Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid Clouds: Which is best?

cloud infrastructures

At one time, the word “cloud” meant one thing: a visible mass of condensed water vapor floating in the sky. However, the very same word today also holds a completely different meaning: a type of internet-based computing that uses a network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data. Most IT departments in businesses large and small now manage applications built at different times, in different languages, and across multiple environments, and have excellent knowledge of cloud resources. Why? Just like word processors and instant messaging, cloud computing is here to stay.  You need a comprehensive view of the different cloud infrastructures, so you can leverage cloud computing to your advantage.

We’ll outline the cloud comparisons and best practices for management so you can determine the best type for your organization.

Three types of cloud infrastructures

Cloud computing comes in three forms: public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. Each has its benefits and drawbacks; each requires different management input and offers different levels of security, flexibility, and customizability.

Public Clouds

Public cloud service providers use the internet to make resources such as applications and storage available to the general public. These are also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) -- think Windows Azure Services Platform and Office 365.

Public cloud infrastructures provide the best economies of scale because service providers cover hardware, software and bandwidth costs.  They feature a pay-per-usage model, which means the capacity used determines the costs incurred.  Apart from this, public clouds are scalable, reliable and easy to deploy. For long-term data storage or testing environments for your systems and applications, public clouds might be your best option.

There are some drawbacks to public clouds, including restricted customizability of the platform which can lead to limited configuration options. Public clouds also provide services on shared hardware, which makes them less ideal for services using sensitive data. This brings us to the next point: security. When you move computing resources to public clouds, you and your cloud provider share security responsibilities.  This means less control and requires more consistent and thorough monitoring.

Private Clouds

Private clouds are data center architectures owned by a single company that does not sell “as-a-service” offerings to customers.  It leverages its cloud architecture to give you control of your own data center. They can be configured to support any application and highly customized if certain legacy applications cannot operate effectively in public clouds.

Private cloud infrastructures offer greater security and performance than public clouds. They are ideal for businesses that require dedicated infrastructure for compliance, and need high performance access to a file system.  If you have applications with predictable usage patterns and low storage costs, and use heavily-trafficked applications,  consider private clouds as a good solution for you.

Despite these benefits, they can be expensive and offer modest economies of scale. Large enterprises often use private clouds due to the high deployment costs.  And though they provide more security than public clouds, with the increase in network traffic within private clouds, the dynamic nature of virtual environments where applications are provisioned constantly could outpace traditional security controls.

Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid clouds, as you may have guessed, allow you to combine both elements from public and private clouds. You can maintain control of an internally managed architecture while relying on the public cloud’s scalability. By having parallel cloud networks accessible through the same architecture, you benefit from faster data transfer, increased privacy, and the ability to develop applications and process information securely while still sharing large amounts of resources with ease.

Hybrid cloud infrastructures offer the flexibility and scalability of public clouds and the customizability and security of private clouds.  If you want to develop web-based applications, have a large client base, or consider expanding and need a highly scalable hosting solution, this provides a good solution. If you question the security of public clouds for sensitive data, or if you want to migrate portions of your applications to the public cloud during peak periods, this will also be an ideal solution for you.

However, hybrid clouds have the most complex system architecture, which makes them more difficult to manage and maintain.  And being dependent on a private network of servers can be risky in case of downtime. You and your provider will need to ensure that all services in use are in line with your security policies for the purposes of compliance. But the high cost of deployment, which is more expensive than public or private clouds, often drives businesses away from hybrid clouds.

To put it simply, the best cloud for your business depends on your specific needs today and what your business wants to accomplish in the future. If you’d like to talk to a cloud expert to find out which platform will offer the most bang for your buck, why not give us a call? We’re not called SimplyClouds for nothing; we have years of experience with cloud architectures consultation, deployment, customization and maintenance. We'll be happy to advise you in plain English on what each type of cloud can bring to your organization.

Categories: Basic cloud concepts, Cloud benefits, Best practices, Hybrid cloud, Cloud security