Cloud Computing: Public Sector vs. Private Sector

When it comes to effectively managing your business data, no other advancement has been the subject of questions and controversy than the cloud. More and more businesses are turning to the cloud to manage their data offsite. Proponents of using networked hardware and software point to the convenience, cost-savings and security of colocating data, but for those organizations still looking to make the switch, the question remains: should we use a public cloud or develop our own private network?

Public vs. Private: A Primer

Every day, dozens of businesses sign up to use the Google suite of business applications. From Gmail to Google docs to Google calendar, these services offer businesses the essential tools they need to get their work done for a reasonable price.

Google, and companies including Microsoft and Amazon AWS, are examples of the public cloud. Users sign up to use the network and software, and access the tools via the internet. All user data is stored on the provider’s network and users are not able to directly connect to the service.

A private cloud, on the other hand, is developed and managed for one particular company. For example, a southern California company may work with a San Diego colocation provider to develop a network of offsite servers that the company connects to from their offices. These types of clouds are only used by one specific organization, rather than being part of a space shared by multiple organizations.

Pros and Cons

As one might imagine, organizations that are concerned about security tend to prefer private clouds, as they are only accessible by those who have the proper credentials. However, both public and private cloud providers take security very seriously, and in general your data will be safe in either cloud type.

There are other considerations, too, that companies must examine before they decide whether to head to a public or private cloud.  Cost is a primary concern for many organizations and the public cloud is undoubtedly less expensive than private networks. In fact, for small or startup companies, a public cloud presents a way to stay connected and manage the workflow without investing in an expensive infrastructure.  A private cloud, on the other hand, represents a more significant cost; not only is there a potential cost associated with purchasing the actual equipment, but there are also costs for staff to install and maintain the equipment and network.

However, a private cloud offers some advantages to business. Private clouds offer more control, over both the design and the implementation of the system, as well as the security of your data. A private cloud can be set up either on or off-site, and you can customize the services to best fit your business needs. In some cases, you can utilize a private cloud that shares space with other organizations to pool resources and achieve maximum efficiency for minimum cost.

Choosing a Cloud Provider

No matter which type of cloud you choose for your organization, choosing the right cloud provider can make all the difference in how efficiently and effectively it operates. No matter which type of cloud you opt for, there are some points you should consider before you choose a vendor:

  • ·        Whether or not the vendor can provide both desktop and application virtualization
  • ·        Whether the vendor can use your existing technology
  • ·        Whether the vendor provides you with assistance with setting up and maintaining your system, and what type of support services are offered
  • ·        Whether the vendor offers flexibility; in other words, if you start on the public cloud, can you switch to a private one, or vice versa?
  • ·        What type of security measures are in place to protect your network and data

Asking the right questions of any potential cloud vendor will help you make the right choice, and effectively manage your organization’s IT functions.

Making the switch from onsite servers and data management to cloud computing is a major undertaking for any business, but one that can make an immense difference in cost, productivity and efficiency. Weigh the different options after asking yourself these series of questions and chose accordingly depending on your needs, and soon you, too, will be taking your business “to the cloud.”

Carolyn Kenyon is the senior IT manager for a large accounting firm in the northeast. She recently completed a project in which she migrated her company’s network to a private, offsite cloud provider. She also operates a successful freelance writing business, using Google’s public cloud platform.