Cloud computing: Which option is right for you?
When it comes to business IT solutions, cloud computing is unquestionably the way forward for many companies. Over the last few years, this technology has gone from being a hyped-up buzzword to a central part of the way organisations of all shapes and sizes operate.
But if you're coming to the cloud for the first time it may seem like a minefield, with a huge range of tools and deployment options to choose from. Get it right and you can be well set for years to come, but go down the wrong route and it can be costly and time-consuming to correct your course.
One of the biggest decisions you'll have to make is what type of cloud to go for. There are three key options here - public, private and hybrid. Each have their own pros and cons and may be better-suited to some scenarios that others.
So which option is the best for your business? This decision will depend on many factors, such as the type of data you have, how flexible you need to be and your level of in-house IT resources.
If you're unsure about what will work best when you're choosing a cloud solution, read on for our top tips on each option and what it could do for your business.
This is the option most people think of when they hear about the cloud. It involves a service provider making resources available over a public network such as the internet. These resources, such as software or data storage services, are available publicly and shared by multiple users.
Because these services are managed centrally by a provider, public cloud options are very flexible. If your business needs to quickly add computing power or storage to meet demand, this can be done easily and cheaply. They're usually purchased on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis and can be set up in hours or even minutes, rather than weeks.
Because data is being sent over public networks to shared data centres, public cloud can't guarantee the same levels of security as other options. There are also issues such as data sovereignty to consider, particularly if information is held in countries other than where the business is based. Public options also typically offer users less control over their solutions, which makes them unsuitable for use in heavily-regulated industries.
Private clouds, as the name suggests, aren't shared with other users. The hardware, infrastructure and applications are dedicated only to one individual customer, with services delivered via secure connections.
One of the main benefits of this approach is the additional security and control that can be achieved. If businesses need to meet specific compliance regulations, this level of protection and visibility into what is going on within the network will be vital. Companies can also take advantage of the fact private clouds are far more customisable than public alternatives, so they can build a solution tailored to their exact needs.
However, this level of control and security does come with a cost - and it's often a financial one. Private cloud deployments tend to be more expensive than public options, while they also require businesses to have a higher level of IT expertise in order to build and maintain the system. While cloud firms will still do some of the heavy lifting, businesses cannot simply sign up to a private service and leave it solely in the service provider's hands to the same extent they can with public alternatives.
The third option is hybrid cloud, which involved a mixture of both public and private services. Often described as a 'best of both worlds' solution, it enables companies to pick and choose which elements of their IT environment are delivered via the public cloud and which come via private solutions.
This means that businesses can mitigate many of the negative aspects of the other options. So if they need agility and scalability, they can rely on public services, but still turn to private solutions for parts of the business where higher security is required, such as storing sensitive personal information.
In order to ensure a hybrid cloud is working effectively, it will be vital that data is able to transfer fluidly from public to private parts of a network. This can present a potential weak point or bottleneck that can slow down operations if not addressed. Upfront costs for deploying a hybrid cloud can also be very high, depending on the exact mix of services that a business needs.
Which is best?
There's no simple answer to the question of which option is best, as each business will have its own requirements. A financial services company, for instance, is likely to need the security of a private solution, while a public cloud's ability to scale up quickly will be invaluable to a retailer looking to gear up for the holiday season. In many cases, a hybrid solution may end up being the best option, as it's best of both worlds approach allows firms to take advantage of both public and private options while minimising their drawbacks.