The cloud is not only everywhere, it’s in everything. The apps you use on your phone, the services you require on your desktops and laptops, your refrigerators, thermostats, televisions— nothing is immune to the touch of the cloud.
The cloud has become so prevalent that any business looking to compete in this ever-challenging business landscape must consider adopting cloud strategies in one form or another. And when your business first turns toward the cloud, you’re going to find a very important question to answer from the jump. That question is what type of cloud is best suited for your needs.
If you were unaware that more than one type of cloud architecture exists, you’re in for a treat. There are, in fact, 3 different types of clouds: Public, Private, and Hybrid. Each type has very specific benefits, but not all 3 types are useful to all businesses.
Let’s clear that confusion up a bit.
What is the cloud?
Let’s first get this out of the way. You probably already know what the cloud is because you use it with your smartphone. You use all types of applications that work seamlessly with cloud services to house data and execute computations on that data.
But the cloud is actually much more than that, especially when it comes to businesses. Essentially, the cloud is a global network of servers, each of which serves a specific task. These cloud servers are designed to do things like store and manage data, run applications, or deliver content.
When originally conceived, the cloud was primarily a means for remote storage and hosting web applications (such as Google Drive, Calendar, and Docs). The modern cloud is more than that, as it makes it possible for businesses to deploy applications and services that can automatically scale depending on demand.
It’s the above 3 types of services that most businesses focus their cloud efforts on these days. And as for the types of clouds, your company must select the cloud that perfectly matches your need, budget, and capability.
Let’s take a look at each of these types of clouds and which is the best choice for your business.
The public cloud computing environment is offered as a service to the public at large and is available either for free or for purchase. Public clouds are based on the standard cloud computing model, where a provider makes available resources over the internet. Public cloud offerings are scalable, reliable, and secure.
Public clouds are capable of offering the 3 main service models:
- Software as a Service (SaaS)- software is centrally hosted and available as a subscription (either for free or for a price). A common example of this is Google Workspace (which includes Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Gmail).
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – is a complete development and deployment environment that is hosted in the cloud.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – offers essential compute, storage, and networking resources on demand.
Public clouds offer several key benefits such as:
- Improved security.
- Quick and easy setup.
- Low to no maintenance.
- No long-term contracts.
- Massive scalability.
- Agility and flexibility.
- Global reach.
- Maximum uptime.
- Zero risk failure.
One of the most widely-used examples of a public cloud is Google, which includes tools like Google Drive, Calendar, and Gmail. Of course, most businesses don’t generally use Google’s free offerings, and instead turn to their paid services (called Google Workspaces) which are tailored specifically for business usage. And because Public clouds tend to host massive amounts of user data, they tend to take security very seriously.
Other Public cloud providers include:
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- IBM Cloud
Next, we have the private cloud, which is a cloud computing environment that is only offered for specific users or clients. Private clouds can be either on-premise (such as Nextcloud) or over the internet. The biggest difference between public and private clouds is that private clouds are not available for general, widespread usage.
It’s also important to understand that a private cloud is only capable of delivering 2 cloud service models: IaaS and PaaS.
In comparison to public clouds, private clouds alone don’t scale well. It’s possible to reach higher levels of scalability with the help of a public cloud or a technique called Cloud Bursting. Cloud bursting is when resource and capacity thresholds are defined, such that when they are reached, the failover kicks in, and an application running on the private cloud “bursts” over to a more capable public cloud.
Because of private clouds’ inability to scale well, they tend to be used for much smaller deployments. For small businesses, an on-premises private cloud makes for an ideal solution for in-house, business-only usage. There are plenty of private cloud providers available—each of which doesn’t require an IT staff to get up to speed on installing and managing a full-blown cloud server. Private clouds can be found at companies such as:
- Dell Cloud
- IBM Bluemix Cloud
- Microsoft Cloud
- Cisco Systems
- Red Hat
- Amazon Web Services
Benefits of private clouds include improved resource utilization, cost-effectiveness, increased security, regulatory compliance, and flexibility.
Finally, we have the hybrid cloud, which is a way to combine third-party public clouds and on-premise private clouds into a hybrid. Hybrids make use of orchestration tools to bridge the public and private clouds together. With this cloud model, workloads can move between the 2 platforms depending on computing and budgetary needs. Thus, the hybrid cloud offers businesses greater flexibility and options for deployment.
Unlike public and private clouds, there’s more involved with deploying a hybrid. To successfully roll out a hybrid cloud, a business must have:
- An IaaS platform to serve as the public cloud.
- An on-premises private cloud.
- Adequate WAN connectivity with plenty of bandwidth between the public and private clouds.
One of the primary difficulties with the hybrid cloud is that businesses have no control over the public cloud portion. This means compatibility between private and public clouds rests squarely on the shoulders of the private side. Overcoming such compatibility issues involves significant complications to successfully bridge the two. Without a successfully deployed compatibility layer, the private and public clouds won’t be able to communicate or interoperate with one another.
The software compatibility layer (which is added on the private cloud side) must include features like:
- Automatization and orchestration
Even with this added layer of complexity, a hybrid cloud can serve a company’s needs far greater than opting for only a public or private option.
Benefits of a hybrid cloud include:
- Reduced costs.
- Improved scalability and control.
- Agility and elasticity.
- Business continuity.
- Improved security.
- Better risk management.
- Lower hardware costs.
Of course, the complexity of successfully deploying a hybrid cloud often outweighs the benefits.
Which Cloud is Right For Your Business?
The answer to this question is easier than you might think. If you’re looking for a cloud that offers the highest scalability with the lowest barrier to entry, you want a public cloud. For those who want similar scalability, but desire higher security, a private cloud is a better option. For any business that wants a combination of both, and has the IT staff with the skills to piece them together, a hybrid cloud should solve all of your needs.
You have options. But which option you choose can mean the difference between your business being able to keep up with the competition and meet demand, or getting trapped in a convoluted mess of complexity. Make sure you choose your cloud option wisely and it will serve you well for years.