No matter what business you’re in, you’re in the data business. Your files are the backbone of your entire operation and losing access to them would be a disaster. As such, it’s perfectly understandable if you’re a little protective of these all-important 1s and 0s. As you begin your search for a data storage solution, understanding some cloud basics can help you make the best decision, and one option that may cross your desk is the private cloud.
What Is the Private Cloud?
A private cloud is essentially storage dedicated solely to your organization, but accessible from anywhere. While you can outsource the physical infrastructure of this private cloud to a data center, you do have the option to keep it on-premises. It is a costlier solution than typical public cloud storage, but the trade-off is a higher level of security and control over your data.
Refresher: What Is the Public Cloud?
By contrast, a public cloud storage service would be open to many different organizations or tenants. In a public cloud, tenants share the same physical hardware resources as other tenants, and their individual instances are virtually separated so that one tenant can’t access another’s data. Public clouds typically don’t involve on-premises hardware as everything is managed by the public cloud provider in a data center.
Public and Private Clouds: By the Numbers
In 2020, spending on cloud services grew significantly: Public cloud spending reached $14 billion, and private cloud spending reached $5 billion, according to an IDC study. IDC also found that “on-premises private clouds” make up nearly two-thirds (i.e., 64%) of private cloud spending.
According to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 97% of respondents used a public cloud and 80% of respondents used a private cloud. As you can see, there is plenty of overlap. Using a public cloud versus a private cloud is not an either/or decision—78% of respondents use both public and private clouds in a hybrid cloud solution.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Clouds
Both the private cloud and the public cloud have their advantages. Benefits of the public cloud include low cost and a higher adoption rate than the private cloud. Therefore, a public cloud can be cheaper to run and it can be easier to find employees who know how to use the public cloud. The high adoption rate also means it is easier to find third-party consultants and experts to provide help when you need it. On the other hand, a private cloud offers advantages such as faster access to data when using on-premises infrastructure and more control over security.
Private Cloud: Use Cases
To better understand how private cloud services can be beneficial, let’s take a closer look at use cases. There are a few reasons organizations are investing time and resources into private cloud deployments:
- Regulatory compliance. Some industries face high demand for security. For example, financial services and health care organizations frequently handle highly sensitive data. As a result, these organizations may find that the greater security safeguards available through a private cloud may be a good fit. Further, Gartner points out that the U.S. government is starting to increase its adoption of private cloud services. If your organization operates in a highly regulated industry with significant IT security or privacy protection requirements, using a private cloud may make sense. Finally, government contractors may be expected to use the private cloud to give their government clients extra peace of mind regarding security.
- Meeting high-performance requirements. In some situations, a private cloud may provide access to faster IT services. For instance, an on-premises private cloud may serve data to local users much faster than a private cloud located thousands of miles away. A large organization that needs to work with large volumes of data like video files and big data analytics may find private cloud services a good fit. If a company sees a competitive opportunity in speed (e.g., high-frequency trading in financial services), then a private cloud could be an attractive option.
- Specific hardware requirements. In a public cloud environment, the end user generally has limited input regarding specific hardware. By contrast, a company willing to pay for a private cloud service will have more control over specific hardware investments.
Public vs. Private: Why Not Both?
Using both private and public clouds simultaneously is called a hybrid cloud solution, and it may be the best way to balance your security needs against your budget constraints to optimize your storage infrastructure. You can use an on-premises private cloud for sensitive files or larger files that will be accessed on a daily basis, while maintaining public cloud storage space for archives or files that need to be accessed remotely by outside vendors or clients. The reduced cost of public cloud storage gives you greater flexibility in tweaking your private vs. public cloud needs to fit your budget.
Managing a Private Cloud Effectively
Using private cloud data storage services has the potential to offer greater security. If your cloud portfolio includes the private cloud, use the following tips to get the most from those services.
- Manage the scalability limitations of the private cloud. In contrast to a public cloud service, you may find it more difficult or time-consuming to scale up and scale down private cloud services. This challenge can be mitigated in a few ways. For instance, you could pursue a hybrid cloud approach using the private cloud for smaller amounts of highly sensitive data and put the bulk of your corporate data in a public cloud.
- Enhance your cost management process. A private cloud service comes with higher up-front costs and maintenance costs. And, in a public cloud, your costs can vary based on the amount of storage you’re using at any given time. With a private cloud, once you’ve made that capital expenditure, whether on-premises or off, the capacity is already paid for. However, it requires very accurate assessments of future needs to predict any further spending on capacity. If you run out of space, you’re facing another capital investment.
- Managing maintenance risk. Compared to a public cloud deployment, private cloud storage can be relatively complex to manage. If upkeep slips, you may start to suffer increasing security risks and lost performance.
- Challenge customization requests. The ability to customize a private cloud is a double-edged sword. The flexibility is attractive for departments with unusual requirements. On the other hand, each private cloud customization request may involve additional fees and security complexities. Therefore, it may be wise to challenge requests for cloud customization and see if business users can achieve their goals with minimal customization.
Are You Using a Private Cloud?
We’re all in the data business, but nobody knows your business like you. Ultimately, the decision to balance data security against financial concerns will come down to your individual needs and budgetary realities. But for those files that require an extra layer of security, whether it’s for regulatory or operational reasons, a private cloud solution gives you control over your data that is worth the added expense.
Are you using a public cloud, a private cloud, or both? Let us know in the comments.