All you ever wanted to know about cloud computing… which model is right for me?

Phil Muncaster

Saturday 13 December 2014

Cloud computing is not a one-size-fits-all affair. In this instalment, we take a look at the three current models and discuss which of them might be appropriate for your organisation.

Believe the hype in the mainstream media and you could be forgiven for thinking of cloud computing as a catch-all term for a homogenous, 21st century technology paradigm. Far from it. Within the overarching concept of the cloud, there are several different ways of implementing it, and different use cases in each instance – all of which may influence your purchasing and investment decisions.

Public cloud

This is perhaps what most people think of when they consider cloud computing. The public model involves a third party provider offering computing resources, such as applications and storage, to clients on what is usually a pay-per-use basis. These resources are made available publicly over the internet and are provided from a virtualised, shared infrastructure into which the customer has little visibility. This model is perfect for non-mission critical workloads or those use cases in which cost, scalability and elastic provision of resources are more important than security and/or having corporate data kept ‘in-house’.

Private cloud

Private clouds are dedicated to a single organisation and not shared with other firms, as per the public model. They offer all the benefits of a virtualised environment but unlike the public cloud, data is kept more secure, typically behind a firewall on a virtual private network. The private cloud is either on-premise or hosted exclusively by a provider, making it more expensive. Many risk-averse firms use this as a stepping stone into cloud computing. It’s ideal for highly regulated organisations or those processing and storing highly sensitive data, but which still want to benefit from elements of cloud computing like agile resource allocation.

Hybrid cloud

As the name suggests, this involves a mixture of both public and private, with some resources managed in house and others externally. This allows firms to enjoy the security and regulatory compliance benefits of private clouds alongside the cost-effectiveness and scalability of public cloud computing. A typical use case is ‘cloud bursting’, where organisations requiring a sudden increase in computing power can take advantage of highly scalable public cloud services without disrupting the service for their customers. Another advantage is that, unlike the public cloud, the private cloud element integrates better with on-premise hardware like printers and fax machines, which are still near-ubiquitous in most organisations. However, for collaboration on projects it may be more efficient to use public cloud resources. Analyst firm Gartner believes that, by 2017, 50 per cent of enterprises will employ some form of hybrid cloud computing as more and more organisations in industries like healthcare, finance and retail realise the “best-of-both-worlds” benefits that the model offers.