Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds: The Difference (and when it matters)

A decision maker at an SMB is trying to keep things simple (or at least no more complicated than they have to be). Saving money for outsourced services gets everyone’s attention, and the promise of Cloud Computing undoubtedly gets yours. While most of the technical details are delegated to your hard working CIO, Directors, and foot soldiers, there are some concepts it’s good to have an overview of – because of their effect on your data security and your bottom line.There are three categories of Cloud Computing Environments you’ll hear your IT staff talking about – a Public Cloud, a Private Cloud or a Hybrid Cloud. The differences between the three involve the capital investment of each, and the data security level provided by each.

The Public Cloud

According to TechTarget, A public cloud is “one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet”. In the Public Cloud, all the infrastructure and maintenance are provided off site. This is the ideal choice for most SMBs.

Advantages:  A Public Cloud:

  • Takes all of the overhead of IT operations off of your shoulders.
  • Simplifies accounting in that you pay fees instead of overhead and effort involved in Capital Expenditures.
  • Increased demand is simply a matter of purchasing more bandwidth and/or services. For example, If you need more capacity during the Christmas buying season, you can purchase more capacity during the season (as opposed to purchasing equipment and systems that must have capacity that is not needed for a majority of the year).

Disadvantage:  You are using shared resources with other organizations, which makes a Public Cloud less secure than a Private Cloud.  However, It is important to note that the resources of a Cloud Vendor are far greater than a typical SMB, and that the environment of your Cloud Vendor is still more secure than an environment in the traditional IT space

In short, a Public Cloud is ideal when:

  • a standalone IT Operation represents major overhead to your business,
  • You use standard applications (Such as Microsoft Office),
  • You use Cloud applications by major vendors (such as Adobe Creative Cloud or SalesForce), or:
  • You do a lot of collaborative projects over a disbursed area.

Private Clouds

A Private Cloud is one where a Cloud Infrastructure is used by a single organization. It provides the most security, but requires that the organization have the resources to maintain the environment (and typically an SMB is turning to the Cloud to avoid that overhead!). Recently, Public Cloud Vendors have started offering Private Cloud Services at a premium– i.e., Cloud Environments which are segregated from their public services.

Because of the extra overhead and/or premium costs, Private Clouds are only desirable if you are in an industry with stringent security or data privacy demands, or your business is by nature financial data, intellectual property, or being a custodian of either. Consider leasing Private Cloud Services from your vendor if you have a genuine need for top level security, but don’t have the resources to support it in house.

Hybrid Clouds

A Hybrid Cloud is one that, as the name implies, have elements of a Public Cloud. For example, you have Financial Data you want to maintain in a Private Cloud, but also have collaborative efforts for which you want to use a Public Cloud. Large corporations with vertical markets are potential candidates for a hybrid cloud; a typical SMB would not have a need or have the resources to support one.

All businesses have unique needs, and you know your business better than anyone. The right Cloud Service Provider works with you to find the best solution for your unique situation.

Cloud Management: Ladder into the Cloud

So, you decided to move your company’s IT into the cloud. Congratulations. You’ve made a choice that can give you more economical service, safer backup and far better remote access than keeping everything on your local server.

But you may still be feeling a little nervous about cloud management. How do you keep sensitive information safe in the cloud? Will your backup and compliance systems work the way they should? If you use both public and private clouds, how will you get your systems to communicate properly without making a lot of extra work for your staff? How do you avoid outages?

Fortunately, there’s a whole branch of cloud computing devoted to handling these questions. Cloud management companies, including RightScale, Ylastic and Amazon’s AWS Management Console, promise to give you control over everything you keep on a remote server through a single, simple interface.

For the most part, these companies, along with other cloud management competitors like enStratus and Kaavo, allow users to bring together systems from a variety of public and private cloud providers. Each firm has its own set of providers that it can be integrated with. If you use a popular cloud provider like Amazon’s EC2 or Rackspace on the public side, or Eucalyptus’s private platform, you’re probably all set no matter which company you go with. If you’re using something slightly less common, or if you want more flexibility to switch to a different sort of cloud, you’ll want to make sure your cloud management vendor can deliver that.

As with most technology solutions, you’ll also want to take a good inventory of your needs before you go shopping for a cloud management solution. Is ease of use at the top of your mind? Have complicated industry compliance issues to consider? Anticipate major expansion in your use of the cloud over the next couple of years? These are questions you’ll want to write down and perhaps discuss with your IT management company as you take your first steps into the cloud.