If you’re reading this, chances are that you already know that cloud computing is the revolution of data storage and management. It has not just created a better and more sustainable way to store data, it has revolutionized the way corporations manage, process and make the best out of data. By providing shared IT infrastructure, it has solved the challenges that come with efficiently scaling systems from anywhere at an even reduced cost than the usual method of purchasing and managing large physical infrastructure.
As an organization, there are three ways of using cloud infrastructure to manage and secure your data assets. These methods are private, public, and hybrid and they have their peculiarities depending on the needs of an organization and what it hopes to achieve. Here’s a rundown of what they’re about, the problems they solve, as well as the challenges they could pose.
Private Cloud Computing
As the name implies, private cloud computing provides a platform for organizations to store, manage, and access their data privately. With private cloud computing, they have the opportunity to build and manage their own data centers. A private cloud is where hardware is used to build a hypervisor and virtual servers are built on this platform. It is described as a private cloud as it is only used by one organization; however, it can be used in an environment where the support infrastructure is on-premise or outsourced to a third-party service provider at a public data center.
Large and medium-scale enterprises (especially financial organizations that are heavy on data) as well as government agencies typically opt for this. For example, in a banking environment the web servers can be on a private cloud with load balancing to provide scalability and elasticity. Also, spinning off virtual servers gives the application team access to platforms much quicker as the need to go through the procurement process is eliminated. The following are the advantages and disadvantages of private cloud computing:
- The flexibility of Provisioning: One great advantage of a private cloud is that it is flexible. This flexibility is born out of its on-demand self-service as organizations remain solely responsible for their computing resource needs and storage infrastructures and have full access to their files across a myriad of web-enabled devices.
- Speed: With a private cloud computing infrastructure, network latency which is the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for it, will be much lower. In other words, network speed is much faster with a private cloud infrastructure.
- Enhanced Security and Privacy: A private cloud platform is dedicated to a single client or organization as opposed to a public cloud infrastructure teeming with multiple users. For this reason, security and privacy are much higher than in a private cloud in comparison with the public one.
- Total Control: With the private cloud, the organization has access and a total of the server as well as the data stored on it.
- Improved Reliability: Private cloud computing is also reliable as it is solely managed by the IT administrator of an organization as opposed to public clouds which share a platform with other tenants. With control, organizations can increasingly rely on the speed and efficiency of the private cloud.
- Support: Private cloud infrastructure, being managed by organizations themselves, requires support staff – usually an IT department, to handle the acquisition, deployment, and maintenance, all of which lead to additional overhead costs.
- Underutilization: It can also be tough, in a private cloud, to plan out the capacity as it could be overbuilt and underutilized, ultimately leading to wasted financial resources on irrelevant IT resources.
- Higher Cost: One of the most pronounced disadvantages of the private cloud is that the startup costs for hardware acquisition are higher than in a public cloud. Even more pronounced are the additional costs that come with the maintenance of the infrastructure. It might be hard to budget and predict monthly costs as opposed to a public cloud infrastructure that is much simpler to budget for.
- Platform Scaling: Scaling the platform which may not be cost-effective as it will require the purchase of another platform. To mitigate this risk, however, many organizations end up doing what is known as cloud bursting – an application deployment model where an application runs in a private cloud and bursts into a public cloud as computing capacity demand increases.
- Renewal of Hardware: Where there are hardware failures – as unpredictable as they are or where scaling is required without cloud bursting as explained above, hardware renewal can be really hard to budget for. This is what primarily makes scaling private cloud platforms challenging because if it is underpowered and cannot immediately purchase new hardware for a wide range of reasons, it will not be able to meet higher demands.
Public Cloud Computing
Public cloud computing mitigates many of the challenges of private cloud infrastructure and the primary reason for this is its shared infrastructure. Public cloud is where hardware is used to build a hypervisor and virtual servers are built on this platform. The way this works is that data storage infrastructure over the internet is offered to multiple users. Here, the service provider bears the expenses of bandwidth and infrastructure. The difference from a private cloud is that the platform can be shared by two or more organizations. A public cloud resides at a public data center. The public cloud allows an organization to focus on its business-centric technology as opposed to wasting time on non-core business functions. This means that they do not have to worry about infrastructure and the supporting assets like power, cooling and data center elements that are no longer required. Here’s a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of public cloud infrastructure:
- Lower Upfront Cost: In business, there are two factors affecting technology – headcount and departmental budget. As opposed to a private cloud where organizations need to purchase large infrastructure to commence operations which are known as capital expenditure (CAPEX), private cloud has lower upfront cost as it can be paid for as required periodically as an operating expense (OPEX). Headcount is, thus, lower and the budget moves from CAPEX to OPEX.
