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Public vs. Private Cloud Computing

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Cloud computing is, in essence, storing or using programs and data using the internet instead of an on-site system. But one cloud computing model may be vastly different from the next. The term covers a range of cloud models, types and services, each tailored to meet various technology needs for individuals and organizations.

While the variety in cloud computing services is vast, these applications are categorized into three different deployment types — public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. So what is the difference between private, public and hybrid cloud computing?

Below, we’ll discuss the key features of each deployment type and the advantages and disadvantages of each. With those features in mind, you can then choose what’s right for your organization.

What Is Public Cloud Computing?

Public clouds are the most commonly used cloud computing deployment type. In this model, a third-party cloud service provider owns, operates and manages all cloud resources, including hardware, software, servers and other infrastructure items. The services are then delivered to remote users over the internet.

In a public cloud model, all cloud users, also called “tenants,” share the same cloud resources. Each tenant’s data is separated and isolated from other tenants’ data, and they can use individual logins to access their data from a website or application. Public clouds are often used in cases where there are predictable computing needs. They can host web-based email services, office applications, storage services and testing environments.

While individual public cloud models can be used for a variety of purposes and can offer numerous capabilities and features, there are some characteristics shared across public cloud services. These key characteristics of public clouds include the following:

  • Subscription-based pricing
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • High scalability
  • Managed security

Public cloud examples vary by provider. General providers tend to offer great availability and numerous integration options, while smaller ones can provide more customization options for specific applications.

What Is Private Cloud Computing?

Private cloud hosting solutions are also known as internal or enterprise clouds. In this model, the cloud is proprietary and is dedicated to a single organization. The cloud platform may be hosted on-site in the company’s data center or in an off-site, third-party data center.

In a private cloud model, the company owns and manages its own cloud platform on a private network. Instead of having a third party own and manage the infrastructure, the business handles it all itself. This structure allows the company to have exclusive access to its own cloud platform. But the company is also responsible for managing, maintaining, securing and updating the data center.

Private clouds are highly customizable since the organization can make adjustments freely to serve its unique needs. It can also enjoy greater security since it does not need to worry about sharing resources with other companies. Companies using the private option can also apply any number of security features to protect their cloud platform.

While private clouds vary widely in their specific features based on the needs of the companies using them, some common characteristics include:

  • Need-based pricing
  • High customizability
  • Internal security

So what are the examples of private cloud applications? Most commonly, companies working in highly regulated industries that require tight security and handle sensitive data will use private clouds. Government agencies and financial institutions, for example, will often use private clouds to manage sensitive information.

What Is Hybrid Cloud Computing?

A hybrid cloud platform is effectively a marriage of public and private cloud computing. Hybrid clouds orchestrate on-premises and third-party resources by connecting an internal data center with a public cloud. The hybrid cloud then allows the user company to deploy data between the private and public clouds as needed.

As computing and processing needs change, hybrid cloud platforms let businesses scale up their private cloud infrastructure. They can move overflow into a public cloud instead of purchasing more equipment for their internal infrastructure. Companies can then select what types of data must stay internal and what workloads can be moved to the public cloud. This choice allows for greater flexibility and scalability while still maintaining security for regulatory requirements.

Some key characteristics of hybrid cloud computing include:

  • Use-based pricing
  • Improved scalability
  • Custom data management
  • Internal and managed security

A common example of a hybrid cloud is an organization using a private cloud environment for their workloads. It combines that with a public cloud resource to handle peripheral workloads following a spike in computing needs. Hybrid clouds are an excellent choice for companies with strict regulatory requirements or those that have fluctuating workloads.

Pros and Cons of Each Cloud Solution

Each cloud computing type has its own key features and characteristics. But what are their relative benefits and challenges? Below are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of each cloud type and what they mean for potential applications.

Pros of Public Clouds

Public clouds hosted by third-party service providers offer a range of advantages to users, including:

  • Cost savings: Moving resources to a public cloud allows companies to cut down IT costs. Public cloud services manage, secure and update their own hardware and software so your IT team doesn’t have to. All your company needs to do is pay for the service, which is often less expensive than typical IT costs.
  • Security: Most small to medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources they need to implement quality security protocols. A public cloud service can handle this for you, offering baseline security and regular updates.
  • No maintenance: Your IT team doesn’t need to maintain systems when you switch to a public cloud provider. The provider handles it all, freeing up your IT team to handle emergencies, updates and customer-facing issues.
  • Scalability: Public clouds offer almost unlimited scalability. When your workload fluctuates, you don’t need to invest in new hardware — your cloud service provider will scale up for you by allocating more computing resources toward your account.
  • Reliability: Vast server networks with automated failover protocols power public cloud services. Even when one server goes down, another takes its place, protecting your business from downtime.
  • Updates: Larger public cloud service providers update their systems regularly, taking advantage of the latest IT technologies to your benefit.

