Count how many digital services you rely on day to day. Now, count how many of those must connect to the internet and how many of those are subscription-based. After connecting to my CRM, email marketing manager, Adobe Creative Cloud for designing marketing material, SEO tools, I realized my entire job relies on cloud-based services. I can’t be the only one either. It seems like all the services we rely on daily as professionals are moving towards the cloud. So, let’s try to understand it.
The cloud is mainly split between 3 different solutions “Private”, “Public”, and “Hybrid”. But as more and more data is processed and stored in data centers, there is an increasingly hot debate amongst businesses who are arguing about the pros and cons between using a private cloud or public cloud data strategy. And there is no clear winner. Both the public and private clouds have compromises which cause many companies to also consider hybrid strategies.
The Private Cloud
Let’s start with on-premises private cloud. The “on-prem” private cloud is a solution that is hosted on private hardware and typically accessed over a private network. Example: consider a desktop tower that contains all the data needed to run your business which is accessed over an internal intranet. Information can be accessed remotely, but that information is largely limited via different certifications and access levels. Although the private cloud is secure, scalability is challenging and private clouds often lack redundancy in case of hardware failure. Private clouds can also be immensely expensive as companies need to purchase their own hardware if they want to scale. That hardware must also be replaced regularly leading to added maintenance and expense. This makes owning hardware hard to scale with company growth. This issue of scalability typically leads many businesses to use a public cloud.
The Public Cloud
The “Public Cloud” refers to a cloud that is provided by a third party (like ZebraHost). With a public cloud, the cloud provider manages all the infrastructure and data that is hosted on their system. Some of the advantages include near-infinite scalability, lower costs for businesses due to not owning hardware, more flexible As a Service (aaS) payment structure, and security solutions backed by dedicated data experts and physical data centers.
Examples of other public cloud providers are big tech companies that store user data in their Software as a Service (SaaS) applications or Platform as a Service (PaaS) infrastructure. Example: Salesforce’s popular CRM platform. Salesforce is a platform for users to upload sales activity data. With a subscription to Salesforce, companies can store their sales data on the servers that Salesforce owns. Not only that, but Salesforce also acts as a platform for companies to implement custom APIs and or build their own customized platform on. All a company subscribed to Salesforce has to do is pay a monthly subscription fee. While paying a subscription, the company can customize Salesforce CRM to fit their needs. All backend data hosting and infrastructure is taken care of by Salesforce.
But again, there are cons to a public cloud.
For example, many do not like the idea of a 3rd party controlling all their data and having access to potentially sensitive information and trade secrets. Also, with nothing being hosted on-premises, there is no place to store the most sensitive data away from potentially prying eyes. This is especially important for industries like Healthcare IT and Finance which have regulatory requirements often disqualifying them from hosting data on a public cloud.
Because of the challenges presented by both the public and private cloud, more and more corporations are beginning to seek out a third option… the hybrid cloud.
The Hybrid Cloud
The hybrid cloud offers the best of both worlds. It offers a private cloud for storing base application infrastructure or extremely sensitive data while allowing near-infinite scalability, redundancy, and cost savings.
The hybrid cloud is an infrastructure strategy where a company will maintain its own private cloud as the core for its data while utilizing a public cloud to scale.
There are multiple ways to use a hybrid cloud strategy. Arguably the greatest strength of the hybrid cloud is its flexibility. Here are a few ways companies can use the hybrid cloud strategy:
- Storing the most sensitive data on a private cloud then storing more routine data on a public cloud
- Storing core application infrastructure on a private cloud then building on it in the public cloud
- Using a private cloud as the primary server then saving some data on the public cloud for redundancy.
- Using the augment a local private cloud for seasonal traffic surges.
The above are only a few common examples of ways companies might use a hybrid cloud, but they all boil down to a few key advantages:
Controlled Scalability – The hybrid cloud allows scalability, but at a level you decide is comfortable for your business. For example, your business might have HIPAA data that can’t be stored on a public cloud but might also have more routine, less sensitive data that would be more appropriate to store on a public cloud. You can keep the HIPAA data on your private cloud while saving cost by utilizing the public cloud for any other data which scales per your needs.
Cost Efficiency – Scalability feeds directly into the second main advantage of the hybrid cloud which is cost-efficiency. Because your business doesn’t have to purchase new equipment to host your remaining data and instead builds on an already established foundation, it’s much cheaper to outsource to a 3rd party. 3rd party providers use their own equipment and most charge a monthly Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) fee. An IaaS fee will be more manageable than buying hardware outright for most businesses because hardware costs are split between multiple tenants using the cloud provider’s hardware. This means that for most businesses, paying a monthly fee is cheaper overall and splits costs over long periods of time. Some businesses prefer to have Operational Expenses over Capital Expenses for easier accounting.
Redundancy – Redundancy is generally poor for private cloud solutions. Having private hardware and no ability to transfer data to other hardware of another data center naturally means there is more risk involved with storing data. Both public and hybrid clouds offer more redundancy and as a result, a safer environment for your business. If data is backed up into a public cloud as well as a private cloud, its accessible from two places. Even if separate data is kept between your public and private clouds, you still won’t lose everything if there should be a hardware failure. The hybrid cloud offers redundancy and redundancy offers peace of mind.
Right now, there is no denying the cloud is going to continue to expand in importance to how we perform our daily tasks and how we run our businesses. The impressive scalability, redundancy, and profits from cloud services are too good to pass up in their entirety.
Many companies rushed to the cloud. Some are adopting cloud-first strategies that will see their entire business and data inhabiting the public cloud. But others are starting to adopt a more cautious approach, afraid of what could happen if they leave everything to a third party. It makes sense that businesses want to take an approach that allows them to hold onto the most critical data on-premises whilst scaling with a cloud provider as needed.
We will likely continue to see the hybrid cloud become an increasingly important part of how information and applications are stored and managed. But dedicated private clouds and public cloud solutions will also continue to be solutions with their own advantages.