What Is a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)?


A virtual private cloud (VPC) is a computing model that provides a private, isolated cloud environment within a public crowd infrastructure. VPCs allow organizations to create their own logically isolated cloud network within a secure, scalable cloud provider’s infrastructure such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.

What Is a VPC Used For?

Virtual private clouds allow organizations to deploy cloud-based resources (like storing databases, running machine learning code, and hosting websites) within a highly scalable cloud environment hosted and maintained by a third party rather than hosting a cloud environment locally.

Hosting Private Cloud Networks

Private clouds, virtual or not, offer exclusive cloud access to a single organization. Non-virtual private cloud networks, commonly referred to as ‘on-prem,’ are hosted locally on user-maintained servers and networks, which can limit scalability and pose security threats if not properly maintained.

Scaling a Private Cloud, Virtually

Virtual private clouds, however, are maintained by large cloud providers, which give organizations more autonomy to scale within a cloud easily and quickly. For example, if a business hosting a website saw a massive spike in traffic on their on-prem cloud servers, the servers could reach capacity and slow performance.

Instead, if the company were to host their private cloud virtually, it could easily and quickly scale to meet the traffic demand. For reference, AWS has millions of servers around the globe, far exceeding any individual company’s private network scale.

Maintaining Private Control

Organizations leverage VPCs to securely deploy and manage their cloud private resources while maintaining control over the network’s configurations, security policies, access controls, and size. VPCs can even be segmented into distinct virtual networks to reduce risk and increase cloud security to prevent data breaches or unauthorized access.

In a VPC environment, the private organization is generally responsible for controlling access to the network and configurations within the network. Meanwhile, the cloud network security and infrastructure are maintained by the cloud provider.

Supplementing On-Premises Data Centers

Virtual private clouds can also be used to supplement on-prem private clouds, resulting in a hybrid cloud environment. This is particularly advantageous for companies that wish to maintain control over sensitive data and workloads by keeping them on-premises while still enjoying the benefits of a VPC. For example, a customer may wish to run their proprietary AI model training using on-prem servers but scale the model into the VPC for storage and use.

In a hybrid cloud model, companies can self-balance on-prem information while still taking advantage of the scalability and security capabilities offered by public cloud providers. This also has advantages for maintaining regulatory compliance, commonly about sensitive data storage, without sacrificing scalability or affordability.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

A VPC can also be used to implement application or storage redundancies as a means of disaster recovery or maintaining business continuity. A company can replicate on-premises infrastructure and data within a VPC to maintain operational continuity in the event of a disaster, outage, or breach, making it particularly useful for data loss prevention (DLP).

In this scenario, a VPC serves as a secondary location where an organization’s system can failover, providing redundancy and minimizing downtime. This configuration would include automated processes for failover and failback, ensuring smooth transitions between environments in the event of a disaster. This VPC cloud configuration can be thought of less as a hybrid cloud model and more as a redundant backup private cloud model.

How Do VPCs Work?

From a technical perspective, there are several important steps for setting up a VPC. Depending on the VPC configuration an organization chooses, some of these steps can be more complex than in other configurations.

VPC Creation and Configuration

The first step for creating a VPC is the selection of a cloud provider. When setting up a VPC an organization will establish specific VPC parameters such as the network access controls, size of the VPC, subnetworks, availability zones, and more.

Network Isolation Segmentation

Once a VPC is created, the provider must isolate that network from all others in the public cloud. Once completed, a portion of the global cloud infrastructure can only be used by the purchasing organization.

In many cases, organizations prefer to keep certain resources separate from others. To do so, VPCs can be segmented into multiple isolated virtual networks within the same cloud infrastructure, with each completely segregated from the others. These isolated networks, also called ‘subnets,’ allow for different access types, efficient addressing, and intelligent network routing. Each subnet is a series of dedicated, private IP addresses within the VPC network that are only accessible to specific users or applications.

Security and Access Control

VPCs and their providers offer various security through Security Groups (SGs) and Network Access Control Lists (NACLs) to meet customer and compliance demands. NACLs act as virtual firewalls within each subnet, while security groups exist across the entire VPC. Each can be used to control inbound and outbound traffic. Configuration of security groups and NACL can be essential to VPC configuration, as they protect the organization and cloud resources against internal and external threats.

Routing and Traffic Management

By default, each VPC comes with a main route table, which is used to define the logic of how to route traffic within the VPC network. Administrators can customize routing tables to define routes into and between subnets and the internet. Route tables can direct traffic to specific destinations, such as an internet gateway or virtual private gateway for VPN connections.

Network peering, on the other hand, allows organizations to establish private connectivity between NPCs within the same or different cloud regions. This feature enables seamless and secure connections between VPCs, which can be valuable for resource sharing while still maintaining full privacy from the public cloud.

Monitoring and Logging

Many VPC providers offer tools for monitoring and logging network activity. Network traffic and performance can be utilized for optimizing VPC configuration and security auditing. These tools allow administrators to detect and respond to security incidents, optimize network performance, adjust VPC configuration, and ensure security compliance.

For example, AWS offers the ability to mirror traffic and access logs, sending this data to out-of-band security appliances for inspection. This inspection can be used to detect anomalies, gain operational insights, adjust security and compliance controls, and troubleshoot issues.


VPCs offer businesses a secure, scalable, and flexible infrastructure for deploying cloud workloads and resources while maintaining control, visibility, and security compliance. VPCs augment existing private cloud infrastructure and securely scale an organization’s cloud workloads. By leveraging VPCs, organizations can enhance their cloud security posture, optimize resource utilization, and achieve cost efficiencies in their cloud deployments.

Selecting a VPC provider can be a challenging task as the breadth and depth of VPC providers are dynamic. Schedule a demo today to learn how SentinelOne can be an advantageous partner in virtual private cloud provider selection, configuration, and utilization.

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