This blog is intended for IT decision makers or data architects who are torn between using Snowflake or an on-premises data warehouse for their BI needs. Data consumption and analytics is at the forefront of technology today and this is one of the primary objectives why businesses are choosing to utilize data warehouses.

As a data scientist or business analyst, you probably can appreciate the importance of having a data warehouse for analyzing large amounts of data from multiple sources and delivering actionable business intelligence. But should you choose to deploy your data warehouse on premises — in your own data center — or use a Data-Warehouse-as-a-Service (DWaaS) solution such as Snowflake?

Before a business makes this important decision, they should fully understand the differences of both solutions. This blog introduces Snowflake and On Premise Data Solutions. It also gives a detailed Snowflake On Premise comparison using 10 crucial parameters. Read along to decide the best option for your organization!

What is Snowflake?

Snowflake On Premise: Snowflake Logo| Hevo Data

Snowflake is a cloud based data warehousing business based in California and founded in 2012. Snowflake offers a Data warehousing as a Service (DWaaS) model which requires little maintenance and helps customers to focus on getting value from their data rather than managing the infrastructure in which it’s stored. 

Snowflake runs across Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform. Since the data is stored in the cloud, this allows for analysis using cloud infrastructure thus avoiding the need for an on-premise storage facility.

Key Features of Snowflake

Snowflake On Premise: Snowflake Features| Hevo Data
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The following features are responsible for the high demand of Snowflake Data Warehouse among businesses:

  • Scalability: Snowflake is a unique data warehouse as it delivers storage and computation services separately. It utilizes a database for storing data and performs calculations in its virtual Data Warehouse. Therefore, it is enable you high scalability levels at affordable costs.
  • Low Maintenance: Snowflake’s architecture is designed with the objective of minimizing the user interaction and effort for any maintenance or performance related activity.
  • Query Optimization: Snowflake’s automatic query optimization will save you the hassle of manually improving queries.
  • Load Balancing: Snowflake allows a great level of load balancing for your daily business activities. You can separate your workloads into distinct virtual Data Warehouses. This way your analytical loads will not be affected by busy clusters during peak routine loads.

To learn more about Snowflake, visit here.

Introduction to an On-premises Data Warehouse

An on-premises data warehouse is a type of database in which all the computing resources are accessed and managed by or from the premises. This is in sharp contrast to a Snowflake data warehouse where the pool of computing resources is accessed online.

Similar to Snowflake, the on-prem data warehouse servers collect data from heterogeneous sources, store it in a central repository, and analyze the data for reporting. These on-premises data warehouses often require extensive initial outlay — buying all the hardware you’ll need up front, regardless of how long or how often you’ll use it. The on-premises data warehouse also requires you to invest in a team to manage the infrastructure.

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Snowflake On Premise Data Warehouse Comparisons

With the advancement of the internet and increased network bandwidth, most businesses are embracing cloud data warehouse solutions like Snowflake. In most cases, compared to an on-premises data warehouse solution, Snowflake can be a much more cost efficient and practical solution that brings many more features to the table. It reduces the overall capital expenditure while maximizing efficiency and productivity.

On the other hand, On-Premises Data Warehouses are expensive, rigid, and difficult to use. However, each company has different requirements and different comfort zones. It’s up to you to decide whether Snowflake is a good option for your business or whether having an on-premises solution is a wiser choice.

The following list of comparisons will help you choose the best option for your business:

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Maintenance

One of the simplest differences between on-prem data warehouses and Snowflake is that on-prem data warehouses require highly skilled IT professionals. They have to acquire(buy), install, monitor, and upgrade the data warehouse. They also have to contend with maintaining the software components, security, scalability issues, hardware breakdown, or lack of compute power.

Snowflake is low maintenance and requires zero management from end users. With Snowflake, there is no hardware or software for you to select, install, configure, or manage. All you need is to connect to a network or the internet, set up an account, adjust some simple configurations, and that’s it.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Cost Efficiency

The most basic consideration is the high cost of maintaining an on-premises data warehouse. Building an on-premises data warehouse that can give you the features that you can use in Snowflake costs far, far, far more than just using Snowflake. The overall entry costs and maintenance costs of an on-premises data warehouse is incurred by the premise that owns it and is minimal in the long run.

Snowflake is more cost efficient compared to using an on-premises data warehouse solution. Snowflake has a usage on demand service and is perceived as a utility. You only pay for what you use and you don’t incur other costs such as power, cooling, floor space, physical security, hardware, hardware maintenance, redundant encryption capabilities, not in use encrypted backup capabilities, network routing/switching hardware, internet access, etc.

If you’re expecting high future growth or trying to run lean, then Snowflake is a great option. Unless you’re big enough that you can staff a small data center (generally means a team of at least 10 IT employees so you have 24×7 coverage), or if you’re small enough such that NAS units could suffice, then you should consider getting out of on-premises infrastructure.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Scalability

The most compelling reason to use a data warehousing solution like Snowflake is that the platform eliminates infrastructure limitations. You can put to good use the scalability of Snowflake’s infrastructure while completely negating the need for expensive and unwieldy on-premises infrastructure.

