When to use a public or private cloud infrastructure

Businesses need to appraise their individual requirements to decide which type of cloud computing is best suited to the organization.

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With the vast quantities of data generated daily and the complexities of the required processing escalating, the cloud is emerging as a forerunner in the computing domain. Reducing operational costs and improving analytical power, there is little doubt that cloud computing is the way to go to optimize organizational business intelligence.

The question, though, arises with regard to which platform to select. There are three platforms to keep in mind – private, public and hybrid clouds – and each is designed for specific targets depending on the type of data being used, and the level of security and management required. Depending on particular business needs and intricacy, different platforms are suited and different questions should be asked.

For example, does the business require flexible services and prefer subscription, variable payment options? Or is the business in a position to outlay the expense for a more secure, management-centric role with overall visibility, control and privacy?

The difference between cloud solutions

Private hosting of cloud technology, otherwise known as internal or enterprise cloud, is constructed and housed on a private network or data centre. All information is protected behind a firewall and is safe and convenient, particularly if the infrastructure is already in place. The shortcomings are essentially the cost, time and resources associated with management, maintenance and updating of servers, potentially offset by the enhanced level of security this type of infrastructure can offer. 

Taking legacy systems into account, it is often easier to migrate from a current onsite ecosystem to a private cloud rather than a public one. This is due to the fact that private cloud environments can be designed to support any existing application. In addition, security compliance requirements may be in place that can only be fulfilled by private cloud.

On-premises data centres can be adapted to private cloud solutions by implementing a virtualization layer which can alleviate the management responsibilities by allowing service providers to maintain infrastructure without relinquishing management control.

Public cloud solutions, on the other hand, offer processing, analytical and data storage power, without the necessity of management. The data is stored in data centers supported by the provider. The advantage of this type of system is the marked reduction in lead times for product deployment, for example, if you’re implementing HIPAA-compliant fax and email systems into your EMR or EHR. Moreover, resources can be allocated to areas that add business value as opposed to platform development and maintenance. This moves the costs from an initial capital expenditure to operational expenses. The drawback is ultimately security. Computing on a public domain and sharing resources with other organizations can pose the risk of compromised data, although a relatively rare occurrence.

An advantage of public cloud infrastructure is its scalability and almost limitless technical potential, and it appeals to companies that leverage storage applications in the scope of their work. It is particularly helpful in a testing environment, where it is relatively easy to load test due to the availability of test data. 

There is the option of hybrid clouds or cloud bursting, which provides the best of both worlds, but at the cost of keeping track of multiple vendors and security platforms. Furthermore, all facets need to communicate with each other and the data centre, thus there may be integration and compatibility teething problems.

How to choose the right platform

It is imperative to take the business needs into consideration. The size of the business and its budget is a genuine concern, and thus CIOs and business leaders need to regard these factors when making decisions. Looking at the big picture and making an intelligent decision based on where the company is headed, will avoid outgrowing solutions and having to use workarounds to negate limitations. Remote access also needs to be considered, as public cloud solutions support remote computing to a greater degree than private cloud networks due to the increased security measures.

The hybrid system, which involves selecting the best options from both public and private platforms and evolving IT assets to accommodate both, results in a solution which delivers the flexibility of a public platform but provides the security and overview potential of private cloud computing.

Often the decision to choose a particular IT infrastructure is a financial one. It boils down to the question of whether the organization would benefit from a higher initial outlay and lower running costs or customizable, modular monthly installments following very minor initiation costs.

As with any new technology, it is important to understand the business strategy and align the solution with the cloud ecosystem that supports it. Public infrastructure is likely to be more cost effective than private solutions, but security and control may suffer. Businesses need to appraise their individual requirements to decide which type of cloud computing is best suited to the organization.

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