It used to be that getting stuck in the clouds was a bad thing--it meant you were a day dreamer or lacked motivation and goal orientation.
Today, it means something very different. Being in the cloud is about how you store your business data and information--from client files, to sales data to marketing videos. And, at its simplest, there are two types of data storage clouds: public and private.
"Traditional endpoint management and security, which requires installing an agent in every server and virtual machine, is no longer practical in a cloud environment as virtual machines can be dynamically created without any administrative involvement or access," explains Symon Perriman, Vice President, Business Development at 5nine Software, Inc. "Management needs to be automatic and immediate, and abstracted from the end-user so there is no dependency on the client to configure security, or concern that they will accidently or deliberately disable protection. By leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure with management and security at the virtualization host level, administrators can make the correct decision when evaluating space, flexibility, access, price and security."
There are a few differences related to price, security and convenience. If you're thinking about moving your business information and sticking it in a cloud, here are five overview differences between using a private or a public solution.
Space. Private clouds require hardware that your company owns and runs. That means a demand of physical space, as in storage. A private cloud system may also require that where it lives physically--the room--be secure and climate controlled. If your business is already stretched for space or you have concerns about security, for example, a public cloud may be a better option.
Flexibility. By owning your own, private cloud, you have much more control and flexibility over what systems connect to it, what data is on it and how your team interacts with it. While many public cloud services try to offer customizable service options, no menu of options will compare to your own custom designs and features.
Access. The factors in private vs public clouds related to accessing your data are similar to the flexibility points. There's just no better option for 24/7 access than having your cloud in the building and literally down the hall.
Price. In almost every scenario, a public cloud will be less expensive than buying, storing and configuring your own hardware. Even if you're thinking about moving a metaphoric ton of data to a shared cloud system, it's likely still cheaper to use a public provider--even one that charges by data use and storage.
Like all business investment, though, buying your own system becomes cheaper over time. Think of it like the difference between renting and buying. If you don't have the money up front, renting (public cloud) is the only and best option. But buying (private cloud) is a longer run, better investment.
"If you go down the public cloud path because of the lower entry costs," Says Jeff Erramouspe, CEO of Spanning, "there likely will become a point where it is cheaper to switch to a private cloud and manage the infrastructure yourself. That point is different for different types of applications, but you should prepare for it upfront by modeling your costs and evaluating the cost structure of your public cloud provider vs. managing a private cloud. Many people run in a hybrid public/private cloud model while making the transition, and some will never give up the public cloud for some functions. But that's the great thing about the cloud--it's flexibility."
Security. The pros and cons of data security in a public vs private cloud are mixed. On the side of a public cloud, big cloud solution providers spend a ton of time and money on security--they are up to date on the latest threats and fixes. And big providers usually have their data on backup to backup servers all over the world, making you less vulnerable to a local power outage or winter storm.
"We find that for common applications and services (such as email, web sites, backup, hosted desktop and hosted VoIP), a public cloud service can meet the needs of most organizations," says Bill Dykema, ITsavvy's Vice President. "When requirements start to drive an organization towards a customized offering, or when security or compliancy concerns start to enter the discussion, it often drives the need for a private cloud."
On the other hand, public clouds are bigger targets for hackers who may not even be after your data. And it only takes one knucklehead from Omaha to violate security and your data could be at risk.
As for the security of private cloud, it's literally in your hands. On the plus side, your security profile is lower--unless your work for the NSA, it's unlikely too many people are after your data in particular. And you and your IT pros can set firewalls and protections to fit your needs.
The downside of private, owned cloud systems, as it relates to security is exactly the same. If you or your team messes up, there's no going back. You won't have professional IT and security experts on call like a private provide should.
There's no "right" call on the decision to go to a public or private cloud solution. It will take some real research and time to make the right decision for you and your needs. So shop around, talk to experts and price your different options. While the decision isn't irreversible, it is important.