As a business professional, you are likely familiar with public clouds such as Office 365, Google Apps, Dropbox, and Amazon Web Services. But are you as familiar with private clouds? If you answered "No", you are not alone. Many people do not know much about them. It does not help that there is a great deal of confusing and sometimes conflicting information regarding private clouds on the Internet.
Knowing about private clouds is important, especially if you are considering using a cloud computing solution. Toward that end, here is a look at what makes a cloud private and the pros and cons of using one. This information can help you determine whether a private cloud is right for your business.
What a Private Cloud Is
When does a cloud receive the "private" label? A cloud is considered private when it is used exclusively by a single organization that has multiple business units, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Those business units share a pool of computing resources, much like multiple companies would share a pool of computing resources in a public cloud.
When a cloud is given the "private" label, people often make certain assumptions about it. Contrary to what you might hear from colleagues or read on the Internet, a private cloud is:
- Not always owned by the business that is using it. Sometimes companies lease them from service providers.
- Not always managed by the business that is using it. A private cloud can be managed by the company, a service provider, or both.
- Not always on-premises. A company’s private cloud can be onsite (e.g., company headquarters) or offsite (e.g., service provider’s facility, building rented by the company).
- Not restricted to the infrastructure layer. Besides providing the IT infrastructure, private clouds can supply the IT platform and software.
- Not synonymous with virtualization. Virtualization is often a component in cloud computing, but putting a hypervisor on a server is not private cloud computing.
The Pros and Cons of Using Private Clouds
Like any other IT solution, private cloud computing has its pros and cons. Here are the main ones:
On the positive side, private clouds are typically more secure than their public counterparts. With a private cloud, your business has its own dedicated hardware (e.g., servers, storage devices, networking equipment). Because you do not share the hardware with other organizations like you would in a public cloud, you do not have to worry about your resources being vulnerable if another company’s resources become infected with malware or get hacked. In addition, you control internal and external access to your private cloud, which further enhances security.
On the negative side, a private cloud is usually more expensive to use than a public cloud. If you own the hardware, there is a capital investment. Even if you use a service provider, it is more costly to lease dedicated hardware than rent space on a shared server. Similarly, a private cloud is often more expensive to maintain, since you need to pay in-house IT staff or a service provider to manage it. In addition, a private cloud is not as easily extensible, especially if you own the hardware.
Is a Private Cloud Right for Your Business?
To determine whether a private cloud is the right option for your business, you need to assess your business requirements. For example, if you want to maintain full control over who accesses and manages the cloud computing solution because of industry or government regulations, using a private cloud is likely a better option than leasing space in a public one. However, if your business does not have to comply with any regulations, a private cloud might not be the best choice. Using a public cloud will likely be a more cost-effective solution.
The decision on the type of cloud to use is an important one. Your IT service provider can help you decide whether a private cloud, a public cloud, or possibly a combination of the two (i.e., hybrid cloud) is best for your business.