The public, private & hybrid cloud: What’s the difference?

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Did you know there is more than one type of cloud technology?

Not everyone does.

There are actually three different types of common cloud models: public, private, and hybrid. Each has its own unique benefits as well as their own individual drawbacks. You’ll need to know which best suits your needs—particularly when considering security, productivity, and bolstering your disaster recovery process.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s out there, what the positives and negatives are, and what you should consider when planning your cloud strategy.

The public cloud

This is the most popular model for cloud computing, and likely the one you’ve had the most experience with.

In this case, service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Dropbox or Google host the public cloud. This is what makes it public. All customers—from individual to large businesses—share the same overall infrastructure including storage options, bandwidth, collaborative software and server hardware.

There are often different tiers of service which affect storage space and access. But for the most part, everyone has access to the same tools at set costs. Some access is entirely free but usually offers relatively little storage space.

Virtually all subscription services allow for the opportunity to increase storage space as needed. Some public cloud options come with other accounts. Both Google and Microsoft are good examples of this model. You can customize either for little additional cost.

In short, the same thing is true for all versions of public cloud options. You only pay for the level of access you want.

That said, there are potential security issues for some companies.

You might remember a rash of hacked iCloud accounts targeting Hollywood celebrities and their personal photos. While Apple quickly assured the public the breach was not the result of any issues with iCloud, but rather specific, brute-force hacking attacks using login and password attempts, public confidence was understandably shaken for a time.

While iCloud’s service itself may not have been breached, most of the public cloud providers have trouble meeting regulatory compliance requirements because their networks and servers spread across many different countries, all with different regulatory rules.

If you do business in a regulated industry, do your homework.

One should also consider network and transmission issues during peak hours. If you conduct an automated backup during a time of high use, you might find that your automated backup routine will fail, necessitating a second attempt.

The private cloud

Running a private cloud is similar to running an old-fashioned storage server. Your business is the only one with access to the private cloud infrastructure. Your servers might be located on-site or they could be hosted by a third-party provider offsite.

Because your business is the only one allowed access, it is considerably more secure. Likewise, because only your business is designated to use this private cloud, network and transmission quality is more consistent and not victim to other users crowding bandwidth during peak hours.

A private cloud can also be customized to fit the specific needs of your company. It can be as large or small as you need it to be. You can specify its firewall conditions and easily control and monitor who has access. For a business that places an emphasis on data security, a private cloud is an excellent option.

Unfortunately, cost can be a factor.

Private cloud setups can be expensive to install—particularly if you use an in-house server. It will be important to research what options and services your private cloud provider is offering as you may find yourself contractually locked into some services you don’t necessarily require.

Finally, you should make sure your remote workers are not going to have trouble accessing your private cloud from whatever location they may be logging in from.

The hybrid cloud

And then there is the hybrid cloud. From its name, you can probably guess that it’s some kind of combination of public and private cloud services.

You’d be correct. And it’s a growing trend.

Using a hybrid cloud setup can include several options from different services. You can choose where data or applications will exist between public and private clouds. You might find that data serves you best on a public cloud because of its ease of access, but that applications will work better on a private cloud for its bandwidth stability.

There is a strong argument for its cost-effectiveness as it allows you to customize your setup to fit your unique needs, particularly when coordinating work with remote employees. You can also opt to use the more expensive private cloud services only when needed.

The drawbacks, however, comes down to issues of security and compatibility.

Maintaining your security protocols, while not insurmountable, can be more of a challenge for some businesses. Integration can be an issue as well when transferring data across platforms and making sure your online applications work seamlessly with transferred data.

What this means for you

As with all business technology available to you, it’s important to thoroughly research your options.

Ask yourself: What do you need and what don’t you need. What can your budget handle, and what kind of support do you have in place?

Cloud computing has changed much in the way we do business. To stay on the leading edge, you need to employ current and emerging technology as efficiently and productively as possible.