- Lower Support Cost: Support costs about power, security, and other things required for the effective management of the server are managed by the public cloud operators at no additional cost to the organizations. As opposed to having a full IT team in-house, the organization cedes the responsibility to a third party who shares cost amongst multiple users, making it cheaper per head.
- Disaster Recovery: In the event of a disaster, chances of safety are much higher with public cloud infrastructure. Public cloud has minimal risk of losing all of its data as most of the cloud service providers will naturally have multiple back-up infrastructures to curb the risk of loss.
- Greater Resources and Expertise: With the public cloud, the provider of the service takes care of hardware and software updates, implements robust security measures, and makes it easy to adapt at peak loads as resources can be increased or decreased easily.
- No Renewal of Hardware: A final advantage is that with the public cloud, there is no need to purchase additional hardware to scale platforms as organizations can simply ask for expansion on demand. This saves the cost of both purchasing large infrastructure, costs on the installation, and takes away the time lag that comes with hardware renewal.
- Additional Connectivity: One of the most important worries for those who use the public cloud is the risk of security breaches as servers are visible internet-wide, making them relatively vulnerable. While public clouds from credible providers have proven to be more secure than many private IT infrastructures, there is an additional need to customize security at an operating system level. There is also the need for a cloud SLA (cloud service-level agreement) which is between a cloud service provider and the customer.
- Additional Cost If Hardware Is Not End Of Life (EOI): There is also the additional cost that is incurred where the hardware being used is not the end of life. Some applications simply do not support virtualization and need to be on specific dedicated physical servers. There could also be costs of licensing and migrating to newer OS versions. The pay-as-you-go model, while convenient, can be costly if not actively monitored.
- Shared Control: Organizations do not have full control of the public infrastructure like a public one and this essentially means that customization of any form is restrained. Also, this shared control could make large organizations handling sensitive information have to deal with stringent security regulations.
- Some Learning Curve: For organizations that are used to running private infrastructure, using a public cloud platform will require a level of a learning curve especially in terms of managing complex data processes and systems.
- Interaction With Data Centre: As a result of the shared control that comes with the shared platform, large organizations will have to be in constant communication with the public data center to ensure that data is being handled properly in the back-end.
Hybrid Cloud Computing
The need to adapt quickly is a core principle of a digital business and hybrid cloud computing offers this agility. A hybrid cloud is simply a combination of private and public clouds. It is essentially a situation where a private cloud is extended into a public cloud. Hybrid cloud infrastructure allows large organizations to take advantage of the public cloud whenever they require to ease workload migration, thus making it a great option for ad-hoc needs. An example is that banks can use public cloud when it comes to managing high-volume applications such as emails but switch to their private cloud architecture for sensitive financial assets and core business documents. This option also allows for quick requests and fulfillment. The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid cloud computing:
- Allow Private Cloud Extra Capacity Quickly: Hybrid computing mitigates the scaling challenges of having a private cloud computing platform. Where a large organization needs to obtain additional capacity immediately, as opposed to purchasing additional hardware infrastructure, it can expand to a public infrastructure without the cost and the lag time involved. It, thus, provides more flexibility to businesses.
- Far More Resources than A Private Cloud: While the private cloud is limited in scope, a public cloud provides an array of services that are inaccessible to a private one. With hybrid cloud infrastructure, organizations stretch beyond the service provision boundaries of the private cloud and enjoy even more benefits. In simpler terms, they get to eat their cake and have it.
- Lower Cost than Private Cloud: As a result of their extension to the public cloud, they circumvent the additional cost of purchasing and maintaining solely private cloud infrastructure. In a competitive and fast-changing market, having a hybrid cloud option is very cost-effective access to resources without tying up large amounts of funds or justifying the under-utilization of committed assets. Costs are, thus, lower when compared to the private cloud while having control over its critical operations and assets.
- Management is Outsourced: Management of the private cloud could still be in-house; however, its use of public cloud gives it assess to experts who will provide additional services towards guiding organizations on the best way to sync their data usage on both platforms.
- Greater Security: With security as a challenge with the public cloud infrastructure, having both a private and public platform gives room for more control and enhanced security.
- Additional Configuration: For a hybrid system to work effectively, there needs to be a level of additional configuration to allow seamless operations. It can be difficult to predict the requirements for application development.
- Temporary Solution: Since a hybrid system balances things out for the organization dealing with heavy storage requirements or complex data processes, it is still a temporary solution. In time, the organization will either choose to opt for fully public infrastructure or a fully private one for concentrated management of its data.
- Additional Complexity: As a result of the additional requirements in terms of configuration and expansion, the hybrid system can be complex. It also requires a boutique system for the organization to ensure efficiency and for it to be relied on.
- Less Control than Private: This too offers less control than fully private cloud infrastructure.
- Single Vendor: Finally, a hybrid system requires that the organization holds on to a single vendor in order not to further complicate already complex management processes.