Private vs. public vs. hybrid cloud infrastructure

The cloud is an incredible technological innovation. For years, companies that didn't have the money for major computing resources simply couldn't compete with those that did. The cloud changed all of this by allowing organizations to basically rent these resources for extremely reasonable prices. 

While the popularity of the cloud is at an all-time high, projections show that its only going to increase in value. According to Forbes, the cloud computing market is expected to hit a whopping $411 billion by 2020. That's a lot of money for an industry that didn't even exist a few decades ago. 

That said, not all cloud deployment options are created equal. In fact, there are three distinct choices that organizations are able to decide between: public, private and hybrid. Making the wrong decision here could be incredibly costly, so let's explore these options in greater detail. 

Public 

As you might imagine, there's an enormous demand for cloud computing resources. Therefore, many big name companies have started making money by renting out their unused computing resources. This means that multiple organizations rely on the same infrastructure given to them by these providers. These are public clouds.

Public clouds offer a wide range of possibilities for companies. To begin, they're pretty cheap compared to other cloud options. The idea is that you're sharing the load with the other companies that utilize the cloud's resources, and this keeps costs down. This also offers nearly unlimited scalability. The public cloud provider has all the incentive in the world to give you as many computing resources as you can afford, so you can grow or shrink your company's needs as you see fit. 

That said, there are some drawbacks here. The biggest of these is control, specifically as this pertains to security. Due to the fact that the cloud is owned by the provider, organizations generally can't request more security, and this means that public clouds aren't meant for sensitive data. 

Private

"As the name suggests, a private cloud is one that is exclusively used by one company."

As the name suggests, a private cloud is one that is exclusively used by one company. Sometimes this means an in-house solution that is entirely within the control of the organization, but it can also translate to a third party handling everything. Regardless, most private clouds are hosted on-premises and within the customer's own data center. 

The big advantage here is obviously privacy and security. Unlike a public cloud, a private deployment does not require the user to share resources with outside companies. This means that they can have more direct control over how data is transmitted and stored. What's more, the fact that the cloud is generally housed on-premises means that the organization has more control over physical security. Hackers often use social engineering tactics to gain physical access to systems, and a private cloud deployment allows the company the ability to ensure physical security.

Finally, and most importantly for some companies, private clouds enable control over compliance. Certain governmental rules, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), demand certain security standards for sensitive data. A single HIPAA violation can cost a company $50,000, and the more egregious breaches can even result in jail time. With so much on the line, it makes sense for a company to decide that a private cloud deployment is right for them. 

If you fail to follow the guidelines set out by HIPAA or other compliance standards like it, you may find yourself in jail.
Not following HIPAA or other important compliance standards can land you in jail.

That said, private clouds aren't completely beneficial. They're generally extremely expensive to set up and operate, as the business must pay all the costs of hardware as well as maintenance. For a small operation, such a deployment simply isn't possible. What's more, private clouds are nowhere near as scalable as public clouds, due to the intense cost in increasing operations. So, companies that have constantly changing data needs will have a tough time subjecting themselves to a private cloud. 

Hybrid

While these extremes sometimes work for a company, the reality of the situation is that most organizations have a wide variety of needs. Some need the high levels of security that private clouds provide, but simply can't afford them for the entirety of their computing needs. This is where hybrid cloud deployments come in. 

A hybrid cloud is exactly what it sounds like. It's a deployment that leverages a certain amount of public cloud resources while also integrating a private cloud system. The benefit of this is that companies are able to get the best of both worlds with this. An organization can utilize a public cloud for low-level data and computing needs, while also utilizing an internal public cloud that can ensure the security of their sensitive data. 

Companies are able to basically segment their data in a way that would allow for the most efficient use of resources. HIPAA-compliant materials demand hefty security requirements out of cloud deployments that the public cloud can't provide, but other data a company creates simply don't need this much privacy. Therefore, a hybrid cloud deployment would be a perfect solution in this case. 

Of course, the cloud infrastructure you choose will depend entirely upon what you need to accomplish. If you have a lot of security or compliance standards to follow, you'll most likely need a private cloud. If you just need access to cheap and available computing resources, the public cloud is for you. However, much like Goldilocks, many companies find that the middle option of a hybrid cloud deployment is just right. To decide for yourself, you'll have to ask yourself tough questions about what your business is about and what you see yourself needing in the future. 

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