These benefits make public clouds an excellent resource for small to medium-sized businesses with limited IT budgets.

Cons of Public Clouds

While the public cloud offers many benefits, some of the potential drawbacks of public clouds can make it an unviable option for certain types of businesses. Some of the primary disadvantages of public clouds include:

  • Security and compliance: The multi-tenant nature of public clouds makes it a concern for businesses with strict regulatory and compliance standards. Multitenancy comes with a small risk of data leakage, and though this risk is minimal, any risk is unacceptable for regulated industries. Additionally, the security protocols in place for a public cloud may not be as stringent as needed for regulated industries handling sensitive data.
  • Changing costs: The cost of public clouds is based on use, but this can present a con for organizations processing significant amounts of data in the cloud. A public cloud is cheaper for most businesses. But large organizations handling massive quantities of data may find public cloud costs are significantly higher than what they would pay to establish and support a private cloud.
  • Limited control: Public clouds are managed by their owners, not by the users. While this relieves businesses of the need to manage their resources, this structure also removes their ability to control many aspects of their IT infrastructure, including their configurations, security protocols and failover algorithms. Businesses with highly specific configuration and control needs may want to select another cloud option.
  • Vendor dependency: Another concern with public cloud technology is the reliance on cloud vendor services. While public clouds offer incredible IT technologies like virtual machines and machine learning, businesses can start to rely on these services for their business operations. That reliance can make it difficult to switch to alternative providers or a private cloud later on.
  • Design restrictions: While many public clouds offer some level of customizability, these customizations can be minimal.

Some of these disadvantages do not present problems to certain industries or business types. But they can be a deal-breaker for businesses working in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance or larger companies.

Pros of Private Clouds

Now that we’ve looked into the pros and cons of public clouds, what are the benefits of private cloud models? Some of the most popular advantages of private cloud models include:

  • Customizability: One of the most significant advantages of a private cloud model is adaptability. Organizations establishing their own private cloud environment can customize the platform to meet their specific business needs.
  • Control: Private clouds allow businesses to make all the decisions, letting them control every aspect of their model. This ability includes control over hardware, infrastructure and configuration.
  • Exclusivity: Private clouds are exclusive to the companies that own them. With this ownership, the environment is dedicated to the company and inaccessible by other organizations, which helps reduce the risk of accidental data leaks.
  • Security: Companies with private clouds can apply as many firewalls, security protocols and configurations as they want. Increased security lets businesses meet stringent compliance regulations, which is particularly critical for regulated industries.
  • Efficiency: Private cloud platforms offer excellent scalability and efficiency. A private cloud is able to meet significant variations in demand, all while maintaining the system’s security.

These advantages make private clouds a top choice for highly regulated industries and businesses that need greater control over their IT resources.

Cons of Private Clouds

While private clouds offer numerous advantages in terms of compliance and control, there are some challenges that make it a less viable option, especially for smaller businesses. So what are the disadvantages of private cloud models? Some of the potential ones include:

  • High costs: The private cloud is the most expensive of the cloud types. Establishing a private cloud requires extensive investments in hardware and software, and maintaining the cloud requires sufficient personnel. You’ll also need staff to monitor and update the hardware and software regularly to keep up with changing business and security needs, which incurs additional costs.
  • Maintenance needs: Private clouds require considerable administrative and IT work to manage. You need to have a dedicated staff to ensure the maintenance of the private cloud, and regular updates need to be performed.
  • Limited mobility: Unlike many public cloud options, private clouds either limit or do not allow mobile accessibility. This limitation is usually due to the high-security measures in place, but it reduces the mobility of the system for remote users.
  • Scalability limits: A company’s infrastructure limits a private cloud model’s scalability. Expanding the cloud resources requires investing in additional infrastructure, which adds to the cost of maintaining the private cloud model.
  • Internally dependent reliability: Many companies with private clouds have failover protocols and redundancies to maintain reliability. But the resources a company has limits the potential of these measures. In the event of a massive outage or disaster, the private cloud may go down.

