In recent years, some of the services we enjoy from day to day have become so natural and intuitive to us that we never really stop to think for a moment about what stands behind them — about the technologies that they employ. If we look behind one of today’s hottest technological buzz words, cloud computing, we discover that for years we’ve been familiar with it in its most basic form, the public cloud. Who isn’t a user of Gmail, or Google Drive, or Facebook? Those are all public clouds that give us storage services to use. Although offered to us free of charge in the form of enablement for other services, nonetheless such storage services perfectly fit the definition of a public cloud.
What is a public cloud?
If you already know something about cloud computing, you certainly know the principle behind its technological strategy: shared physical resources and infrastructure accessible over a public network (the internet) and providing services to a large number of clients. The public cloud is considered the oldest and most familiar of the cloud architecture models, and as we noted above, you probably already use it in at least one form whether the fact occurred to you or not.
What are the advantages of a public cloud?
A public cloud (or a shared cloud, as it is sometimes called) generally features a simple and accessible platform where its services can be used even by people who are not technically knowledgeable or very computer-savvy. Taking Google Drive’s services as an example, we can see that although they provide the user with a wide variety of options (such as creating documents after the fashion of the Microsoft Office suite), their interface is simple and intuitive. A ten-year-old boy or a very old person could enjoy the basic Google Drive offerings without encountering unnecessary technological complications.
Another advantage of public cloud services is their relatively low cost (as compared against private clouds) and sometimes certain of their available features —or all — are free of charge. The low cost to the provider is obviously the reason that at some sites users can be offered a certain volume of storage without payment (while the paying users receive a volume several times larger).
Many organizations use paid public cloud services as an inexpensive and efficient alternative to purchasing and operating a physical server, because the “cloudiness” they receive gives them a flexible infrastructure with no time spent on acquiring, installing, securing, and maintaining hardware.
Many organizations are aware of additional points in favor of purchasing only the resources they use. Particularly aware are organizations that purchased a sophisticated physical server long ago (or not long ago) which was several sizes larger than necessary for the organization’s needs — choosing it because the price was reduced, or because “the competition has one” — and found that once installed, it demands attention and eats up money even though it is not being fully used.
On a public cloud, administration of infrastructures and resources is the cloud service provider’s responsibility, so that in addition to saving considerably on hardware purchases, the organization also saves on the costs of maintenance, operation, and ongoing updates.
What are the disadvantages of a public cloud?
Rather paradoxically, while the public cloud reduces the cost of its services to organizations by splitting its resources among many users, the splitting of resources also creates one of the public cloud’s greatest disadvantages. The disadvantage could emerge in a number of ways.
If one of the cloud’s clients sharply increases its usage, or tends to consume resources disproportionately, it could strain the infrastructure at the expense of the cloud’s other clients.
Security considerations can also give an organization second thoughts as it considers moving onto a public cloud. Certainly public cloud service providers everywhere advertise advanced security, but if and when the organization’s information and data are sensitive, it appears that public servers are not the best answer to strict security requirements. They may fail to sufficiently isolate users of the same infrastructure from one another, and they are vulnerable to external threats.
Among the advantages of the public cloud, as listed above, was relegating the administration of cloud infrastructure and resources to the service provider, but some organizations may see a disadvantage in that — particularly veteran organizations that are accustomed to handling their data in house and find the concept of cloud computing unfamiliar.
There is some vagueness in how the legal system applies, and the standards and regulations are insufficient. Much of the professional law dictating certain metrics for organizational data security has difficulty handling the matter of cloud computing in general and public cloud computing in particular. This flaw in applicability prevents entire sectors from even dreaming of moving onto the cloud, because of the legal problems they might encounter.
What alternatives to the public cloud does an organization have?
For organizations that require privacy, or that are wary of the various problems that might arise at the organizational level from using a public cloud, a more secure but more expensive alternative is a private cloud. A private cloud gives each client organization a dedicated infrastructure exclusively of its own, unlike sharing a public cloud. A private cloud infrastructure is recommended for organizations where the system requirements remain more or less stable and predictable. It may be administered inside the organization (as a data center, for example) by an in-house IT department, or it may reside on an external cloud and administration may be handled by the cloud service provider or outsourced to a third party.
Another option is to use a public cloud (which is less expensive but less secure) together with a private cloud (which is well secured but priced accordingly). With this hybrid option, the organization can route sensitive processes and information (which are merely a small part of the organization’s digital assets) to the private cloud, while most of the material is channeled to the public cloud. The choice of a Medone hybrid cloud can help many organizations to cross the hurdle of transitioning from a physical server to the cloud, because it provides the organization with the best of both clouds.
Organizationally, are you cloud-compatible?
Organizations, even more than individuals, need to thoroughly weigh the advantages, disadvantages, and implications of any technological move, including the transition to cloud computing of any kind. Despite the fashionability and the clear trends of today, the step of removing as many spheres of responsibility as possible from inside the organization and consigning them to service providers and outsourcing companies is not a step to be undertaken thoughtlessly merely because “everyone else is ahead of us” or merely because it is exemplifies today’s technology. First, the topic needs study in depth; and believe it or not, this topic is enthralling — because cloud computing can already offer organizations services in a broad variety of fields and the offerings are increasing day by day. Then the technology’s appropriateness needs to be assessed from the organization’s specific point of view.
Appropriateness should be measured not only with financial and business considerations in mind (such as ROI and the mission statement), but also with a view to the organization’s human element. The latter perspective is vital, because many strategic and technological programs fail on account of their sponsors’ and implementers’ inattention to the apparently minor factor represented by the employees who will have to use the system. Even if examination shows that the organization’s human element isn’t yet cloud-ready, there’s no need to do completely without cloud services. What’s required is a little more thoroughness in the preparatory work, to increase the human readiness. The employees may need training in the use of an interface that differs from what they already know, and so on. While such an investment in preparation may not seem significant to the planners, its omission may prove very significant in retrospect if the entire project is plagued with painfulness as a result.