The Pros and Cons of Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud

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“The cloud” means servers that are accessed over the internet, and the software and databases that run on those servers.

Cloud servers are located in data centres all over the world. By using cloud computing, companies no longer have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own hardware. Similarly, private individuals don’t have to store all their data on their own PC or phone.

Do you know the difference between a server and a data centre? A server is just one very big computer with masses of memory, about the size of a washing machine. They are noisy and they generate a lot of heat. A data centre is a whole building, or part of a building, with lots of servers lined up in racks. There may be hundreds of servers in a data centre. The buildings have powerful cooling systems, fire prevention and IT boffins ready to fix them when they go wrong.

How can you use the cloud?

By using the cloud, you can access the same files and applications from almost any device, because the computing and storage takes place on servers in a data centre, instead of locally on your device. This is why you can log into your internet email account from anywhere, or log into a new phone and still find your old account in place, with your address book, your photos and your old text messages and so on.

Businesses can use the cloud to do the same thing at a company level, letting their employees log in and see company data from any location and on any device.

How does the cloud work?

Cloud computing is possible because of a technology called virtualisation. Virtualisation allows for the creation of a “virtual machine”, which is a simulated, digital-only computer within a server, that operates as if it were a physical computer with its own hardware. Virtual machines don’t interact with each other at all, even though they are on a single server. The files and applications from one virtual machine aren’t visible to the other virtual machines on the same physical machine.

What is the cloud used for?

The cloud is no longer just for data storage. It has evolved into a complete business service and data storage service.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Instead of users installing an application on their device, SaaS applications are hosted on cloud servers, and users access them over the Internet. Salesforce, MailChimp, and Slack are examples of SaaS software that is hosted on cloud servers rather than installed by users on their own devices.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

You don’t pay for hosted applications with PaaS, instead paying for what you need to build your own applications. One well-known example is Microsoft Azure.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

When using IaaS, you rent the cloud servers and storage you need and use that cloud infrastructure to build your own applications. DigitalOcean, Google Compute Engine, and OpenStack are examples.

Function-as-a-Service (FaaS)

FaaS, also known as serverless computing, breaks cloud applications down into small components that only run when they’re needed.

Data Centre

What is Public Cloud?

Public cloud solutions are server space rented from third party providers. These cloud providers take responsibility for maintenance and security, with back-up provisions in case of power outages, fire, flooding or other disasters. They also usually configure software and install automatic updates to keep it safe from hackers and always provide the latest version. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are two of the best-known providers in the UK.

The Pros of Public Cloud

Cheaper: The main advantage of using third party public cloud providers is that you do not have to purchase your own servers or manage services internally. This removes some IT costs and overhead. You no longer need to update and maintain your own servers, as the cloud vendor you are using will do that. It is ideal for smaller businesses.

Scale up easily: You can hire extra server space and services in the public cloud when you need them, which vendors usually describe as a “scalable solution”. It is very quick and easy to scale up by signing up for extra services or more server space when using the public cloud.

Disaster recovery backups: You also benefit from disaster recovery measures which are part of the public cloud service. All your data is stored and backed-up on an external server which may be hundreds of thousands of miles away from your own business location.

The Cons of Public Cloud

Less secure than private cloud: The public cloud may be less secure than a private cloud solution. Having said this, security is very high because cloud storage companies provide password-protected data storage, and data is sent over the internet using encryption technology. They often offer higher standards of security than many small companies achieve on their own.

Lack of total control: Since data is held by a company you do not control, you can’t customise your data storage set-up. This may be a problem for larger businesses with complex or particular needs.

Difficult to change provider: Once you’ve signed up and started using one particular cloud storage provider, it can be difficult to migrate your data to another cloud provider later on. This is a particular problem for large companies with lots of data, and may be less of an issue for smaller businesses.

Depends on internet connection: If your Internet connection fails, so does your access to remotely stored data. This can interrupt your business if you rely on the cloud to do your job. Even without a total outage, a slow internet connection can mean you wait a while to access your remotely stored data.

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What is Private Cloud?

With a private cloud, you get your own physical server and other hardware.

Private cloud used to mean purchasing servers and setting them up within your own office building, inside the protection of your own firewall and supported and administered by your in-house IT staff. Some organisations are now building private clouds on rented premises which come with electrical power back-ups, fire-prevention measures and other benefits as part of a shared service which makes them more economical.

