David RollisonDecember 23, 2019

A Practical Guide to Public vs. Private Cloud, Part 1

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The time has come for your organization to move on-premise applications and/or infrastructure to the cloud. The savings are there. The efficiency gains are proven. The Cloud is the best and arguably the only way to keep up with a constantly changing IT environment. So, you start checking out different vendor websites. You look up peer reviews and recommendations. You narrow down your choices and schedule a call with a sales rep. When all is said and done, how prepared are you for that conversation?

Education is a critical determinant in finding the best cloud solution for your business. You need to be as knowledgeable and informed as possible in order to ask the right questions and steer the conversation in the right direction. You don’t need to have all the answers. You just need a foundational understanding of the differences between cloud models, specifically public versus private. 

Public vs.Private Cloud: The Facts 

The conversation around cloud has gotten convoluted in recent years. There’s a ton of information out there, yet most sources are strategically positioned to promote one solution over the other. A lot of the time we hear that public cloud is “bad” because it’s “less secure.” At the same time, private cloud is attacked for being “expensive” and “hard to deploy.” These different cloud models exist for a reason. It’s your right to decide what’s best for your organization. It’s time to cut through the noise and present the facts. 

With that, here’s a straight-forward breakdown of public and private cloud:

Public Cloud: Everything You Need to Know 

What is Public Cloud?

Public cloud services are offered by third-party providers over the public Internet, making them available to anyone who wants to use or purchase them. Public cloud services can be sold on-demand, allowing enterprises to pay only for what they use (i.e. CPU cycles, storage, bandwidth consumed). 

What Are the Pros of Public Cloud?

Trusted (at least, growing confidence in) security: While there’s nothing quite as safe as housing data on-premise, recent advancements in technology along with improved security measures have eased the fears of many regarding public cloud. New research from IDG shows that 58% of companies trust public cloud providers' data security platforms and protocols over their own IT departments. This makes sense, considering that most data breaches are a result of human error. Data stored in the public cloud is less likely to be compromised due to an employee’s mistake. 

Cyber security expertise: In a recent survey conducted by Intel Security, 60% of engineering firms said that a lack of security skills is slowing down their cloud adoption plans. Larger, public cloud vendors have the budget to hire top personnel and leading security tools, taking the pressure of having to manage and protect your infrastructure and applications. In this way, public cloud also provides immediate access to the most advanced security services on the market. 

Cost savings: With no capital investments, no maintenance and update costs, and flexible pay-as-you-go pricing, public cloud is generally considered more cost-effective than private cloud. Yet savings will depend on the type of workloads you choose to run. With public cloud providers offering an extensive product portfolio (compute, storage, databases, networking, mobile, enterprise applications), it’s important that you select only the solutions you require to avoid overspending. 

Freed up IT talent: Removing the responsibility of having to manage your applications and/or infrastructure gives your IT team more time to focus on value-added activities like revenue-generation, improving your customers’ experiences, and identifying competitive new opportunities for your organization. 

Other benefits of public cloud include immediate global availability (perfect for start-ups and quickly expanding businesses); maximum uptime (almost all public cloud providers today guarantee more than 99% uptime and no risk failure); and high flexibility without redundancy (never worry about data backup or excess costs). 

What Are the Cons of Public Cloud?

Possible hidden fees: With little visibility into public cloud operations, it can be difficult to determine if certain costs are excessive. Because of this, public cloud providers can build in management and support fees that are difficult to uncover. Worst case scenario, research suggests these support costs can result in a 50-70% increase over a private cloud environment. In the end, this comes down to finding a trusted, reputable and transparent public cloud provider. 

Loss of control: Essentially, you’re trusting another party to take care of your data. You’re assuming they will maintain their data centers and servers with the same care you would, if not more. This can be unnerving for some. It’s worth noting, however, that 54% of enterprises recently surveyed by IDG say they aren’t worried about loss of control over application and infrastructure with their transition to public cloud. This really comes down to selecting the best, “public cloud ready” applications, which we get into below. 

Security: Despite the findings above from IDG, there are still sources that indicate concern about public cloud security. For example, DivvyCloud’s “2019 State of Enterprise Cloud and Container Adoption and Security” report found that 74% of companies are highly concerned about the security of public cloud. Yet it seems lack of education is at the heart of this issue, with less than half of respondents being able to demonstrate an understanding of the security challenges, protocols, etc. associated with public cloud.

Other commonly cited drawbacks include compliance (again, you must trust your provider), network connection dependency (you might feel more secure maintaining control), and limited features (not all public cloud providers are created equal).   

What Works Best Under a Public Cloud Model?

Applications that are generally considered “public cloud ready” include development and testing, training servers, one-time big data projects, websites, CRM, project management, email, and HR. Perhaps also worth noting is that Gartner expects business intelligence, supply chain management, project and portfolio management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to see the fastest growth in end-user spending on public cloud applications through 2022.  

Who Benefits Most? 

Intel’s data shows that public cloud adoption is highest in services companies (i.e. accounting firms, consulting firms, logistics services companies).  

Public Cloud: The Bottom Line 

A public cloud model would work best for you if:

  • You want low upfront investment
  • You need high scalability and flexibility to meet hard-to-predict demands
  • You want reduced complexity
  • You want flexible pricing models 
  • You don’t need your infrastructure to be private 
  • You don’t need to control costs as your business scales
  • You don’t need to automate your infrastructure at scale
  • You don’t need high levels of customization 

Think you might need a private cloud instead? Stay tuned for Part 2! In the meantime, check out our “Beginner’s Guide to Blended Cloud.”  

Pros & Cons of a public cloud.

David Rollison

David Rollison is a Senior Marketing Manager at Avaya tasked with leading marketing efforts for Avaya Professional Services, as well as supporting Avaya's cloud initiatives. Getting his start with a BFA in Theatre, Playwrighting and Directing from Cornish College of the Arts, David has spent the last 12 years supporting B2C and B2B messaging and strategy across the technology sector.

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