Cloud Computing 101: Private vs Public Cloud
The “cloud” is a term with a debatable meaning. Even in the enterprise, surveys have revealed that there are some who have yet to develop a clear understanding of cloud computing. A recent survey by Virtacore Systems published in this CompTIA SmartBrief estimates that 48% of IT professionals at mid-sized companies don’t understand what the term actually means.
Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that there are two types of clouds: public and private. Let’s take a closer look at what the main differences are between private and public clouds and later, what you should take into consideration when looking for a cloud computing provider.
Private vs Public Clouds
A public cloud is one in which a service provider serves customers, with functionality like applications, infrastructure, and storage. These services are available to businesses and individuals over the Internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model; sometimes it’s referred to with the -aaS acronym, meaning “as a Service” as in IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service). More on this here: What Cloud Computing Really Is.
This is a scalable service provided by a vendor, designed to be easier to setup and administer with less cost, in addition to reducing waste from lesser used data center resources.
The idea is to eliminate physical location from the data and system access equation. Data from several corporate or individual clients are segmented but do share server space — called, co-location.
The private cloud describes an internal computing model and architecture which provides hosted services similar to those of the public cloud, but reserved for corporate users and those that are approved; essentially, a private cloud is not open to the public and us usually setup behind a firewall. In a sense, this turns the IT department into the service provider or vendor for cloud resources. For those interested in reaping the benefits of virtualized cloud architecture, yet needing more control and security, this is a popular option.
Virtualization and data center automation allows for the scalability, maximizing hardware usage, and flexibility to support internal corporate clients. And, if your organization is so inclined, metering also allows you to charge departments based on their usage.
Top 5 Things to Look for In A Cloud Computing Provider
For many organizations, the benefits of the public cloud outweigh the risks. But before making a decision on shifting an application or service to the cloud, there are a few things to consider. The first question is whether or not the intended application is suitable for use in a cloud-based setting.
Assuming your application has been deemed a good candidate for the cloud, the second consideration is who to trust with your data.
So here are the top 5 things you should consider when selecting a public cloud vendor.
#1 Is the company viable?
Before handing over your critical applications and data, an important first step is to assess the financial viability of the company. Find out how long the company has been in business. Given the relative immaturity of this market, it may be unlikely to find vendors with several decades of presence, but you almost certainly don’t want a company that has just set up shop either. In addition, look for any indicators of past or future economic issues, along with frequent leadership changes.
#2 Are service level agreements offered?
For organizations entrusting mission critical data to a vendor, you’ll want to ensure that your systems will not suffer from frequent or extended outage periods. Downtime can have disastrous consequences both in terms of financial loss and damage to company reputation. For this reason, a service level agreement with negotiable terms, should be available. This agreement should outline provisions for everything from server or software issues, to more detailed disaster recovery plans.
#3 Is customer service a priority?
One guarantee with corporate networks is that something often can and will go wrong. In these instances, it is imperative that the vendor respond quickly, efficiently, and professionally. You should determine things like: response times, dedicated vs. general support, and phone/email/chat availability. Depending on the nature of the application that the vendor hosts, you may find that a dedicated support engineer, with 24×7 availability better suits your needs than calling a general help line and waiting in a call queue.
#4 Will my customers have the same level of performance?
Another issue cited with cloud services is the perceived negative performance impact. Customers and employees have an expectation that no matter where data is housed, they will enjoy the same level of performance. The cloud provider should be able to define how they measure performance and be able to provide real-time and ongoing measurements and statistics to back this up.
#5 How is security handled?
Perhaps the most frequent reason cited for not pursuing cloud computing is security. Many organizations have invested considerable financial and human resources in order to secure their network environments and the thought of abandoning that level of control and comfort to an unknown entity can seem like an unnecessary gamble. Any reputable vendor should be able to outline their security practices and modify them based on your requirements, particularly as it relates to any industry-specific regulatory requirements you have.
The decision to pursue cloud computing is one that many organization have or will make as this technology grows and matures. But this decision need not be one fraught with uncertainty. With a little due diligence, and answering a few key questions, you can ensure that your cloud vendor selection is a sound one.
If you’re unsure whether or not the cloud is right for you, take a look at this article from vExpert David Davis on What “The Cloud” Really Is and Is It Right For You