How to Spot a Fake: Differences Between Cloud Solutions

Fake clouds are a lot like spotting a phony ring.You’ve heard the statistics: by 2020, cloud computing will be a $162 billion market—that’s an increase of nearly $100 billion in just five years. But despite this widespread acceptance, many people’s understanding of what the cloud is and how it works remains a bit...well, cloudy. Now, taking advantage of this lack of understanding are unscrupulous vendors masquerading as a true cloud solution; call them the “cubic zirconia” of cloud computing.

So how can you tell the difference between “fake” cloud providers and true multi-tenant cloud providers (the “real” cloud)? A cloud is ultimately an infrastructure destination that is reliable, elastic, and scalable. You only pay for resources consumed, and more can be added instantly without needing to acquire new hardware.


That said, here are four different methods of data storage and maintenance—three of which some vendors will describe as a cloud but only one of which marks a true move to the cloud as described above!

1.  On-premise

The traditional model, wherein a vendor provides software, charges fees, and then you’re on your own. You purchase the infrastructure, install the software, and hire a team to maintain it. This is not the cloud.

2.  Co-location

This is where you’re likely to find one of those shysters boasting about their “cloud” capabilities. With this model, the value-added reseller, or VAR, houses hardware and software for you, and you pay them to do all the legwork you did yourself in the on-premise model. However, you still own the equipment, you’re just no longer housing it.

Unfortunately, you’ll likely experience a lot of the same issues and costs as you would hosting it yourself—only now you have to rely on a third-party to address the problems!

Here are the top five drawbacks to choosing the hosted options.


  • Slow upgrades. Whenever the software vendor releases a new version, you’re at the mercy of the VAR to roll it out. They also have to upgrade each customer individually, meaning it could take months or even longer before you finally receive the upgrade. An upgrade also may not be compatible for your customization, causing further delays—and headaches.
  • Heightened downtime. Because each customer is operating on their own software, it may take many hours to get you up and running again when something goes wrong, versus the mere seconds or minutes most true cloud providers can boast.
  • Overbuying capacity. Scaling up with a VAR can be an arduous process, and since many organizations don’t know exactly how much capacity they will need, they wind up overbuying to be sure they’re not short. This often means paying for unused capacity.
  • Lessened security. Most VARs simply do not have the amount of staff needed to provide proper security and privacy. You’re unlikely to find a host with SSAE 16 (SOC1) Type II audit completions, CJIS certification, or HIPAA compliance.
  • Instability. Integrating your on-premise applications with a VARs application can be costly, inefficient, and highly unstable—that’s because the on-premise product was not designed for hosting and not intended to be integrated with a host.

3.  Dedicated-hardware cloud

This is a gray area of cloud computing. With this model, you access dedicated equipment that is housed in a vendor’s data center which you tap into via internet. It’s marketed like the cloud because of the virtualization aspect, but it’s not a “true” cloud because you’re still just renting dedicated hardware.

Hardware vendors love to promote this method because every time more equipment is required, that’s more cash in their pocket. But because hardware is required to scale, this model is not elastic and is therefore not a true cloud as defined at the start of this story.

4.  Virtual Private Cloud

At last, the “true” cloud! In this model, you buy into a provider’s service and software—the same service and software used by all of their customers. Security-wise, it’s dedicated to you, but on the back-end, you get the cost-savings and increased scalability provided by the cloud. With the virtual private cloud, or VPC, you’ll enjoy:

  • Seamless upgrades. With all customers operating on the same hardware, the cloud provider can upgrade everyone incrementally and with no downtime; most cloud providers will refresh the underlying hardware while constantly acquiring faster and better hardware. Your workload essentially “floats” on top of this ever-improving and rock-solid infrastructure, and will actually get more secure and faster over time.
  • Easy integration. A VPC like this can be integrated with other VPC’s, public cloud, or on-premise infrastructure. As soon as that’s in place, it effectively becomes a hybrid cloud, which by definition, is more than one cloud working in synchronization.
  • Lowered costs. A shared infrastructure allows your organization to benefit from economies of scale and you’ll be able to truly add resources on-demand.
  • Increased uptime and security. With all customers operating on the same back-end infrastructure, true cloud providers have a highly vested interest in keeping things running smoothly, securely, and maintaining high levels of uptime; they typically spend much more time than an individual client would to obtain this level of reliability and security. This means you benefit from a superior level of hardware than you would ever justify purchasing on your own (for example, the support of a high-end load balancer).

Not all clouds are created equal, and with the term “cloud” being tossed around recklessly by some vendors, unprepared organizations can find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of; be sure to do your homework when seeking out a provider, and also watch out for common migration mistakes which you can read more about here.

Considering a move to a true cloud provider? DSM, Florida’s preferred cloud provider offering 99.999% uptime, is here to help. Speak with one of our experts today!

Florida Southern College Disaster Recovery Case Study