The Cloud vs Virtualisation

the clouds

Cloud computing and virtualisation are two approaches to computing that aims to use computer hardware more efficiently. However, the subtle differences are often confusing, even to tech people. Here we try to explain the difference between the two.


Simply put, cloud computing is the use of computing resources over a network like the internet. All the applications and software are loaded onto remote machines and servers, which are often geographically distributed across many dedicated servers. The cloud is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, where shared applications and data are provided to devices as a metered service over the internet.

In order to be called a cloud-based system, infrastructure must include:

  • On demand service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service/pay as you go model


Virtualisation is the creation of a virtual version of something, such as a hardware platform or operating system. Simply put, it is a technique that allows you to host multiple virtual machines, and each machine can be running different operating systems or different applications. This eliminates the need for additional costly hardware; more servers on a machine reduces the need for physical servers, reducing hardware, space and power costs.


Cloud computing is often confused for virtualisation because it appears that your application is running on a virtual server detached from any reliance or connection to a single physical host.

While virtualisation occurs in a local environment, cloud computing service takes place in a non-local space. The main difference is that the physical resources that power cloud computing are owned by a cloud provider, whereas an organisation that uses virtualisation still houses servers and computer hardware in its own data centres.

Virtual machines provide a number of benefits similar to that of cloud deployments. They are sometimes seen as the logical step that organisations take in adopting cloud infrastructure, but it’s neither on-demand nor scalable. The configuration of a virtual machine requires the intervention of an IT specialist and may involve days of downtime.

Unlike virtualisation, cloud computing requires low upfront costs because there is no need to purchase any hardware.

Remember, virtualisation makes one computer perform as if it were multiple computers and cloud computing allows for a variety of computers to access the same environment. Virtualisation can be deployed in a local setting while cloud computing can be accessed like a service.

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