Public Clouds: Are They Worth It?

Organizations both large and small are quickly adopting cloud infrastructure and cloud environments to complete daily business operations. The adoption of cloud services has become so pervasive that some 85% of businesses as of 2019 had some level of cloud storage or cloud hosting services as a part of daily operations. More importantly, 68% of IT departments are currently using public cloud infrastructures with countless more considering cloud migration services to public cloud services. With so many businesses considering moving workloads to an outside service provider, it is vital that businesses stop and ask themselves one question: is it worth it?

What is a Public Cloud?

The public cloud is a generic term that refers to the use of cloud services and data centers for cloud storage via the public Internet to take advantage of third-party services. A public cloud solution is available to anyone who wants to use it or purchase access to it. Some public cloud platforms are free to use while others feature on-demand pricing for additional data center access, specific cloud services, and the use of virtual machines on offsite servers.
A public cloud enables a company to avoid the high costs of purchasing, managing, and maintaining on-premises infrastructure hardware such as servers and data center network equipment to support business operations. The third-party provider is responsible for the work of buying, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure in a public cloud environment. A public cloud can be quickly deployed with greater computing resources and access to more servers when needed with just a small uptick in monthly costs.

What is a Public Cloud Example?

There are countless examples of public cloud solutions out there. Some of these such as the Google Cloud, are interacted with on a daily basis by billions around the globe. If you use Google Docs, Google Drive, or Gmail, just to mention some baseline Google Cloud options, you are participating in a public cloud environment. However, there are some more specific public clouds that one can focus on when comparing public clouds to other cloud vendor solutions. These include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
Amazon Web Services is a broad public cloud platform that can be joined for free and in which users pay for only the services they use. AWS includes more than 175 full-feature service operated on servers located in global data centers. Businesses ranging from startups to massive government agencies lean on the computing resources and power of AWS cloud infrastructure.
Microsoft Azure is another public cloud platform that offers a wide range of cloud services for organizations. Azure allows users the freedom to build, manage, and deploy applications across a global network using the tools and frameworks each user prefers, with the Azure and Microsoft infrastructure resources to power that movement.

When Security is a Priority, is There a Place for a Public Cloud in Operations?

Every company should be concerned with the security of its data and activities when using cloud-based services. Whether you sell socks online or handle patient data in the healthcare industry, keeping that data safe is vital to the reputation of your brand and, in some cases, the very survival of your business. In fact, any company operating within banking, credit card processing, other financial fields, and the healthcare sector are required to protect identifying data for users. Additionally, any company hoping to work with any level of government in the United States must also have security measures in place to protect data from nefarious actors.
This is where the popularity of public clouds should crumble slightly in the eyes of any business. Security is a major hurdle for many public cloud environments. This is not to say that public cloud providers do not take security seriously, but rather than the cloud environment itself leaves data open to issues. First and foremost, when you entrust your data storage to a public cloud provider you are giving up control over access to that data. More importantly, when you use a cloud provider for public computing resources, you are entrusting that the provider is going to devote immense resources to security measures and provide 24/7 compliance and monitoring to ensure your data is safe.
However, even the best public cloud providers cannot ensure your information is going to be safe. For example, in 2015 AWS experienced a devastating outage that took down Netflix and Reddit. Amazon did its best to get services back online as quickly as possible, but this pointed out another security and safety flaw inherent in public cloud environments.
You and all of the other users are sharing servers, computing resources, and other IT infrastructure in a public cloud environment. A security hack doesn’t have to specifically target your business in the cloud to put your information at risk. Once hackers are into one system on the network, your data could be at risk. Similarly, when outages take down services in a public cloud, there is nothing you can do as a client to get your operations back online. In short, whether it is a security breach or other hack that takes services offline, you have no power to act independently to secure your data and get your business back online.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there is no place in your business operations for a public cloud environment, but it does mean that you need to take precautions and carefully consider what data and operations you entrust to a public cloud provider.

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What are the Public Cloud’s Strongest Competitors?

