You have probably heard people say “The Cloud is just a computer somewhere else,” which is true. However, the cloud exists in several forms and deciding where your company’s data should reside requires an understanding of the differences.
Cloud Computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. The two most commonly referenced platforms are Private and Public Cloud.
Public Clouds are based on shared physical hardware, which is owned and operated by a third-party provider. Public clouds are a great choice for small to medium sized businesses looking to control their IT costs as needs fluctuate. Most public clouds offer pay-as-you-go billing models, which enable companies to cost effectively scale their compute resources up or down. Public clouds also offer the benefit of not having to worry about hardware maintenance and replacement.
A Private Cloud is infrastructure hosted and maintained by your business or IT partner, whether at the office or in a colocation center. The private cloud offers the same scalability of a public cloud with the added benefit of being able to modify compute, networking and storage resources to suit your needs.
Both platforms provide efficiency and scalability but deciding which to use can be complicated. Public Cloud computing makes sense for companies lacking internal IT resources, as the maintenance, backup and software updating is outsourced to the hosting provider. Private Cloud computing allows internal IT staff greater freedom to make changes to your environment as needed with the added benefit of knowing where your data physically resides.
In the event neither platform fits your specific needs there is a hybrid approach to cloud computing. A Hybrid Cloud allows you to combine public and private cloud while leveraging the benefits of both. Non-sensitive files and applications can be hosted in a Public Cloud to more easily control costs and limit the cost of ownership associated with hardware maintenance and replacement cycles. Sensitive data can be hosted locally in a Private Cloud where easy access provides piece of mind.
The decision gap, however, is being squeezed as major hosting providers like Microsoft and Amazon aim to encourage administrators around the world to host their IT infrastructures in their respective clouds. Additionally, more and more software developers are making their applications available only as cloud services. In both cases you are charged only for the resources you use and you have the ability to scale up or down as your computing needs fluctuate. Eventually, most companies will likely take a hybrid approach to the cloud to keep pivotal data close and less important data offsite.