Names to Numbers: What Does “Cattle Not Pets” Mean?

August 31, 2022 • Shannon Flynn


Let’s pretend you just lost your DSLR camera at the zoo. You panic because there were priceless family photos on that camera! Because those images are one-of-a-kind, your camera is immensely valuable to you. You’ll do everything you can to recover it so that your priceless images aren’t lost forever. 

But what if your DSLR automatically uploads images to the cloud? You’ll still look for your camera because it was expensive. However, you won’t be nearly as upset if you can’t find it – after all, you can still access all the photos you took from another device. This is the difference between pets and cattle in IT. 

Pets Take Special Care

By definition, pets are animals that you become emotionally attached to. They’re irreplaceable – each one has a name, is unique and requires special care. From an economic and efficiency standpoint, pets are more trouble than they’re worth. You spend money on them for years, even if they become grouchy or tear up your things. 

Many old computer systems operate like a pet. Everything was physically present on the same device, including the operating system, applications and personal data. These devices needed high-security measures because they were a lot of trouble to rebuild and replace. Users did everything they could to prolong these systems’ lifespans. 

Cattle Can Be Replaced

While pets are special, cattle are treated like numbers. They’re bought and sold for purely economic reasons. If a cow dies, you might be worried about the economic impact. However, you aren’t heartbroken because they’re easy to replace. The way you care for cattle is vastly different from how you treat your pets. 

New computers are built to function like cattle. Different software is encapsulated in separate containers, most of which aren’t physically present on your device. Instead of protecting the operating system on their computer, users focus on protecting their personal data. If the system goes down, it’s easy to replace. 

Why Choose “Cattle” Infrastructure? 

There are many benefits to setting up your computer systems to run like cattle. Connecting to applications virtually makes your computer more efficient. Your devices are less expensive or bulky because they’re connected to a support network of servers and other devices. Updates can be automated because they’re designed with a one-size-fits-all approach. 

New computers separate applications from your operating system so that it’s easy to switch to a new device if your computer dies or is hacked. Instead of protecting your operating system, you can focus on protecting apps and data. Virtual apps are like a safe deposit box located in a bank far from your home. This box is much easier to protect and won’t be compromised if your home is. 

Cattle in the Cloud

Most discussions of cattle in IT also talk about the cloud. Unlike the fluffy white things you see in the sky, the tech cloud means programs that run through the internet instead of on your actual computer. With the right technology, you can access and use these programs from your device. 

Cloud access and storage have made “cattle” computer infrastructure possible. Because so many applications can be stored in a location that’s physically distant from you, new computers function less as a treasure chest that holds your valuables. Instead, they’re the travel agent directing you to your next destination. 

Changing Your Frame of Mind

If you treat your computer like a pet, you’ll miss many opportunities. Your work will be less efficient, you’ll be more concerned about a computer failure and you’ll feel more paranoid about being hacked. Although your device will meet an emotional need, it will also carry an emotional weight. 

Users who treat technology like cattle are setting themselves up for success. Instead of a memory bank, they see computers as a tool to achieve their goals. The infrastructure they use reflects this changing mindset and protects their data with minimal effort. Users who choose cattle instead of pets are equipped to function well in the constantly changing world of technology.