Unlike in an on-premises data warehouse solution, the architecture of Snowflake offers a myriad of workflow opportunities as the storage component and compute component can scale independently of each other. This means that you can add as much storage and compute power as you need with the option of immediately expanding one or both whenever the need arises. Therefore, this is a scalable solution with no wasted resources.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Elasticity

While on-premises data warehouse solutions are rigid, with a Snowflake data warehouse, you get an agile data warehouse solution that can alter your infrastructure on demand. Snowflake allows you to spin up more unique systems very quickly. It’s built-for-the-cloud architecture combines the elasticity of the cloud, the flexibility of a big data platform, and the power of data warehousing.

With the separation of storage and compute, you can individually scale your compute or storage up and down based on demand. The metadata service also scales up or down as necessary; Trillions of rows can be scaled up with ease by multiple concurrent users.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Ease of Use

The Snowflake data warehouse provides several benefits and features that are inherent in it’s design making the process of working with data much simpler. For example, it’s easier to get up and running with a Snowflake virtual data warehouse. It only takes minutes to provision your resources. Snowflake also has a built-in intuitive UI for interacting with the Software and running BI analytics.

Many open-source ETL solutions and pre-packaged data management vendors such as Hevo Data also integrate well with Snowflake allowing you to easily ingest data from various sources.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Speed

If you need really fast compute or storage and your data science/AI/ML team is located in one location, then on-premises is the way to go. A properly designed on-premises data warehouse can outshine Snowflake when it comes to large scale batch operations where CPU and IOPS matters. In fact, an on-premises server’s IOPS can be 10x faster than Snowflake’s cloud based data warehouse. 

This is because the Snowflake infrastructure resides outside your local network and this can add a certain degree of latency in your data transactions. Any query or request will run at the same speed as other transactions over the internet.

However, if you have a globally distributed team the Snowflake offers the best solution because they have a multi-cloud infrastructure that leverages data centers in different locations across the globe. Snowflake also has smart routing systems that tend to optimize the path which data travels to minimize latency.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Security

Since Snowflake is accessed over the public internet, internet related risks such as malware, man in the middle attacks, and eavesdropping can be experienced.

But in most cases, an on-premises data warehouse is less secure than a Snowflake data warehouse. If you have one inexperienced admin running your infrastructure, hosted on out of warranty hardware with backups that may or may not work – your infrastructure is more at risk than if it was hosted by Snowflake who have 100s of trained engineers working on their environment.

However, if you have the resources to build it correctly, an on-premises data warehouse can allow your enterprise to exercise full control over the security, connectivity of various mission critical applications, and other access problems. This is why organizations working in highly regulated industries such as health, insurance, banking, and government sectors prefer on-premises data warehouses for fine-grained control and compliance.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Reliability

If your on-premises data warehouse is located in a makeshift server closet somewhere without proper power redundancy or any DR plan then you can expect that it’s going to have worse uptime than hosting your data on Snowflake.

You may need to build those capabilities by hiring more engineers, and having a better infrastructure. All these things cost money. A Snowflake data warehouse may be more expensive than doing things cheaply on-prem, but doing things right on-prem is super costly. Couple that with the fact that Snowflake offers strong Service Level Agreements (SLAs) — 99.99% service availability.

For this reason, many enterprises are overwhelmingly preferring to move their more critical data to cloud based data warehouse solutions such as Snowflake. This is because it’s several orders of magnitude simpler (and cheaper) to provision highly resilient, multi-region, and with a defined level of software availability.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Time to Market

By leveraging a Snowflake data warehouse, you get a faster and more versatile platform that decreases time to market and you remain in complete control over your storage and compute clusters without having to worry about maintenance, security, and cost of acquisition. You pay only for what you end up using.

On the other hand, building a new on-premises data warehouse takes far too much time to get up and running. You have to gather the requirements, design the data warehouse, draft your disaster recovery plans, set up the physical environment for outfitting the server rooms, and purchase the actual hardware.

Snowflake On Premise Comparison: Universal Access

Snowflake is platform independent and it’s accessible across many devices with an internet connection. This increases mobility as well as productivity seeing that it allows distributed teams to collaborate on projects.

Also if your business operates internationally, Snowflake allows you to near-instantly localize infrastructure anywhere in the world and meet compliance or availability bottlenecks.


The article introduced you to Snowflake discussed its important features. It also explained the On Premise Data Solution as an alternative to Snowflake. The article then provided a detailed comparison between Snowflake and On Premise Data Solutions using 10 parameters. The comparisons can help you decide the most suitable option for your organization.

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Now, to run SQL queries or perform Data Analytics on your data, you first need to export this data to your Snowflake Data Warehouse. This will require you to custom code complex scripts to develop the ETL processes. Hevo Data can automate your data transfer process, hence allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business like Analytics, Customer Management, etc. This platform allows you to transfer data from 150+ multiple sources (including 40+ free sources) to Cloud-based Data Warehouses like Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, Snowflake, Google BigQuery, etc. It will provide you with a hassle-free experience and make your work life much easier.

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Share your understanding of Snowflake vs On Premise Data Solution in the comments below!

Customer Experience Engineer, Hevo Data

Dimple, an experienced Customer Experience Engineer, possesses four years of industry proficiency, with the most recent two years spent at Hevo. Her impactful contributions significantly contribute to refining customer experiences within the innovative data integration platform.

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