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Cloud-based vs Cloud-native application, the main differences

Mervyn Graham

The term ‘cloud computing' has been around for many years, but the uptake has gained momentum recently. It is a relatively general term, as it can mean different things to different people, especially when it is continuously evolving. 

Although there are similarities between the main types of cloud solutions, cloud-enabled, cloud-based and cloud-native - there are some fundamental differences between them concerning the creation, deployment and management.

It all started with cloud-enabled; this refers to an application with a traditional architecture built for on-premise but is then migrated to the cloud and uses some virtual resources to run. In today’s environment, cloud-based and cloud-native are the more popular options. These are the key differentiators between the two options.

Cloud-based and cloud-native – what is the difference? 


Cloud-based is a hybrid of cloud-enabled and cloud-native solutions. Unlike cloud-enabled applications, it does not require infrastructure upgrades, as it entails existing applications utilising cloud resources such as AWS or Azure servers without the need to redevelop them. This type of cloud migration means internal teams will not need to continue to manage the servers or backups as the service provider will do so going forwards. The benefits of this method are application scalability and availability without the need to rebuild.

As the application has been moved to the cloud and not built for it, when upgrading, enhancing or adding new functionality, you would need to take down the whole stack to do so, causing downtime. It is also more time-consuming to set up because there may still be hardware provisioning or software setup to make any changes.

Key attributes of cloud-based apps:
  • Exploits the benefits of a cloud without the need to rebuild the app
  • Can adapt to surges in demand
  • Reduce the need for infrastructure and backup maintenance
  • Application is firmly integrated
  • Any costs to run the application is for the whole stack


Cloud-native is the new paradigm of software development, and it refers to a microservice architecture within an application. Built from the ground up for the cloud - any application created using this method can take advantage of all the value-add it has to offer.

With cloud-native, you remove the notion of paying for resources that you do not actively use. Unlike cloud-based, where charges are for the whole stack - cloud-native apps are built in such a way that costs are calculated based on the resources the app consumes. A modular app structure also means when fixes or enhancements are required, developers can work on a specific area without causing downtime of the whole application.

Key attributes of cloud-native apps:
  • Speed of innovation, without the risk of downtime
  • Ability to scale up, as well as down securely
  • Reliable, robust and always on
  • Pay only for what you use and need when running the application(s)
  • Automation of tasks, with policy-driven resource allocation 

How to choose?

Whether cloud-based or cloud-native, moving to a cloud application will ultimately offer businesses agility, scalability and reduced costs but, the level of value-add returned will be dependent on the type you choose.

Every organisation’s cloud journey is different, as cloud adoption in any form can be complex and require stakeholder buy-in. Before starting each stage, clearly defined goals and objectives - determine the requirements by researching, speaking to relevant stakeholders, create a proof of concept before finalising and deploying. Always keep in mind even if you use an external resource for cloud development or migrations, key stakeholders within your business will still need to be actively involved.

If you would like to learn more about 'Cloud-Native: Practices, Platforms, Services & Architectures' watch our on-demand webinar here.

For advice or more information on starting or continuing your cloud adoption journey contact the Zoosh team today to find out more.