management routine.

Improved security

Since physical servers are not shared and only cater to one user — the organization, there’s a reduced risk of security breaches and related issues. Besides, you can implement advanced security measures such as firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection protocols to protect your server.


Servers also provide users with more flexibility as you have sole control of your IT infrastructure. As a result, you can configure and customize your server resources to fit your specification operations without any limitations.

The Disadvantages

Higher Initial Investment

One major drawback with servers is how expensive it can be to set up. The upfront costs of server hardware, software, and related infrastructure, can be quite large. As a result, smaller businesses with limited budgets may be unable to acquire or maintain their own servers.

Maintenance and Management

In addition to the cost, servers also require continuous monitoring and regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. This means you’ll need to assign a dedicated IT team and resources to ensure your server stays up and running. 

Single Point of Failure

With traditional servers, the failure of one server can set off several other chain disruptions and result in significant downtime. This can cause interruptions in your workflow and lead to reduced productivity. Creating backup systems can help control such disruptions. However, they also mean more expenses and can make your setup more complex.

Limited Scalability

Unlike cloud servers, scaling up physical servers is not as straightforward. First off, you’ll need additional hardware, which means increased expenses. There’s also the potential delay that may occur as you may experience some downtime during the process.

Which Storage Should You Implement in Your Business?

Choosing between cloud vs server is a critical decision impacting your business productivity and growth. Therefore, you need to get it right.

Unfortunately, there’s no fixed template.

Each option comes with its unique advantages and a fair share of drawbacks. For instance, while cloud storage offers you better accessibility and scalability, there’s the risk of security breaches due to a shared environment. On the other hand, server storage gives you full control over your data resources and improved security but is quite expensive to set up.

Therefore, you’ll need to evaluate your specific requirements and then weigh the pros and cons of each option to decide which one is best for your organization.

Get More Advice on Cloud Vs Servers With NETdepot

Do you need more information to help you decide between cloud and servers? Leverage our expert knowledge by reaching out to us for a consultation. We’d be happy to help!

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