The Cloud Showdown
For small and medium businesses (SMB) seeking to grow in 2016, options for increasing efficiency abound. The Cloud offers many benefits for businesses, including slashing IT expenses, providing a more efficient and reliable way to store and back up data, and facilitating collaboration among employees. In fact, 39 percent of SMBs claim that file backup is the first priority task for which they use the Cloud, specifically cloud storage services.
However, migrating to the Cloud is no simple task. There are many important factors to consider before taking this step. One key decision involves choosing the cloud solution that best fits your company’s needs: public, private, or hybrid.
What are the differences between public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
The public cloud is unique because users can access resources, such as applications and storage space, publicly over the Internet. Dropbox and Google Drive are two popular examples of the public cloud.
1. High Level of Scalability – Public cloud solutions offer numerous benefits to businesses, specifically data scalability. And, in the SMB environment, where business demands are prone to fluctuation, scalability is especially appealing. When more or less data space is required, businesses using the public cloud can adjust the space available to them – either up or down – nearly instantaneously.
“The public cloud’s nearly unlimited scalability makes it a very flexible option for businesses. This means you only pay for the resources you use, when you use them.” – David Linthicum, senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners
2. No On-Site Equipment Required – Besides the pay-as-you-go pricing feature, the public cloud does not require businesses to install equipment onsite, which decreases the overall cost of using the Cloud. Because cloud Service Providers (CSP) have an incentive to make their products as easy to use and accessible as possible, the public cloud is simpler to navigate and more intuitive than private or hybrid solutions.
3. Magnitude of Resources Available from Cloud Vendor – Unlike private cloud solutions, the public cloud is a fairly inexpensive option for businesses. Because the public cloud leaves infrastructure monitoring and maintenance to a cloud vendor, a company can offload these tasks to a service that has more resources.
“For example, Amazon can run a distribution center and manage their cloud infrastructure more efficiently than a single company due to scale. It’s hard to argue that any one company can have the same amount of scale as a big cloud vendor, like Amazon.” – Duane Tharp, vice president of technical sales and services for Cloud Elements
However, the public cloud is not perfect. Businesses considering this option also should educate themselves about its disadvantages.
1. Security Risks – Because using the public cloud means a business’ data is stored on external equipment, it is necessary to consider the array of security issues that may arise and then implement safeguards to monitor and protect data.
“All that matters is that the Cloud is secure. Therefore, if you choose a public cloud service, you should make sure that it is secure.” – Jason Reichl, CEO of Go Nimbly
2. Choice-Convenience Tradeoff – With the public cloud, there is a trade off between convenience and choice. Businesses using a public cloud solution cannot choose the equipment on which their data and applications are stored. Rather, the CSP makes this decision.
Private cloud solutions service a single company and are managed in-house by an IT department. This set-up offers a number of benefits.
1. High Level of Security and Privacy – Security concerns dominate business leaders’ thoughts when it comes to the Cloud. You cannot help them for worrying about data breaches that may arise due to purposeful security hacks or human error. A single data breach can cost thousands of dollars and may even result in a lawsuit. As companies focus their efforts on ensuring secure cloud systems, a private solution increasingly becomes more appealing.
“These days, many organizations are concerned about using a shared infrastructure, or shared Cloud, because of security. Now, more organizations are willing to go to private or shared cloud solutions because of the security tools and services that have been developed in the past two to three years for the Cloud.” – Jose Alvarez, director of IT infrastructure at Auxis
2. Greater Control Over Cloud Infrastructure – The private cloud grants companies more control over the system’s infrastructure. The company can tailor its cloud system to meet specific needs, standards, and regulations.
The private cloud has its own set of disadvantages.
1. Lack of Flexibility – Private cloud solutions lack flexibility, which is often touted as the Cloud’s greatest benefit.
“Once a company invests in a cloud infrastructure, it must adhere to a specific lifecycle. This means there is no pay-as-you-go pricing advantage or off-site equipment. A company has to acquire the equipment and skills needed to operate the technology in order to sustain the private cloud.” – Duane Tharp
2. Higher Cost – Private cloud solutions are more expensive because of their do-it-yourself (DIY) characteristics. Besides losing the pay-as-you-go data space feature, companies have to buy servers, pay for the electricity the servers require, and hire IT talent to keep the system running and fix problems quickly.
“In the private cloud, you’re limited to the resources you buy. You use your own hardware and software, which you have to pay for and set up. There is no cost elasticity.” – David Linthicum
A hybrid cloud solution incorporates aspects of both the private and public cloud models. Some resources are trusted to a public CSP, while others are kept in-house and private.
The hybrid cloud is the best of both worlds because it combines the advantages of both the public and private cloud. For example, a company can move workloads between public and private solutions thus eliminating the private cloud’s inflexibility and the public cloud’s limited security.
Conversely, hybrid cloud solutions also assume the disadvantages of the private and public cloud, such as a lower level of security for data stored on the public cloud. Hybrid cloud solutions also are more complex, making it necessary to have a knowledgeable IT staff on-hand to confront problems that arise.
Whether a public, private, or hybrid cloud solutions is best for you business depends on what your company needs from the Cloud.
“I don’t think there are pros and cons. I think each company needs to evaluate and determine what is the best solution for their needs.” – Jose Alvarez
A common school of though is that a public cloud solution makes more sense for small businesses that use the cloud on an ever-changing scale, while a private or hybrid cloud solution is more appropriate for medium and larger companies.
One way to think about the different cloud solutions is as though you are renting or buying a car. If you need a car for a week only, it makes more financial and practical sense to rent the car. However, if you plan to put another 200,000 miles on the car, obviously you should consider buying. Whether you buy or rent the car depends on your context and needs, and it is the same with the Cloud.
By Sarah Patrick
Sarah is an analyst at Clutch. As a member of the marketing team, she conducts research that aims to help consumers select agencies and firms and use IT services and software that enhance their business. Clutch is a Washington, DC-based research, reviews, and ratings platform for B2B. It identifies leading software and professional services firms that deliver results for their clients.