The folks over at Cloud Computing Professionals do a nice job breaking down what is a complicated subject. Using the Wikipedia definition of cloud computing, they divide it into four key areas:
- It’s Internet-based: Cloud computing moves software out of your office and on to the Internet “cloud.” All access to the data is through an Internet connection at work, home, a hotel, or a coffee shop down the street. As long as you have Internet access you can get to your information.
- It shares resources, software, and information: Most on-site servers at small-to- mid-sized businesses have an average utilization of less than 20 percent. Do you really need to purchase new hardware if you are only going to use a small fraction? In the cloud, resources are shared with others, meaning you only pay for what you need.
- It is provided to computers and other devices on demand: This is where most business owners get excited about cloud computing. For years, companies have purchased software and hardware to run applications inside their businesses. These purchases were almost always followed by significant staffing or labor costs to ensure the successful installation of the purchases into the company’s infrastructure. And then because of the nature of upgrade cycles, they would have to do it all over again in about five years.
Now, with a new wave of cloud computing applications (email, spam filtering, CRM, sales management), virtual hosted servers, and online backup, businesses will be able to pay for some (or all) of their needs on demand.
A lot of times the fee is per user per month. Just hired a new employee? Click a few buttons to add the new user to your account. Going into the busy season? Fire up another virtual server to handle the extra processing load. Don’t have trained staff to run the new application? No problem – the cloud provider is going to supply most of the support you need.
Public vs Private Cloud
Although there has been much discussion about the differences of a public and private cloud, almost all businesses who have adopted cloud computing are using a public cloud. It is important to understand the difference between the two so you can make an educated decision for your business.
A public cloud is what you normally think of when you hear the term “cloud computing.” Public cloud includes companies such as Amazon, salesforce.com, Microsoft Azure, AppRiver, etc. These companies provide a service to you in the “cloud” (Internet based). They host the equipment and software and you pay to use their services monthly (some call this utility computing).
A major concern among business owners in reference to a public cloud is security. Since your information is being stored on shared resources, many see security holes in this model. Although security is a weakness of the public cloud, compliance is not. There are companies such as AppRiver for businesses that have to abide by certain compliance parameters.
A much less popular model is the private cloud. Very few businesses should look into private cloud solutions. A private cloud is managed by the organization it serves. This solution is for companies that have hundreds of thousands of employees or want a private cloud to resell as a public cloud.
Since there are several advantages and disadvantages to hosted and on-premise computing models, many businesses have found a great compromise in a hybrid solution in which some of your resources are on-premise and some of are hosted, giving you the best of both worlds.
Since there’s no clear-cut answer for all enterprises, evaluate the pros and cons of each before making your choice.