Public vs. Private Cloud

Organizations of all sizes have discovered the advantages of cloud computing. From powering applications and databases to storing files and enabling collaboration, the cloud’s proven a cost-efficient solution capable of enhancing security, improving business continuity and disaster planning efforts, empowering growth and scalability and supporting users both working from home and from remote locations. But occasionally organizations must make a decision. While many choose to work using the public cloud, in which cloud storage services are provided by a third party vendor using the public Internet and shared infrastructure maintained by the provider, some employ a private cloud strategy in which the corresponding solution is built and hosted privately using an organization’s own internal network or server room or exclusive space within a data center. With private cloud deployments, dedicated data circuits or VPNs are also frequently used to provide secure connectivity to these private cloud-based resources. 

What’s the Difference?

With a public cloud solution, multiple organizations typically share the same infrastructure and services, including public Internet connections. The cloud infrastructure and services are, subsequently, used by multiple customers, often referred to as tenants. Examples of public cloud storage offerings include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud. Private clouds, meanwhile, typically shirk sharing resources in favor of dedicated solutions. One example of a private cloud installation is a firm that installs its own servers, network gear and data circuits within its own server room or dedicated data center rack, then connects its various sites to that infrastructure typically using dedicated connections exclusively used by the firm and no other companies. Alternatively, a third party, such as Microsoft with its Azure Virtual Network offering, can assist building a private cloud. 

Advantages of the Public Cloud

Whereas public cloud solutions eliminate the need for customers to make significant corresponding capital investments, dramatically lower operating expenses and eliminate most burdens related to installation, configuration, patching, monitoring, security and replication by transferring those burdens to the third-party cloud solutions provider, companies necessarily assume those costs and tasks when deploying private clouds. And while public cloud services offer rapid scalability without having to pay for additional capacity until needed, private clouds typically require firms make significant investments upfront in hardware, software and administrative personnel. 

 Another advantage of public cloud solutions are competitive forces that often serve to lower costs. Public clouds also simplify operations due to their inherent lack of administrative and operational complexity. Further, cloud-services vendors typically provide capable support and offer readily available documentation. Public cloud solutions also frequently support a wide variety of platforms. For example, public cloud services commonly work with the Apple, Microsoft and Linux platforms, as well as most common mobile devices, a fact that assists compatibility with companies’ and end users’ existing equipment. 

Advantages of the Private Cloud

Private clouds boast different advantages. Perhaps most importantly, private clouds, properly deployed, can assist organizations in overcoming common compliance issues. Although public cloud services often prove compatible with standard industry compliance requirements, such as HIPAA and HITECH, occasionally industry or government regulations require additional practices that present difficulties when using a public cloud solution. When building and maintaining private cloud infrastructure, organizations also alleviate one of the more common complaints associated with public cloud use: loss of control. Because organizations typically purchase their own hardware and software, obtain required corresponding licensing and install, maintain and monitor the private cloud infrastructure, the organizations are free to choose the individual components each prefers, as well as the administrative, change control and security practices used to operate the private cloud. 

Private clouds offer another, similar advantage in that they are also highly customizable. Firms can adjust capacity, availability and expandability as they wish. The same is true for platform compatibility. When architecting and deploying its own private cloud, an organization can determine which systems and platforms it intends to support, while also specifying unique maintenance windows and usage policies. 

Which cloud solution to use?

Public cloud solutions, on the other hand, are well suited to organizations whose needs and requirements are predictable. Public cloud services are also a good fit when needing basic test production and development environments. 

Private cloud solutions typically prove a better choice for firms working within highly regulated industries or government agencies bound by security requirements that forbid using shared resources or the public Internet. Private clouds are well positioned for working with sensitive data, in part due to their greater administrative control and lack of shared infrastructure, which can sometimes weaken overall security. Other appropriate uses of private cloud solutions include when firms require unusually high performance or scalability or experience particularly excessive demand. 

When opting for a private cloud solution, organizations need not go it alone, though. Fortunately, secure private clouds can be built with assistance from a third-party provider. Microsoft, for example, was mentioned earlier as one such potential partner. Other options include Amazon, Google and IBM, all of whom offer virtual private cloud (VPC) services. 

By building an exclusive cloud to which the general public is denied connectivity, an organization can restrict availability and better protect systems and data from unauthorized access. Although organizations assume responsibility for administering, maintaining and securing private cloud applications, databases, files and services, some heavy lifting can still be securely handed off to a competent provider, when needed. 

Using third-party cloud providers

Consider the case when using Microsoft Azure. With Microsoft’s combination of solutions—including Azure Arc infrastructure management, Azure ExpressRoute private connections and Azure VPN Gateways, firms can build private clouds while still leveraging some of cloud-computing’s most compelling advantages. 

When security proves paramount, virtual private cloud providers offer additional tools organizations can employ, too. For example, Microsoft customers can also tap such safeguards as Microsoft Defender for Cloud and Microsoft Sentinel to further protect private cloud systems. 

When working with third-party cloud providers, a third option exists. Organizations can also cross over into using what are known as hybrid clouds. With a hybrid cloud approach, companies retain control over design, compliance and security elements while adding the flexibility, scalability and administrative advantages provided by third-party cloud services. Firms can moderate capital and operating expenses by leaning upon such companies as Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft and VMware, while preserving the ability to rapidly expand capacity, including on-premises and within their own dedicated data center deployments. 

Which is best for you? 

If your organization has predictable technology needs and requirements, possesses only minimal technology staff and works within an industry with few compliance demands, a public cloud option likely will work well. If you work within a government agency or your firm operates within a regulated industry, such as financial services, and administrative control and security requirements are inflexible requirements, a private cloud solution is likely to prove more appropriate. Should your organization work within a tightly regulated industry or require unusual scalability and expansive flexibility not fully met using a private cloud solution, a hybrid cloud strategy may serve such needs best. 

Ultimately, whichever solution (public versus private cloud or even a hybrid option) proves best for your organization depends upon several factors. Initial capital expenses, ongoing operations costs, scalability, administrative control, industry compliance needs and security requirements all impact such decisions. 

Should you have more questions, or need assistance reviewing or planning a new cloud strategy, contact Louisville Geek’s technology professionals at [email protected] or 502-897-7577.