These possible disadvantages can make private clouds an exclusive option, as they are too limited for a portion of business ventures.

Pros of Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid clouds present a unique option to businesses, combining the capabilities of the public cloud with the security and control of private clouds. Some of the major advantages of hybrid clouds include:

  • Policy-driven control: In a hybrid cloud, you control what data stays in your private cloud and what can be moved to a public one. Your organization can maintain a private cloud that houses sensitive data and assets while moving peripheral processes to public options.
  • Secure scalability: Hybrid cloud models allow businesses to scale utilization up and down based on day-to-day needs. With your data control protocols, you can easily scale your cloud solutions without introducing security risks.
  • Reliability: Hybrid cloud models allow users to distribute their services across multiple public and private data centers. You can then ensure systems stay up in the event of a failure, preventing costly downtime.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Like with a public cloud, users pay for hybrid clouds based on use, meaning users pay for the extra computing power only when they need it.

These advantages make hybrid clouds an excellent option for mid-size to large businesses that need a balance of flexibility and security.

Cons of Hybrid Clouds

While hybrid clouds get around some of the more common issues with both private and public clouds, this model still comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the common drawbacks of hybrid cloud models include:

  • Price: Like with public clouds, hybrid clouds can become expensive when heavily used. Switching between public and private cloud environments can also become difficult to track, making it challenging to judge utilization to compare with expenses.
  • Compatibility: In some cases, a private cloud may not be fully compatible with the public cloud used when trying to establish a hybrid model. Imperfect compatibility can then result in latency problems or lapses in communication between the two environments.
  • Maintenance: The owner company still needs to manage the private cloud component of a hybrid model, which requires dedicated staff and maintenance. That maintenance leads to IT costs in addition to the costs of the public cloud subscription.
  • Complexity: A hybrid cloud environment’s infrastructure can quickly become complex as the organization operates and manages a mix of public and private cloud architectures. Administrators need to stay on top of both architectures to ensure continuity in business operations.

Quality implementation and assistance from specialists in cloud computing technology can help mitigate some of those challenges.

How to Choose a Cloud Model

Learning about the different types of clouds gives companies greater insight into the options available, but it inevitably leads to the question of which to choose. Is the public or private cloud better, or would a hybrid cloud be the best choice for your application? When considering the different types of cloud computing models, think about your company’s needs and whether a specific model would support your business. Below are a few key factors to consider:

  • Budget: One of the first factors to think about is your company’s budget. Public clouds tend to be less expensive than private clouds, with hybrid clouds typically falling in between.
  • Size: If your company is relatively small, a public cloud provider should be able to handle your data at a decent price. Larger organizations tend to have greater processing needs that can quickly get expensive on public clouds. For these organizations, private or hybrid clouds tend to be a more cost-effective option.
  • Security: Specialized industries such as government, finance and healthcare have strict compliance requirements, especially when it comes to security. Public clouds offer basic protection but rarely at the level needed for compliance requirements. As a result, these industries typically need to use private clouds. A hybrid cloud is also an option, provided there is strict control over what data migrates to a public server.
  • Control: Public cloud models offer little to no user control over the hardware, servers, security protocols or failover algorithm used. If your organization wants control over these components, a private cloud is going to be the best option.
  • Workloads: If your business has relatively stable workloads with little fluctuation, either a public or private cloud will be a good solution. If your workload is more variable, either a public cloud or a hybrid cloud will allow for quick scalability.
  • Service-level agreement (SLA) management: Public clouds allow users limited negotiation on SLA terms. If you want complete control over SLA management, you will want a private cloud.

Cloud Solutions From Morefield Communications

Business information technology is quickly evolving, with every development introducing new opportunities. Cloud technology is just one of those developments, and it’s becoming a staple across industries of all types. If you’re wondering how your business can get started with cloud technology, Morefield Communications can help.

Morefield Communications specializes in cloud solutions for businesses of all sizes in Pennsylvania. We can help you by creating a tailored cloud solution plan specifically made to meet your business needs and goals. Our cloud services can include anything from data management and infrastructure to analytics and security protocols. On top of it all, we will help you integrate your new cloud services with your existing applications, facilitating a smooth transition.

Cloud computing is still a new concept for many businesses, but Morefield Communications can help you get started. For over 70 years, we’ve made it our mission to stay on top of the latest developments in information technology for businesses. When you partner with us, we can help you take advantage of those developments.

Contact Morefield Communications today to learn more about our cloud services and solutions.

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