Private or Public cloud, which is best suited to your business?
by Jon Milward, Operations Director - Integrated Solutions, Northdoor, the IT consultancy and solutions provider
Monday, July 30, 2012
The initial challenge for most businesses when assessing their cloud computing options is overcoming the confusion surrounding cloud terminology. With so many labels and technical jargon, there are many varied interpretations with terms meaning different things to different people. The labelling of cloud solutions as being either ‘public’ or ‘private’ is one such example of loosely-defined terms that have led to a lot of confusion for many businesses. The general perception is that public cloud is insecure and that businesses should use a private system if they have security and privacy concerns. This is, however, a gross simplification and highlights the need for greater clarity so that firms can make more informed decisions around cloud.
A totally private cloud solution is one in which the infrastructure is situated in-house, and is for the exclusive use of a single organisation. In comparison, a public cloud solution is an outsourced service delivered by a third party to numerous clients that share the cloud infrastructure. The apprehension surrounding public cloud stems from the location of your stored data being unknown and possibly accessible by others – posing a significant security or regulatory concern. It is necessary to bear in mind here that cloud cannot simply be defined as either public or private - there is a whole spectrum of solutions, with all shades in between.
Take for example a typical solution used by a small to mid-sized business. They rent their own virtual servers and their own private network at a cloud provider. This business is sharing the cloud provider’s core infrastructure - its storage area network (SAN), backup technology, networking and physical premises. It is this economy of scale that makes cloud services a cost effective option. The key question is whether the cloud services provided to you are secure and contained?
In reality, a good cloud provider will have built their infrastructure to a high standard, and typically the security is more rigorous than that of companies who house and manage their own infrastructure. This is all part of the due diligence process you need to go through when selecting a vendor. You have to be sure that your chosen cloud provider can deliver secure and resilient services that meet your It requirements.
Cloud solutions now offer a range of advantages for businesses of all sizes. You can benefit from greater IT flexibility, increased agility, more effective collaboration, and better control over your expenditure given the financial implications of running your IT as an operational expense rather than a huge up-front capital investment. You may find that your particular cloud solution requires a hybrid arrangement with various levels of private services. For instance, what we have seen from the SME market is that many businesses have chosen to have their core IT running from a private system on premises whilst outsourcing their disaster recovery to a third party. We have also noticed that a growing number of firms are finding some of their everyday functions, such as email, also lend themselves well to the cloud, given the range of secure private/public options available. We expect to see businesses moving more standard office productivity to the cloud as remote working and the virtual desktop becomes the norm.
Deciding on the best fit cloud solution for your IT strategy requires significant understanding from both a business and technical perspective. The ability of a vendor to fully appreciate the particular challenges and opportunities facing your company, and to propose a solution that best leverages its strengths, is fundamental to seeing the benefits of this technology. Cloud is very much a validated service, with the best results being generated by focusing on the aims of your business, rather than being sidetracked by the irrelevant public vs private debate.