CIO decisions - Choosing the Right Cloud for Your Business

Article by Karan Kirpalani

Choosing which type of cloud deployment is right for you depends on many factors, including the industry your organization is involved in, the regulatory requirements it may be subject to and even the type of customers you have, as well as the key benefits you wish to reap.

The benefits of cloud computing services can be very valuable, and include reduced IT costs, optimized resource utilization and greatly enhanced operational agility. Before deciding to pursue a cloud strategy it is vital to establish which type of cloud would be best for your business: a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud.

In a public cloud, the cloud infrastructure is located in one or more external datacenters, owned by a service provider and shared by multiple customers. Since the infrastructure is very large, public clouds provide practically unlimited scalability on demand.

By contrast, private cloud infrastructure service is used exclusively by a single organization. In most cases the infrastructure is also owned by the organization and can be located and managed in a corporate data center or an external datacenter.

As the name suggests, a hybrid cloud is a combination of private and public cloud. Data and applications can be moved from one cloud to another when necessary – for example workloads can be moved from a private to a public cloud to provide extra capacity during periods of high demand.

Public, Private or Hybrid? Which One is Right for You?

Public clouds

One of the important benefits of a public cloud is that it involves very limited up-front capital costs. That is because your organization pays only for the resources that it consumes, on a monthly basis, scaling workloads up or down and provisioning new services on demand. A public cloud allows your company to benefit from the economies of scale of a shared infrastructure and the expertise of specialist staff employed by the service provider.

One of the major drawbacks to the public cloud model for some organizations is that infrastructure is shared between customers. Many organizations worry about this from a security point of view, although it is not clear that using shared infrastructure in a public cloud managed by a suitably security-aware service provider necessarily poses a greater security risk than keeping IT operations in house.

Private Cloud

A public cloud implementation may not be practical if your company holds data that is governed by regulations such as PCI, HIPPA or FISMA, or if regulatory or legal requirements dictate that you carry out highly detailed logging of access to data or require data access to be limited using specific authentication methods such as hardware tokens.

A private cloud overcomes the problems of security and regulatory compliance associated with public cloud deployments and also enables you to run any specialist applications you want, but it does so at a price. Owning and managing your own cloud infrastructure means that you will incur up-front capital costs while building the private cloud. And while a private cloud can provide operational agility by enabling you to provision applications on demand and scale workloads up and down rapidly, you won’t benefit from the virtually limitless instant scalability that a public cloud can provide. You will also be responsible for maintaining a suitably skilled IT staff and making arrangements for contingency planning in case of a disaster.

Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid models allow you to leverage the advantages of both public and private clouds by placing the more common, less regulated applications and services into the public cloud while keeping legacy, or performance sensitive applications in a private cloud. Several service providers offer this kind of functionality.

Many industry experts believe that the hybrid cloud model is the one that will emerge as the most popular in the long term, offering a combination of high levels of control and security, with access to virtually unlimited extra capacity on demand, paid for only when needed. You can take advantage of hybrid clouds to provide “cloud bursting” capabilities: additional capacity during demand spikes that may coincide with occasional events such as a new product launch or a particular promotion, or to provide additional capacity for specific workloads for longer periods until it makes sense to purchase new equipment and implement it in-house.

In order to make the best decision in this matter, you should define the top priorities are for your company. Do you need to control the infrastructure? Then private cloud is your best option. Are you most interested in reducing costs and having an easy way to access your resources, in a utility based model? Then public cloud might be the answer for you.