Even though some 68% of businesses now use some form of public cloud services, that doesn’t mean there aren’t competitors out there that the remaining businesses who have not turned to the public cloud are using as an alternative. In fact, there are at least three alternative options, including at least one that offers superior service, control, and security to any public cloud environment. The following is a brief breakdown of the strongest competitors of a public cloud:
  • Onsite/hosted cloud: As many businesses originally did prior to the development of public clouds, you always have the option of building your own onsite, hosted cloud environment. In this case, your business purchases and owns servers, manages a data center, and handles the maintenance and security of all the IT infrastructure involved in keeping your business online. The costs for such a solution can be prohibitive for many businesses.
  • Hybrid Cloud: A hybrid cloud offers a combination of the benefits of a public cloud environment with the enhanced security and dedicated resources of a private cloud. Most hybrid cloud environments are still hosted by an outside third-party, so there’s no need to maintain a data center or buy your own servers. However, you get your own dedicated data center, servers, and customized virtual machines and/or software setups that are isolated from other users working with those third-party providers.
  • Private Cloud: A private cloud environment can be hosted offsite or onsite and ensures that all of your computing resources and IT infrastructure elements are controlled by your brand, chosen by your brand upfront, and you have greater control in preventing security breaches and recovering from disasters that could take the brand offline.

What is a Private Cloud?

A private cloud is a data center and servers, as well as software programs, virtual machines, and other computing resources. These computing resources are offered either over the Internet or on a private internal network and are available only to select users. Private clouds can deliver some of the benefits of a public cloud, such as self-service, scalability, and elasticity, while also delivering benefits a public cloud cannot such as greater control and the ability to customize the resources and services allowed.

What are the Benefits of a Private Cloud?

Among the primary benefits of a private cloud is the ability for your business to run the IT systems in a private environment with flexibility, guaranteed resource availability, strong security, and regulatory compliance. Perhaps most important in the context of the previous conversation on security, private clouds offer higher levels of security and privacy because the IT infrastructure is protected by company-controlled firewalls and internal hosting to keep operations and sensitive data save.

Who Should Use a Private Cloud?

It is up to the individual company to determine whether or not a private cloud is ideal for them, however, most companies are likely to find that a private cloud environment is the best option. For any company that operates in some of the aforementioned industries (banking, finance, credit card processing, healthcare, governmental contracts, etc.), a private cloud environment is a must because it ensures that individual company has control over its data and can meet security compliance and regulations that govern the handling and storage of sensitive data.

Is the Public Cloud Really More Convenient?

Public clouds are promoted as being the most convenient and cost-effective means of launching a business online, using data to grow your business, and leveraging the latest software programs and other computing resources to run your business from day-to-day. While it is true that a public cloud allows a business to quickly access more resources and share workloads across data center servers located around the globe to ensure optimum uptime, public clouds are not as convenient as they appear.
As highlighted earlier, even the promoted uptime of a public cloud is not always a given. Hackers have proven adept at targeting public cloud environments to bring major brands like Netflix offline without even specifically targeting Netflix. In that instance, was it really more convenient for Netflix to be running its service on a public cloud infrastructure? Netflix and its users were left to wait while a third-party provider took charge of getting the service back online.
Additionally, a public cloud environment promises accessibility and performance to all users, but that can come with a cost for each user. While there are data centers and servers located around the globe in some of the largest public cloud environments to carry the load of operations on the network, that doesn’t mean you always enjoy lightning-fast performance. Upticks in the usage of other customers on the same public cloud can slow your company’s performance on the same network. Again, you are left to twiddle your thumbs because you have no direct ability to redirect computing resources to other servers when the bandwidth gets clogged in your public cloud environment.

Which is Right for You?

The message should be clear by now: public clouds are not always worth it. Avatara CompleteCloud is a private IT platform that ensures you have all the computing resources you need in an IT solution that provides you with data centers, servers, ample storage, virtual machines, software, and all of the services you need to get the job done on a daily basis. Our CompleteCloud IT platform is far more advanced than the average cloud solution that ensures connectivity, provides security, and flexes with the needs of your company alone. Forget sharing services and access with other users and enjoy the benefits of private cloud infrastructure, managed services, managed security, and even VOIP.

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