Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud: Which Is Right for My Business?

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Cloud computing has become a big business. As an industry, it is projected to grow by 17% in 2019 with the worldwide market for public cloud services topping $206 billion.  That’s on top of a 21% growth in 2018.

Adoption continues to soar. Private, public, and hybrid cloud solutions are predicted to make up 83 percent of enterprise workloads by next year.  Nearly 70% of companies not currently using cloud-based services report they plan to migrate data for enterprise apps to the cloud.

What is the Public Cloud?

With a public cloud-hosted solution, your data is stored on your provider’s Data Center.  Also referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), companies using the public cloud don’t have to worry about maintaining or updating systems.

PROS

  • The vendor maintains the system

  • No capital expenditures

  • Encrypted data

  • Scalability

  • Pay for only what you use/need

CONS

  • Data must be migrated to the cloud

  • May not be cost-effective depending on your workload

  • You outsource the security of your data

A public cloud solution is a server or servers that share resources between different customers. This typically is a more affordable solution because maintenance and common infrastructure costs are spread across businesses.

Public clouds can support a large number of applications. CRM, CMS, Websites, Email, and other applications can run on the public cloud and manage the burden of hosting such services. 

What is the Private Cloud?

Whether you call it private cloud hosting, an internal cloud, or an enterprise cloud, your data will live on your company's network or hosted Data Center. Your data is protected with a firewall and provides a more secure option.  Regulated industries may require private cloud solutions as part of compliance mandates.

PROS

  • Use your existing infrastructure

  • No need to migrate your data

  • Dedicated servers

  • Connectivity advantages allowing for increased backup and recovery

  • You control the security of your data

CONS

  • You are responsible for maintenance and updates

  • Capital expenditures for hardware replacements

  • Pay for unused capacity

In a private cloud solution, you are not sharing resources with other businesses.  Everything is dedicated towards your organization and you control access.

Public Vs. Private Cloud:  Which Is Right For You?

Public cloud hosting is typically more affordable without upfront hardware investments.  Smaller businesses benefit by eliminating costs for IT management and maintenance. For businesses that have spikes in usage, a public cloud solution allows for rapid scaling with little advance notice.

Private cloud solutions and private cloud hosting solutions are usually preferred by large companies with more complex IT management needs and requirements.  Private clouds offer all of the benefits of the public cloud in a more secure setting, but the costs of securing, maintaining, and managing information protection can be higher. 

Compliance regulations for companies handling sensitive data, financial data, or medical data may be required to use private cloud systems or benefit from their use.  For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) requires that personally-identifiable health data is created, stored, and transmitted in a secure environment.

 
 
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Which Is More Secure?

The answer is that it depends on your organizational capacity, capabilities, and business use.

Private Cloud Security

In the private cloud, you control your security.  While that may sound more secure, it also means you have to maintain security and information protection.  Your internet security rests solidly on your shoulders. You will need to have more experienced and skilled IT management and stay on top of updates, patches, and threats.

A private cloud runs on physical machines. This makes physical security easier to manage when they are hosted in-house. Accessed through private and secure network links, your data will live behind your firewall. You can isolate your data infrastructure and restrict public internet access. You control access to your entire network.

Conversely, your employees have physical access to your equipment. If your power goes out or there’s a natural disaster, you may lose access to your data.

Public Cloud Security

In the public cloud, the hosting service handles the internet security of your data.  Companies providing this service have staffs of IT management to handle maintenance and stay on top of security concerns. They provide 24/7 monitoring and threat detection.

While detractors may argue about security risks using the public cloud, it also has a lot of built-in security measures when you use a reputable provider. Your data will live behind enterprise-class firewalls in a secure facility. IT management professionals are watching over it all the time. Thieves trying to steal your organization’s data won’t know where it is stored since it’s not on your private networks.

Conversely, your data must travel over the public internet when accessed and access can be granted from anywhere.

Identity Management

When it comes to identity management, you can boil down the pros and cons of public vs. private cloud the this:

  • Private cloud identity management has higher costs, but lower risks

  • Public cloud identity management has lower costs, but higher risks

Single sign-on (SSO), authentication, authorization, provisioning, role management, logging, and auditing can all sit behind your firewall in the private cloud. However, that increased level of security comes at a higher cost.

There are definite cost advantages to using the public cloud, but using a public cloud means a shared environment. That makes more potential entry points for threats.

The Future Of Cloud Computing

Nearly every business is now using some form of cloud computing. In the future, more businesses will be using hybrid cloud or multi-cloud strategies.  Hybrid means a mix of private, enterprise, and public cloud services. Multi-cloud strategies spread data across multiple vendors to protect against downtime and data loss.

As we look towards the future of cloud computing, how data is stored, secured, and accessed will be increasingly under scrutiny. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations and California’s newly passed Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are impacting privacy and security of data regardless of where it lives.

The Bottom Line

If you are trying to decide whether to use a public cloud or private cloud solution for your organization, weigh the pros and cons of each. When choosing a cloud services provider,  choose a reputable provider and carefully examine the service-level agreement (SLA) to make sure it fits your needs.