Which Cloud Approach is Right for You?

9/10/12

Public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud…what’s the difference? The concept of cloud can be very confusing to begin with—there are countless definitions and various interpretations of what the “cloud” really is. However, there is a very clear differentiator between the three clouds mentioned above.

In today’s world, the cloud market is accelerating quickly, but it is also fragmenting just as fast. IT has always been a fast-moving industry, but the cloud has made it all that much easier for technologists to virtualize enterprise IT infrastructure. Therefore, the cloud has created a segmentation into different “cloud mindsets,” some are in support of a public cloud, some support the private cloud, and some like the combination of the two, a hybrid cloud.

Public Cloud

The public cloud is a computing model that is designed to provide the lowest priced service in which the customer pays by the hour for its usage. An advantage of public cloud computing is its virtual delivery model, which allows users to turn servers up and down whenever they need to. If you need to turn up a server for only an hour, you are simply charged for just that hour rather than paying a monthly or packaged rate, which the private cloud uses.

This type of cloud is often used by small and medium businesses and small managed service providers due to the inexpensive price and elastic infrastructure. You can simply purchase the public cloud online and have it deployed within minutes. However, a private cloud is specifically designed to meet the needs of the customer and the requirements of the hardware or on-premise server already in place. The public cloud can be quickly created for the customer and purchased at cents by the hour.

Private Cloud

The private cloud is often referred to as “the upgrade” from the public cloud. When an extra virtualization layer is added on top of the hardware system, this creates a cloud orchestration layer that automates provisioning, creating the private cloud. Large enterprise companies usually choose a private cloud to store data due to the security and privacy concerns the public cloud reveal.

In larger companies that have thousands of employees and petabytes of private corporate data, there is a great need for heightened security and data durability. In a private cloud environment your control over employees and what they see does not change. You maintain control over who sees your data and what access the employees have within the archive.

Hybrid Cloud

When you combine public and private clouds, you get the hybrid cloud. This approach is often taken when companies are conducting disaster recovery, business continuity or “big data” analysis. In a hybrid environment, the private cloud is typically the dominant infrastructure to store, secure and analyze the corporate information, while the public cloud is used to decrease time and cost to conduct such research and analyzing of the data.

Both small and medium sized business and enterprise companies use this hybrid model —the reason why they choose the hybrid approach is the only thing that varies. A major pharmaceutical company may use the public cloud to decrease time and cost to sequence DNA strands for major illness cures while the private cloud provides the foundation on which these sequences stand. Major financial institutions use the public cloud to create an off-site disaster recovery capability while the private cloud is used for another, more secure, copy of the data.

Either way, the hybrid model combines the idea that the private cloud can hold the core internal IT infrastructure and security, and the public cloud is slowly augmenting the existing on-premise servers.

Which approach is right for you?

Given these segments within the cloud market, there are at least a few cloud options for any customer. If its budget or security you’re worried about, they can all be addressed with a specific cloud model or a combination of two. Public, private and/or hybrid, these are only the beginning of the cloud models to come.

Greg Arnette is co-founder and CTO for Sonian, Inc. which offers a cloud-powered simple affordable archiving service for compliant search and retrieval of "big data." Follow @

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