Private & Public Cloud

Private versus Public Cloud

Private and public cloud. We’re all familiar with these terms and probably use both on a daily basis. But what are the differences between private and public cloud-based computing, and which might best suit your organisation’s needs?

The advantages of cloud

What was originally considered a disruption and a place to experiment, cloud computing is now an integral part of almost every organisation’s IT structure. Public, hybrid, edge, virtual private or private cloud—no matter what is used and in what combination, everyone can agree that cloud computing offers some major benefits. Now into its second decade of existence, it’s considered the standard way of operating.

Two years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2021, over half of all global enterprises, who are already using some cloud based solutions, would adopt an all-in cloud strategy. They also predicted for a significant proportion of new initiatives, anything other than a cloud-only strategy to meet IT demands, would require a lot of argument and justification. In essence, cloud makes sense.

The key benefits of course are delivered across many different areas, all resulting in offering organisations a competitive advantage. These primarily come down to cost savings, business efficiencies, better security, scalability and flexibility.

However, how much each of these benefit a particular organisation depends of course on the organisation itself, but also on the type of cloud environment adopted.

Public cloud

When people think ‘cloud’, they’re generally thinking of the public cloud. Originally starting simply as SaaS (Software as a Service), the public cloud now covers the gamut of the computing world—applications, infrastructure and data storage, all of which are managed by a third party vendor. All data and infrastructure are held off-premises.

The public cloud model holds huge appeal. Because the vast network of servers are housed offsite in a climate-controlled data centre, they are very resilient to failure. Public cloud can meet the requirements of most organisations, often with low upfront costs and the pay-as-you-go model offers scalability, flexibility and security.

For larger organisations however, it may by more cost-effective to hold all data in a private cloud. Public cloud generally offers a one-size-fits-all approach and not the more customised options which a larger company with its own resources can maintain.

Due to their sheer size, public cloud providers prove an attractive target for cyber criminals. Because information is often stored across many different servers and those servers are shared by many different organisations, when a breach does occur, all of those organisation’s data which share that server are put at risk—even though most of those organisations were never the intended target. Because of this, when regulation and compliance issues come into play, public cloud is often not the preferred option.

Private cloud and responsibility

Private cloud resides on an organisation’s own intranet and uses existing computing infrastructure. The private cloud uses virtualisation, software and elements of automation to organise infrastructure in a similar way in which the public cloud is organised. It can be costly and its singular use is for those enterprises which have enough resources to run their own data centres.

It means that all implementation, maintenance, management, upgrading and security are controlled by the organisation. There is a high cost on the initial infrastructure set up, but these costs should decrease over time.

Because few, if any resources are shared with others, private cloud is often used as the place to store a company’s most sensitive data. It gives the organisation who manages the private cloud complete control over security, data privacy, compliance and regulation.

Security comes down to an organisation’s own team of IT experts and the profile of the company. Due to the improvements in public cloud security and the sophistication of cyber attacks, Gartner states that most security analysts believe that mainstream, public cloud computing is just as secure, if not more so than private on-premises IT services.

So which is best?

While a larger enterprise may choose to keep all of their information in the private cloud and have the resources to maintain it easily, safely and cost-effectively and a smaller organisation may choose to exclusively opt for the services of the public cloud, it doesn’t always come down to size consideration.

Of course it’s not as simple as choosing one over the other, with the majority of organisations opting for a hybrid approach for their IT environment. Hybrid is essentially multiple cloud services coordinated to work together and due to its adaptability, and is the most popular approach.

Though even hybrid cloud environments with its optimum levels of scalability and flexibility come with risk. While organisations have the ability to decide what information they’ll store where, keeping track of the multiple platforms and vendors requires complex IT management and careful design.  

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