17 Jun

What is the ‘Public Cloud’?

The Public Cloud

Public Cloud, It’s a puzzling term, isn’t it? Companies are moving applications and critical data to something called the ‘Public Cloud’ at a record pace. At first, ‘public’ cloud sounds well… public. It sounds like content designed for the entire world to see. SO WHY WOULD A COMPANY DO THAT WITH THEIR CRITICAL AND SENSITIVE DATA!?

Defining ‘Public’ Cloud

It turns out the public cloud isn’t as ‘public’ as you might think. The ‘cloud’ refers to storing data with the intention to access it remotely. And this cloud comes in several forms including:

  • Private Cloud
  • Hybrid Cloud
  • Public Cloud
  • Community Cloud

‘Public’ refers to the idea that the data is not on-premise, but instead, stored in a data center off-premise. Some data centers are owned by large companies with enormous data storage needs like Facebook or Salesforce.com. But for many small and medium businesses, a public cloud means renting space with multiple tenants occupying the same data center while a hosting provider manages their data. When looking at hosting solutions, think of the public cloud as a service where a 3rd party hosting provider like ZebraHost is responsible for storing data, maintaining the infrastructure, hardware, security, and day to day support.

Why the Move to the Public Cloud? Savings and Convenience.

Many companies and individuals are increasingly storing data in the public cloud because it’s easier and can make costs more manageable because of utility-style or monthly billing options. The hosting service provider maintains all infrastructure and oversees maintenance which results in less cost for clients using hosting services. And unless a cloud is on separate dedicated hardware, the cost of the hardware itself is also being split among other tenants. This saves money because each company is only paying a fraction of the hardware costs. These hosting providers provide equipment and maintenance as a service often referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Hosts will usually charge a monthly flat rate based on hardware and storage needs. Some may even use a model called ‘utility’ billing which is a pay-per-use model where companies are charged depending on the resources they use like RAM, CPU, storage, bandwidth etc. For many businesses, paying in small increments makes the move to the cloud a lot easier and affordable because they don’t need to purchase equipment upfront, build a server-safe environment or hire dedicated IT maintenance professionals. The public cloud has thus made the cloud affordable for many businesses which has accelerated the cloud’s growth.

Rise of the Public Cloud

You’ve undoubtedly seen the results of the public cloud’s rapid rise. Popular platforms like Office365, Salesforce.com, and Google products all store information in the public cloud. While these are all examples of large technology companies that have the means to purchase their own equipment, many smaller companies, startups, and individuals want to have their application be web-accessible or to have a safe place to store and access data. These are the groups that will usually turn to a hosting provider and or application building platform like AWS to move to the public cloud.

What you’ll notice is that the public cloud tends to be a sort of umbrella term. There are actually a few industry-specific terms to define which public cloud a business uses.

Here’s the different services that make up the public cloud.

SaaS: Software as a Service – The example most think about first is Salesforce.com which offers the leading web-based CRM platform. SaaS is when the software is offered as a paid service with a recurring fee to use it. These applications are typically maintained and accessed from the web. Ex. Office 365.

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service – Hosting providers like ZebraHost would be considered IaaS. They offer the hardware, virtualized environment, and networking to maintain and host applications or services. This a common route for many businesses looking to transition to the cloud.

PaaS: Platform as a Service – Amazon Web Services (AWS) is used as a common example. PaaS allows the development of software and applications without having to build or maintain the underlying software infrastructure. This can come in both the form of hardware and software. This is a popular service because it makes development easier for the end-user.

So…Why would you hand your data over to the public cloud? Well, there are a few reasons.

  • Cost: As mentioned before, because someone else owns the hardware there isn’t a reason to buy your own. Hardware is split among other tenants which saves you money
  • Scalability: Theoretically a company utilizing a public cloud could scale infinity fast because all they must do is find a provider with already running hardware to set up a public cloud.
  • Ease: Most of the work is outsourced to a 3rd party making it easy to get up and running.
  • Redundancy: Data centers and cloud providers can provide numerous backups for long periods of time. They can also split data among hardware and hosting locations.
  • Risk: Having your whole business on a tower on your desk might not be the best idea…It’s very vulnerable to day to day activities and accidents. A 3rd party will have a well-secured environment for your data and backup hardware in case of failure.

But there’s also disadvantages to consider:

  • Security: This depends on how much you trust your hosting provider. Data is sensitive and while most hosting providers will respect your data, it’s still in the hand of someone else.
  • Regulation: Industries like Healthcare and Finance usually have data that has a lot of legal regulations (like HIPAA). These companies must be careful with monitoring which data is stored outside their private cloud.
  • Configurability: Hosting providers don’t always provide flexible solutions such as OS choice, backup services, or hardware configurations. But some like ZebraHost do. You should ask your hosting provider what they allow you to configure.

In Sum,

The public cloud is quickly becoming a strategy used by businesses to outsource maintenance, save costs, and position services to be web-accessible. In an increasingly services dominated market the public cloud is not only A strategy for businesses it is THE primary strategy to maintain a competitive edge.

For many, the pros outweigh the cons for implementing a public cloud strategy. The low cost, scalability, and ease of use are attractive for many organizations that don’t want to spend time managing their infrastructure. But some companies still like having some data on-premise on a private cloud. These businesses are leading the revolution to implement the hybrid cloud which is another strong hosting strategy aimed at giving the security of a private cloud and the scalability of a public cloud.

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