The Pros of Private Cloud

Full control: One advantage of using a private cloud infrastructure is the amount of control that your company has over security measures and reconfiguring software the way you want it. This can be the case particularly if you use servers on your own business premises.

Maximum security: Private cloud is always the most secure option. By employing your own staff to manage security, you have full control. This is the reason why banks and other financial institutions, for example, rely on private cloud solutions.

High system performance: Another advantage is your control over system performance. If your servers are on your own business premises you do not need to rely on your internet connection. You can also demand the highest standards of reliability from your staff when managing in house.

Compliance in regulated industries: Private cloud gives you the best compliance options if you work in a regulated industry. For example, even solutions hosted by third parties can be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, which is one of the highest levels of security requirement for data and software hosting.

Server

The Cons of Private Cloud

Most expensive cloud option: You pay more for a private cloud system than for any other option, because it needs extra resources in terms of hardware and staff.

No external support: You have to keep your private cloud up to date for yourself. There is no service from a provider that makes sure you get the newest security updates and so on, or provides disaster recovery backup systems. When updates come from a service provider they are cheaper, because they make such updates on a large scale for many customers at once.

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What is Hybrid Cloud?

With a hybrid cloud, companies split their data between a private cloud infrastructure and a public cloud infrastructure. A hybrid cloud puts your confidential and sensitive data on a highly secure private cloud, while everything else goes on the more economical public cloud.

The Pros of Hybrid Cloud

Cheaper than private cloud: A hybrid cloud solution is less expensive than buying and maintaining servers on your premises for absolutely all your data. It gives you the best of both worlds, meaning you can have your most sensitive data on a private server and the rest on a public cloud server.

Control where you need it: When using a hybrid cloud infrastructure, you retain control over security where you need to. You can also reconfigure software the way you want it on private servers, while also using public servers and getting automatic updates for less security-sensitive software.

The Cons of Hybrid Cloud

More maintenance than public cloud: Being a mix of two solutions, there is a little more complication in using hybrid cloud than in putting everything in the public cloud. You will need to pay for your own people to manage and protect your private cloud data and software.

Higher cost than public cloud: This will cost more and may not be the right solution for smaller companies, unless security is a genuine issue.

Depends on internet connection: As with the public cloud, when using a hybrid cloud solution, if your internet connection fails, so does your access to remotely stored data. This can interrupt your business activities if you rely on the cloud to do your job, and it should be one of the considerations you make when carrying out your continuity planning.

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What is colocation?

With a colocation service you can house your privately-owned servers and networking equipment in a highly secure and robust data centre.

Typically, a colocation provider offers the building, cooling, electric power and back-up power, bandwidth and physical security, whilst the customer provides servers. Space in the facility is often leased by the rack, cabinet, cage or room. Many colocations have extended their offerings to include managed services that support their customers’ business initiatives.

Today, colocations are especially popular with cloud service providers.

The Pros of Colocation

Cheaper: The main benefit of colocation is that it saves the lump sum cost of building, maintaining and updating a large computing facility. Colocations usually offers a cheaper solution than keeping servers on the business premises, especially for companies in city centres where property costs are high: servers can be kept in areas where both property and salaries cost less.

Disaster recovery plan: Colocations data centre facilities can be safer than maintaining your servers on site. In the past, colocations were often used by private enterprises for disaster recovery.

The Cons of Colocation

Potential inconvenience of split facilities: Distance can translate into increased travel costs when equipment needs to be maintained manually.

Long-term contracts: Another pitfall is getting locked into a long-term contract, which you may not be able to re-negotiate if prices fall. It is important to examine any colocation service level agreement contract in detail, so you will not to be surprised by conditions or charges you were unaware of.

What is a cloud telephony system?

A cloud-based phone system, or cloud telephony, is one type of VoIP phone system.

Instead of storing the network and routing elements of a business phone system somewhere in your office, cloud-based telephony is hosted in the cloud. This means your data is securely stored on a server that can be accessed via the internet.

Rather than maintaining software via a server such as a private branch exchange (PBX) on the premises, all information and data are stored in the cloud, such as your phone numbers and call logging data. This makes maintenance and updates cheaper and easier.

Lady on phone

When switching from a traditional phone system to a cloud telephony system, you will not notice any major differences. For phone users, calls are made and received in the same way. Behind the scenes, though, calls are sent directly to your phone rather than through switches in an exchange in the office.

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