What is the cloud anyway? The cloud is not local storage on a hard drive. It is not an on site hardware server. It’s not even your office or home network. The cloud is basically the Internet, depicted as a fluffy white cloud, with invisible wires transferring, processing, synching, and storing data from anywhere, at anytime. It may or may not come as a surprise that the idea of utilizing cloud services to run a business has picked up speed. Moving business environments to the cloud is the hot new thing everyone is doing; however, making the decision to move to the cloud, and which type of cloud environment to utilize, is not a simple one. This decision depends on your business’ needs and capabilities: scalability, information security, and cost analysis. Let’s start by taking a look at the different types of cloud environments.
There are three models of cloud: public, private, and hybrid clouds. Each environment offers a different level of security and infrastructure management, while being optimal solutions for various business types. Each environment also supports the cloud computing stack: Saas, Iaas, and PaaS. Businesses can utilize SaaS (Software as a Service), where they subscribe to a cloud solution that is accessed over the Internet. An example of SaaS in a public cloud is your email service, such as Yahoo! or Gmail. Infrastructure can be “rented” in an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) environment where you install your OS and maintain your software infrastructure on a virtual machine, either in a Public or Private cloud environment. A good medium between Iaas and SaaS is PaaS (Platform as a Service), where businesses customize cloud applications for use within the company. This can be seen in the Windows cloud-based Azure environment. PaaS can be also deployed in a Public, Private or Hybrid cloud scenario.
A public cloud offers the greatest cost efficiency, while providing a standard platform for collaboration. This is a great option as capacity is provided on an as–needed basis; however, a public cloud is more vulnerable as services and infrastructure are provided over the Internet, off–site from your businesses operations.
Private clouds are maintained on your business’ private networks, Because a company with a private cloud has to purchase and maintain the infrastructure and software needed to generate and run the cloud data center, it offers a higher level of control and security, which usually comes with a higher cost. This is great for instances where your information and data is at the heart of your business. Keeping it safe is critical as well as having the ability to conform to strict privacy regulations.
Hybrid cloud computing is a mix of private and public cloud offerings, as well as utilizing on-premise data centers. Having a hybrid cloud environment allows a business to keep different aspects of the business in different locations. However, utilizing a hybrid cloud environment will require a company to maintain the different security solutions and obtain the necessary manpower to handle all the different environments used.
Regardless of which environment is used, cloud computing allows for various benefits, including the ability to work from anywhere, disaster recovery, reduced costs, increased collaboration, a green solution to document management, and many other benefits.
Now that you are familiar with the different types of cloud environments, there are some things to consider before taking the leap. Can you even trust the cloud? Cloud security has been a recurring issue for businesses fearful of losing their critical information in an environment outside of their control. Stay tuned for Cloud Computing Part 2: 4 Ways Sharing in the Cloud Jeopardizes Your Business’ Security.