Understanding the differences between Public and Private Cloud

The rise of cloud computing has been rapid over the last decade.

The IT industry has gone from expensive servers and server rooms located on-premises or in a nearby data center to an almost complete dependence on public and private cloud services.

What’s even more fascinating is that 10+ years ago the business world had almost no trust in the ‘business cloud’. Everything from Microsoft Exchange email servers to all of a business’s data was hosted on servers managed directly by the business, or by an IT company like Britec.

Fast-forward to today and a great deal of our data is stored with major providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. If one (or all) of these major providers experience a disruption or outage — business operations that require connectivity across North America, and sometimes the world, will grind to a halt.

A question the team at Britec always takes great care and consideration in answering is: What is the correct balance of Public and Private Cloud services for a business? And, is an on-premises server still needed?

Understanding the differences between Public, Private, and On-Premises

What is the Public Cloud?
When a third-party provider offers computing services over the public internet it would be considered the public cloud. A public cloud can be a free or paid service, and anyone can make use of it (by signing up or logging in).

Examples of the public cloud include: Dropbox.com, Google Documents, and almost all free software (online or via mobile apps).

What is the Private Cloud?
The private cloud is custom configured and built around the needs of a business. Private clouds are available over the internet or private internal network and are only available to invited users. Those users would be invited and set up typically by an IT department.

Examples of a private cloud are lesser known as they are typically built for the specific needs of a business, and only employees and leadership of that business are invited to it. A private cloud can run through an IT company, a data centre, or even through on-premises hosting.

What does “On-Premises” mean?
On-premises means that the hardware and ‘private network’ is located at the physical location of the business. This is technically considered a ‘private cloud’ but has the added complexity of requiring you to buy and maintain all of the hardware.

What are the Advantages of the Public Cloud?

A big draw for the public cloud, especially with small businesses and startups, is the lack of upfront capital expenditure. You pay for what you need as you need it. Just pick a package that will suit the balance of your cost (vs) feature requirements.

The challenge is managing your public cloud services as a business grows. As new features and/or users are added, your costs can start to increase dramatically (a great example of this is the Marketing CRM Hubspot). The important lesson is to always be analyzing your software costs (at the very least once per year, if not bi-annually).

What are the Disadvantages of the Public Cloud?

One of the biggest disadvantages becomes apparent when anything goes wrong. If a public cloud service is down… you and all the other customers of that service are in the same boat as you wait for it to come back online. This is further demonstrated by long waits when you submit support tickets (we’ve even seen some vendors take weeks to respond to a ticket).

Because the hardware and software infrastructure of the public cloud service is not controlled by your business or IT team, you are completely vulnerable if that provider goes down. The only way for a business to protect itself is to read the terms and conditions and choose its Cloud provider carefully.

Security can also be an issue with public cloud services. They use what is called a ‘shared responsibility model’ for security. This means that the cloud provider is responsible for the environment that they provide you, but the users within your business are responsible for ensuring their security when using the cloud. Without proper management and training, this can create vulnerabilities. (As always, it all comes down to IT training.)

What are the Advantages of the Private Cloud?

The private cloud gives your business complete control of how your digital infrastructure is set up, the applications and software used, and the security protocols protecting your business and its data. If your business has specialized security, regulatory, or infrastructure requirements – then a private cloud is the only choice. Private cloud services give you maximum control over your entire environment.

Private clouds are frequently used when “data residency” is important for a business. Controlling where your data resides can protect critical information from being accessed, even from a court order.

As we discuss further down this article, Britec typically recommends a blend of private and public cloud… but this depends entirely on your type of business and specific needs.

What are the Disadvantages of the Private Cloud?

The most significant factor when it comes to the private cloud is two-fold. First, there is the matter of investment/cost in the hardware and software to run the cloud. Secondly, it is vital that the right team is managing and overseeing your private cloud solution – it does not come with a built-in IT department.

Other considerations when deciding for or against private cloud come down to the software you wish to run and how scalable you want your service to be. For example, if you had a WordPress website that frequently saw 5000% spikes in traffic, it would be wise to host your site on a premium public cloud solution (versus self-hosting it).

Should I use both Private and Public Cloud offerings?

This decision depends entirely on what your business and information security needs are. If complete control of your network from top-to-bottom is a requirement, then your business should be running on a private cloud which is set up and configured to the exact needs of your business.

The public cloud allows a business to avoid larger upfront capital expenses, preferring a predictable recurring operations expense. This is, again, dependent on the needs of the business.

Let’s use the example of a CRM system. Most CRM systems (Hubspot, Salesforce, etc) are considered paid services running on the public cloud. With (almost) no exception if you want to use these services your CRM will have to live on the public cloud. (And with services like O-AUTH it can connect directly to your network.)

At the same time, your business accounting software would be much safer if it was running on the private cloud. This would allow your IT provider to maximize security and have total control of important details (such as remote access).

A modern business’ digital infrastructure is typically a blend of public and private clouds. Allowing the business to balance out user needs, costs, and scalability as they see fit.

Britec is here to help.

If you’re looking for a reliable managed private cloud with data residency in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – please consider chatting with the Britec team. We can build a service package tailored to your needs within a private cloud that is exclusively created for your business. We call it the Britec Private Cloud.

Empowering our clients to make informed IT decisions is the foundation of what Britec has been doing since 1988. We bring together old-school methodologies and customer service with new technology to help modern IT make sense for business leaders.

If you think we might be able to help, don’t hesitate to contact us.