Cloud computing can be the right solution for your organization for a variety of reasons. But which type of cloud will best meet your company’s needs? One that offers cloud applications to run your business, a public cloud option (there are four main categories), or a dedicated or shared private cloud? It depends on the results you’re looking for.
When a company is thinking about moving (or continuing to move) IT infrastructure and functionality to the cloud, it’s usually for one or more of these reasons:
- Simplicity and efficiency — Organizations get the benefit of advanced hardware and software capabilities without the work of continually managing, maintaining, and upgrading the infrastructure.
- Smaller in-house IT staff — With less infrastructure to manage, budget dollars can be allocated elsewhere. A smaller staff also means less time and effort spent on training internal teams on new-technology best practices.
- OpEx with monthly billing — Even though transitioning to the cloud doesn’t lower overall IT expenses for companies that need computing power all the time (despite what cloud companies say in their marketing), it replaces unpredictable CapEx to a more predictable OpEx.
- Subscribe only to the services they need — Organizations don’t want to spend money on services they never use, just as consumers don’t want to spend money on cable channels they never watch. Cloud computing is flexible.
- Scalability — Cloud computing options let companies opt in when they need extra computing power and opt out when they don’t. For developers and companies with a fluid workforce, this is especially beneficial.
Depending on your business objectives, the type of cloud you choose matters.
Most companies choose a hybrid approach. A hybrid (integrated) approach combines cloud computing with traditional on-premises infrastructure — typically, only start-ups and small companies go all-cloud because they don’t own a lot of IT infrastructure or have legacy apps and complex processes. The rest choose one or more types of clouds to meet specific business objectives. Here’s a breakdown of your choices:
1. Cloud Applications
Which business problems does it solve? If you don’t have enough users to warrant building your own platforms to get sophisticated apps, you can subscribe to clouds that already have them. Through licensing agreements, you subscribe based on your number of users or how often they use it. You don’t need IT staff to manage, update, or patch applications — the ASP handles these responsibilities and delivers them to subscribers automatically — and you can cancel your subscriptions at any time.
Some cons of cloud applications:
- Less control of data
- Exchange of information (interoperability) between platforms can be complex or limited
- No security visibility
- Must be connected to the Internet or other connection for access
2. Public Cloud
What is it?: Public clouds offer subscribers computing resources on demand. The third-party manages and maintains the data centers and you pay for the usage, storage or bandwidth you use and can cancel your subscriptions on short notice. Examples include Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The public cloud solves a variety of business problems that break down into four basic categories:
1. Infrastructure and Platform as a Service (IaaS and PaaS)
Which business problems does it solve? If your organization is technology-driven and builds its own applications, IaaS and PaaS options allow you to rent servers in the cloud to access a lot of computing capacity only when you need it. Your company does not have to own, manage, or maintain the computing power that you only need occasionally. Examples of IaaS and PaaS include:
- Application containers
- Integrated application logic processes
- Short-term large-scale deployments
- Dynamic-autoscaling infrastructure
- Batch process needs
- Media transcoding
- Application testing toolkits
- Source code repositories
- DevOps automation
- Application templates
- Developer toolkits
2. Cloud data storage
Which business problems does it solve? Storing data in the cloud instead of on your own servers frees you up from having to own, manage, and maintain servers specifically for storage. Cloud data storage offers multiple performance options so you can tailor your subscription to meet your performance and cost needs. Examples of cloud data storage include:
- Archival storage
- Dynamic capacity storage for cloud applications
3. Database as a Service (DBaaS)
Which business problems does it solve? Many organizations need access to sophisticated databases but don’t have the necessary tools, experience, or staff (or possibly capital) to build their own databases in-house. DBaaS allows you to access databases on an as-needed basis for specific purposes, such as building reports and dashboards, without having to buy and manage expensive hardware and software. Examples of DBaaS include:
- Indexed and Key-Value Databases
- Performance Caching Options
- Data Warehousing
- Data Management Toolkits available for advanced operations
4. Cloud-based networking options
Which business problems does it solve? Organizations that have specific requirements — for example, building or hosting apps in the cloud or connecting to cloud-based apps, data, or databases — can use the public cloud to improve their network performance. With access to advanced cloud-based networking features, you can connect your offices to and from the cloud to improve efficiency and results. Cloud-based options include:
- Load balancing
Some cons of public clouds:
- Subscribers may pay a premium if they don’t use public cloud services often
- Subscribers may pay for dynamic capacity that they don’t need
- Data transfer fees to move back out of the cloud can be prohibitively high (Leapfrog calls this the Hotel California effect)
- Lack of security visibility
- Pricing can be unpredictable — heavy-use months can come with sticker shock
3. Private Cloud
Which business problems does it solve? If your organization needs to run traditional or legacy apps and/or improve its security and network integration but still wants to take advantage of the OpEx model, a private cloud provides the flexibility you need. You can maintain your current IT paradigm through cloud customization — it’s the build-to-suit option. Private clouds allow you to configure and control your cloud environment to meet your needs, including providing extra protection for intellectual property or preserving current hardware systems such as phone-based time clocks.
There are two categories of private clouds:
Organizations share a private cloud infrastructure that:
- Is highly customizable, including unique security and compliance standards
- Integrates cloud and premise-based technologies
- Offers dedicated and/or internet-based connectivity
- Is based on a reserved-capacity billing model with less complex, more predictable pricing when scaling up or down
- Bills monthly based on usage
Organizations have a cloud to themselves for:
- The highest level of customization and control of maintenance, patches, and upgrades
- An added level of trust for those with special security or philosophical concerns regarding shared infrastructure
- Intense computing power needs
- Consistent pricing as there is no reserve capacity — added capacity, if needed, is added permanently
- A longer commitment, typically three years, as the infrastructure is reserved solely for the single organization
Some cons of private clouds:
- Less ability to scale quickly
- Application development toolkits are not typically available
- Not practical for highly volatile, non-predictable workloads
Focus on results
Your decision about moving to the cloud should start with the business results you want to achieve. One type of cloud may stand out as the solution you’re looking for, or you may decide that a combination of clouds is best — cloud apps for basic business functions, public cloud for scaling and storage, and a private cloud to safeguard highly sensitive data, for example. There are countless possible configurations. Today’s cloud options give you that flexibility. An experienced, skilled cloud services specialist can offer guidance to help you make the best choices.
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