Choosing the Right Cloud Option

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In this day and age, cloud computing is a business necessity. People are spending more time outside the office and need access to company data and applications from the field, and need to share information with other employees and contractors in real time. Businesses are also giving their clients and customers access to data and information over the web.

Although cloud computing is becoming more popular, not all clouds are created equal. There are actually three different cloud options – public, private, and hybrid – and each option has its strengths and weaknesses in terms of cost, security, and functionality.

Public Clouds

Public clouds include services like Microsoft One Drive, Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive. These services store your data on servers located off-site from your business location. These services provide all of the hardware, storage, and the software you would use to access the cloud storage from a mobile device. They also handle all of their own security.

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Advantages of Public Clouds

Public services are usually the cheapest option because you don’t have to purchase or maintain any of the hardware. Some services even give users anywhere from 5 GB to 20 GB free storage, with the option to purchase more as storage needs increase.

Disadvantages of Public Clouds

Public clouds are kind of like the public lockers you used to find at bus stations and other transportation hubs. Anyone travelling through the station could rent a locker, and anyone on the internet can rent space on a public cloud server. This high visibility and high accessibility means that public cloud servers are more vulnerable to hackers, in the same way that public lockers are more vulnerable to break-ins.

Public clouds are useful if:

· You need a fairly low-cost option for sharing data and processes;
· The data you are sharing isn’t confidential or proprietary – such as financial information;
· Security and privacy are not a major issue.

Private Clouds

Private and public clouds have a lot of similarities, and it can be difficult to tell them apart. What often adds to the confusion is that some private cloud providers also offer public products, such as Microsoft’s public One Drive product, and its private Azure Security product. Both public and private clouds are accessible through the internet, and both services can provide and maintain the hardware and storage so that you don’t have to invest in your own server farm. However, there are also big differences that give private clouds distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Private Clouds

Private clouds are not visible or accessible to the entire internet. If public clouds are like the lockers at the bus station, then a private cloud is like the safety deposit boxes at the bank – Only the people who know the name and location of the bank, and have the key, can access the data. It also requires a little more work to set up the cloud service than just going to a web location and spending five minutes creating an account. Because of this, private clouds are not as vulnerable to hackers.

Another security advantage is that Cloud providers and customer share security responsibility. For example, for Microsoft Azure Security, Microsoft might create its own processes to protect the servers while customers rely on solutions from companies like Trend Micro to secure their specific Azure cloud. This means the customer has more control over how his data is secured.

The customer also has a lot more flexibility what he can do with his cloud. A lot of public clouds are used primarily for storage, whereas private clouds allow you to do application development, run virtual machines and other processes, and other functions.

Disadvantages of Private Clouds

Private clouds can be more expensive, depending on the type of functions you use on your cloud. Also, instead of charging a flat fee for a set amount of storage (i.e.: $10 per month for 100GB), private services have different tiers and payment schemes that can sometimes be confusing
They also require a little more hands-on from the customer than the public cloud. That same flexibility that can help you build the perfect cloud experience for you can also be very confusing if you’re not sure exactly what you need. The cloud provider can help, to an extent, but you might have to hire someone to help you determine what you need, configure the cloud, and manage the security.

Private clouds are the best option if:

· Your data is confidential or proprietary;
· You are in an industry that has to meet certain security standards;
· You have the resources to configure and manage your cloud.

Hybrid Clouds

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Hybrid clouds are a combination of public and private cloud options.

For example, you might use a public cloud to allow customers and clients access to certain data or processes, and use the private cloud for proprietary and confidential data and processes.

Advantages to Hybrid Clouds

You can provide the accessibility your clients and customers might need for the public data, while keeping your proprietary stuff private and well-protected.

Disadvantages to Hybrid Clouds

They can be confusing to set up and maintain. Although there are several services that can help companies set up a hybrid option, a company would still need a technical person on staff to get the most out of the hybrid and make sure everything is running well.

Hybrid clouds are the best option if:

· You have data with different levels of security;
· You want to give some people access to certain data and processes, but not others;
· You have the resources to maintain and manage the hybrid cloud.

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