In the past few years, virtual private clouds (VPCs) have been gaining more and more popularity among businesses of all sizes — and for good reasons. VPCs are often seen as combining the best of both worlds (as in private and public) when it comes to cloud computing.
They offer the privacy and security of having your own private solution implemented but with the agility and affordability of a public cloud.
What is Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)?
You might wonder what does VPC stand for and what is VPC in general? Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is a secure and isolated private space hosted within a public cloud.
This way, any company can create its own private cloud-based environment on what is practically shared public infrastructure. The company would then have near complete control over its own network, with configurations that can be drastically different from all the other public cloud tenants.
What is VPC Used For?
Anything that a regular private cloud can do, from running code to storing data to hosting web applications, VPC can also do. The only limitation is that normally a virtual private cloud is hosted by a public cloud provider.
Here’s an illustrative analogy.
Imagine a street in the business district lined with office buildings. Smaller ones are usually private clouds; large ones can be public clouds.
A virtual public cloud is a separate company office in one of the big public towers. While no one can just go into the office without authorization, and the company can outfit and renovate the office they way they like, they are still located within the public environment of an office building.
How Does VPC Work?
Once you know what VPC is, you might wonder how these virtual clouds actually work?
The key is the word virtual.
VPCs have become widely available due to the virtualization technology, or the ability to create an abstraction layer on top of server hardware. A virtualized layer then can be divided into multiple virtual machines (VMs), where each can work as a completely independent computer, with its own operating system and software.
A virtual private cloud creates a private space within a public cloud and isolates some computing resources for itself.
Some examples of such isolation are unique IP addresses, a VLAN and a VPN.
- IP addresses are usually similar on a public cloud. In a VPC, however, virtualization defines a subnet of IP addresses to only be used by the company that owns that VPC. These IP addresses then won’t be visible or accessible by the wider network.
- VLAN also helps partition the network, just like a subnet but at a different level. If LAN is a local area network (a group of computers connected to each other), VLAN is a virtual LAN, created to bring the company’s computers together while separating them from the rest.
- VPN is a virtual private network that encrypts the company’s traffic and makes it indecipherable for anyone else.
So, VPC normally has a dedicated set of IP addresses and a separate VLAN that is only available for the computers within it. What’s more, the company connects to its VPC through a VPN, ensuring that its data is not visible to public cloud tenants or anyone else.
As such, virtual private clouds make use of the scalability, redundancy, and accessibility that traditional public clouds provide while enjoying the isolation and security of a private cloud.
The Difference Between Virtual Private Cloud and Private Cloud
It’s very common to confuse a virtual private cloud and a regular private cloud. After all, they sound so similar; but they couldn’t be more different.
A regular private cloud is a single-tenant environment, a complete service created for a single company to use. A separate office building, you can say.
A public cloud is created on shared multi-tenant infrastructure, which dozens and even hundreds of customers can access (although everyone’s data remains private).
Think of AWS or Microsoft Azure as some of the most recognizable examples.
A VPC, however, is a private cloud within a public cloud, bringing you the advantages of both. Finally, you don’t have to weigh in private cloud vs public cloud anymore.
What Are the Advantages of Virtual Private Cloud?
A virtual private cloud can be a great solution for any company looking for scalability, flexibility, good performance, and outstanding security, all without breaking the bank.
One of the best aspects of being hosted on a public cloud is near infinite scalability. VPC’s customers can simply add more resources in real time, whenever they need to.
Since VPC is practically self-contained, it offers the flexibility of being hosted on a public cloud but also connected to a dedicated infrastructure in the future, if there’s ever such a need.
If your VPC runs a global web application, being hosted on a cloud means better performance for users worldwide than on-premise servers.
As a rule, VPC providers spend lots of time and resources to make sure their systems always remain secure and up-to-date. This is especially important for small and medium-sized businesses that often can’t dedicate the same amount of attention to data security.
Finally, since the underlying infrastructure in VPCs is shared with other tenants, it’s usually much more cost-effective.