It seems today that every enterprise solution has been relabeled as a “cloud solution” in order to fit today’s version of buzzword bingo. This leads to some level of confusion as to what a “cloud” really is, and what we mean when we talk about public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds.
Cloud Infrastructure Basics
To address this question, we need to emphasize the difference between the cloud and traditional IT services. Cloud solutions typically refer to the use of public internet connectivity to make business processing power & storage available wherever it's needed. For example, instead of a customer relationship management (CRM) database being run and managed on servers in an internal datacenter, this application is hosted on someone else’s datacenter and connected to through the internet.
The Public Cloud
The biggest, most well-known cloud service providers offer public cloud services. Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS are two of the biggest names in the public cloud market. Public cloud providers offer managed, decentralized IT services to their clients through an online portal.
In return for maintaining a data center and renting out its data processing power, businesses and organizations gain access to a reliable data infrastructure with no up-front equipment costs.
Benefits to the public cloud include:
- Cost-Effective: Public cloud clients generally pay a strict monthly rate for using the cloud, which makes it a very easy budget item so long as they avoid hidden fees and charges.
- Easy to Scale: Growth is easy to accommodate in a public cloud environment. Clients can adapt their subscription on an as-needed basis.
Drawbacks to the public cloud include:
- Inflexibility: Since the client is not in control of its own IT resources, there is little room for data processing flexibility. If the services your public cloud provider offers don't fit your needs exactly, you might need to make compromises.
- Security concerns: By delegating all of your data processing power to a third-party, you expose your data to risk. Although public cloud providers spend a great deal of resources on maintaining security, they can't always adhere to enterprise data security needs, especially in sensitive industries or fields.
The Private Cloud
An enterprise that already has its own equipment can implement a private cloud solution. In this case, existing infrastructure resources are decentralized and made available to the organization's employees, partners, and customers. This lets the organization retain a great degree of control, but it also forces it to assume responsibility for maintaining the equipment.
Even if a company has its own data center, it may find that the ongoing costs of maintaining a private cloud outweigh the benefits over time. Servers eventually need to be replaced, cybersecurity becomes increasingly complex, and organization growth needs to be accommodated continuously.