Cloud Apps Versus Traditional Apps: What’s the Difference?

Many of us would like to think of “cloud computing” as having a single definition. After all, it would make understanding and utilizing cloud technology much easier than it actually is. However, the term refers more to the IT evolution as a whole over the last decade than it does a specific piece of technology. In fact, a frequent mistake IT professionals make when implementing cloud technology is understanding cloud applications as having identical architectures and logics to traditional applications. Therefore, it’s important to understand the differences between how apps work in the cloud versus on traditional platforms — and how approaching the two differently can help your business.

Architecture 101

A factor that motivates many company leaders to transition their apps to the cloud is traditional apps’ reliance on redundant, highly optimized, and often underutilized infrastructures. This inflexibility typically wastes resources and hinders growth in an ever-advancing, highly technological business landscape. But what makes cloud apps’ infrastructures and architectures better than those of traditional apps? Here’s a quick rundown, according to the LinkedIn publication:

  • Traditional architecture often includes a presentation tier, an app logic tier, and a database tier. Each of these tiers requires a dedicated server, features a static infrastructure, and is mostly rigid, meaning it cannot scale automatically. That scalability can be limited, challenging, and costly. Even when IT professionals move traditional apps to virtual servers, this architecture remains mostly the same. Due to extensive infrastructure dependence, when their infrastructures fail, applications cannot recover.
  • Cloud architecture is characterized by automation and user interfaces for designing and building infrastructure. While traditional apps use rigid databases, cloud app architectures offer varied options and the ability to divide data based on usage requirements. And because so many cloud apps are designed based on service-oriented architecture (SOA) principles, they feature more dynamic frameworks than traditional apps.

Source: M. Zaid Ahmed

Cloud application benefits

Thanks to cloud architectures, cloud apps are fundamentally more flexible than traditional apps, adding significant value for users.

  • Agile — Users can update and deploy cloud apps quickly, allowing enterprise leaders to respond to problems without needing to take entire servers offline.
  • Serverless — Cloud apps’ serverless nature also makes them more scalable according to demand — a challenge for traditional apps’ static infrastructures.
  • Scalable — The scale of cloud providers’ data centers as well as the competitive provider market are driving down costs for building and maintaining cloud apps and spurring the move away from dedicated servers for each tier.
  • Environment agnostic — The environment-agnostic nature of cloud apps, according to the InfoQ article, means that no tool or library can exist outside of what IT experts explicitly declare, simplifying setup for developers.
  • Secure — Multiple networks host cloud-based app components, making them harder to attack, and the massive scale of many providers brings large-enterprise security measures to smaller operations.
  • High Availability — Cloud application architecture has infrastructure in place to keep your applications 100% operational at all times.

Is everything cloud-ready?

With these benefits in mind, business decision-makers may be wondering what steps they should take when moving apps to the cloud. Important as it is to understand the differences between cloud apps and traditional apps, it means nothing unless you know what makes cloud apps cloud-ready.

Not Cloud-Ready


  • Latency-sensitive apps that slow down servers
  • Apps requiring special hardware, such as those for rendering
  • Essential apps with sensitive data and large data sets
  • Computation-heavy apps, especially those with small data sets
  • Apps still in development or testing phases
  • Productivity and processing apps, such as Microsoft Office
  • Collaborative apps that allow multiple users in one place
  • Virtualized apps

What makes certain apps better-suited for the cloud than others will ultimately depend on your business, team, and clients’ needs. However, tech leaders should consider a few key factors when preparing apps for a cloud transition.

  1. Security Determine what kind of security your cloud provider offers, such as data encryption and master controls. This is especially important if your business handles sensitive data such as credit card information.
  2. Compliance — This may seem like a no-brainer, but forgetting compliance simply isn’t an option. When it comes to regulations, do your homework. It may not be as easy to comply with certain cloud regulations as those on traditional platforms at the outset.
  3. App availability — Consult your team members and clients to make sure you can meet their availability needs when migrating apps to the cloud as some cloud providers aren’t yet equipped to handle certain levels of demand.

As what we call “cloud computing” continues to evolve and expand, so, too, will its application range. Many business decision-makers are already leaving behind restrictive platforms and moving to the cloud, and all signs point to this and other trends continuing. Therefore, it’s prudent to develop your applications with the cloud in mind — and that begins with knowing what makes a cloud app work.

An IT partner with expertise in cloud computing and application migration can help you create and manage the moving parts necessary for you to get the most from your apps. To learn more, contact the experts at Value Global.

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