Public Vs Private Cloud
Most of us have taken lessons of some sort — pottery, coding, cello, or public speaking. Let’s say you’re interested in learning more about rock climbing and weighing the pros and cons of taking lessons in a group vs. taking one-on-one lessons.
A one-on-one lesson is more expensive, and you’ll have to spread the lessons over time to be budget-savvy, but the experience is highly tailored to you. You’ve come with your own high-quality gear to push yourself as far as you can as a climber. You have the means to extract information from your instructor that wouldn’t be as accessible in a group setting where many students are vying for attention.
Your expectations are likely a bit lower in a group setting, but the experience is still valuable, even if it is less tailored to your specific needs. The cost of the lesson might be included in the monthly rate you pay to be a member of the rock gym, which also provides the rental gear you’ll use. Not only do you gain experience and knowledge, but you also gain a broader network of friends and resources with each group lesson you take.
The difference between the choice to pursue private versus public lessons lies within the intention of the climber's needs and the instructor's capacity to zero in on those needs — not too unlike some of the differences between private and public cloud computing.
Understanding the Cloud
Everyone is familiar with the Cloud in some form or another these days: a study from 2020 found that 92% of organizations use the cloud in some capacity. But not everyone uses it in the same way. Let’s look at the difference between private and public clouds and who’s more likely to use which model.
A private cloud is a virtualized IT structure that grants a single customer (whether an individual or a corporate entity) on-demand access to computing resources and data. This structure would make sense for organizations requiring high regulatory compliance or those dealing with sensitive data — PII, medical records, and intellectual property. Private clouds, typically called on-premises systems, are sometimes hosted in a customer’s physical data center on company property. Occasionally users will opt to have their private cloud hosted on rented infrastructure that’s hosted off-premises.
A public cloud is a multi-occupant virtualized IT structure that shares resources amongst the occupants (which can be thousands of users simultaneously). In a public cloud, the infrastructure is owned and maintained by an independent provider, and users maintain membership on a subscription basis. As in a group rock climbing lesson, users split the cost to access the desired resources. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are three examples of public clouds you’ve heard of and have already used. A public cloud is ideal for many companies, from startups and small businesses needing fast and affordable services to large companies with developers needing access to various tools primed for coding.
When making an informed decision about how and where to direct your time and money — whether for sport or technology purposes — it’s good to take an honest look at both advantages and disadvantages of your options.
Security and communication
The most concerning limitation of public clouds is security. When your company opts to outsource its technology to a public cloud, you’re essentially handing the reins over to that provider. All aspects of cybersecurity, configuration and IT management now belong to people who aren’t involved in the daily operations of your business. Additionally, troubleshooting during an outage becomes much more difficult when data is outsourced to a public cloud.
Lapses in communication between a company’s IT professionals and the independent servicer can also be a source of frustration. It’s like taking a group climbing lesson from an amateur climber hired by the gym to handle the less intensive workshops; they’ll be able to provide a cursory overview of the foundational movements in climbing but might not have the skill (or the time) to explain the more finessed techniques that would make all the difference when you’re out in the wilderness.
Most public cloud providers tend to have generic offerings that won’t necessarily meet the needs of companies with complex network structures. Additionally, the limited visibility of front-end interfaces can perplex IT managers who would prefer to know the ins and outs of the underlying technology automating their company’s sensitive processes.
Customization and control are where the private cloud shines. With a private cloud, infrastructures can be built with specific storage and networking characteristics in mind. Users are given total control over all components of the digital environment: access to critical data, permissions, and hardware configuration is immediate, as is the deployment of new applications or the reallocation of resources in response to real-time internal requests.
Private clouds also offer better regulatory compliance than public clouds. Think of it as going on a bouldering expedition with just your climbing mentor instead of a group of people with varying degrees of skill. Fewer people mean fewer distractions, fewer potential hold-ups, and the freedom to take as much or as little time as needed when mastering a certain wall or implementing a new route.
Scalability and Cost
A public cloud is unrivaled in terms of scalability and speed. Because the cost is spread across many customers, public cloud services can offer impressive agility and potential for growth. It’s also flexible in terms of pricing structure, with most public cloud providers allowing businesses to pay by the hour. This allows small or medium-sized businesses to pay only for what they need.
There are no maintenance or update costs for public clouds — like renting gear at the rock gym — and all software updates are included in the hosting package given by the provider. Not having to manage a data center gives IT professionals the time to put their expertise toward building innovative features and fixes that can give their companies an advantage over competitors.
The other significant advantage of a public cloud is server redundancy, which alleviates the burden of buying additional storage or software as a disaster recovery measure. In a public cloud, data is instantaneously copied over to other servers in the cloud, ensuring that applications and data remain available in multiple locations.
Private clouds tend to require a significant upfront investment in hardware and personnel and can be expensive to maintain long-term. Payment plans are usually built around capacity-based pricing, which can quickly become very expensive for businesses in fast-evolving markets.
Private clouds are less nimble in scaling, requiring more effort, planning, and redundancy measures than public clouds. And while having full control over one’s data brings some peace of mind, it’s also an enormous responsibility to take on, requiring constant maintenance and monitoring. Finally, the private cloud restricts businesses to the local power grid and ISP, leaving them at the mercy of potential outages.
Hybrid and Multi Clouds
Some users opt for variations on the cloud models described above, such as on-prem, hybrid, or multi cloud configuration. To put it in simple terms, on-prem refers to a physical server and infrastructure housed within a company’s own datacenter or other in-house space, whether said infrastructure is used in a traditional manner or to deploy a private cloud internally. Hybrid cloud consists of a combination of private, public, and on-prem infrastructure features and solutions working together. A multi-cloud model combines two or more public clouds but excludes private cloud service and/or any on-prem configurations. These variations are helpful to keep in mind when considering cloud options for your organization or business.
Choose the Cloud Solution That Makes Sense for You
The three main options — public, private, and hybrid — have much to offer as digital services. As you consider which option best meets your needs, consider your organization’s needs from security, regulatory compliance, scalability, reliability, remote access, and cost. Align yourself with a provider whose principles you resonate with and whom you trust watching your business reach new heights thanks to the dynamic structure of cloud computing.