Internet technologies have raised a number of different technological advances that businesses of all sizes have taken advantage of, but the game-changing technology revolution currently underway involves cloud computing. Businesses are moving from a history of operating dedicated servers on their premises to a future of executing all their computing needs in the cloud.
The excitement around cloud services is evident – just look at the Charles Phillips Twitter feed as an example, which illustrates how businesses are increasingly embracing cloud technologies. Companies such as the one founded by Phillips can help businesses to ditch their physical computing equipment and costly software development contracts in exchange for a simple monthly arrangement involving pooled resources and expertise.
Yet there are different cloud deployment scenarios, each with different positive and negative aspects. Here are the four typical deployment scenarios.
By far the most widely used version of cloud computing is the public cloud. Public clouds are typically run by large information technology firms such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, and involve massive data centers that are shared by an equally massive number of different users. These public clouds are truly based on sharing computer resources, including both physical hardware and the software technology behind it.
Public cloud computing makes very efficient use of economies of scale and is very customizable while at the same time removing any need for local server and software management expertise. Public clouds are secure, so even though your data is stored off-site on systems not directly under your control, the built-in security mechanisms and degrees of service assurance keep your data and your applications safe.
One issue with the public cloud is that the software platforms supporting it cater for a broad audience, and can lack a degree of specialization. In most cases, businesses can customize the public cloud to their needs, but the customization involves cost and effort. An alternative is the community cloud, where businesses belonging to a specific niche sector collaborate to build software platforms that serve their purposes.
For example, trading firms and banks have specific computing requirements that might not be served well by the public cloud. However, by teaming up with a provider of cloud solutions, these companies can build software and hardware solutions that cater to their needs while sharing the costs of the deployment across many different businesses.
Some businesses are concerned by the loss of control and privacy that cloud computing entails: their data is no longer stored on their premises but in a remote server farm where equipment is pooled and shared. For this reason, several organizations have opted for a hybrid deployment, where some data and applications are retained and stored in-house, while IT requirements that are deemed less business critical are deployed to the cloud.
Hybrid cloud deployment is more expensive than making use of a public cloud environment, but allows businesses to pick which areas they would like to put forward for efficiency savings, and which areas they would like to keep ultimate control of. Cloud technologies allow a large degree of choice as to where exactly any particular business wishes to draw the line.
In some cases, data security requirements and business needs completely eliminate the option of making use of shared computing infrastructure. This does not mean that data needs to be stored on your business premises, or that the computing infrastructure should be managed by your own staff. Instead, think of purchasing services in a private cloud environment.
Private clouds can still be managed by a third party, but physical and virtual computer resources are not shared. Your cloud resources are walled off from any other computing activities operated by the supplier, and your data and applications are kept strictly private and confidential. Private clouds are sometimes also operated by the company that uses them, but are cloud computing environments due to the nature and flexibility of the technologies that they employ.
The future is defined by cloud deployments
Cloud computing is a flexible way of handling the hardware and software demands of businesses, ranging from micro enterprises to large corporations. Cloud deployment scenarios can adapt to the requirements of any business: you can choose to complete your computing requirements in the public cloud, making use of fully shared infrastructure, opt for a hybrid solution – part cloud, part local – or pay for private cloud infrastructure. Most businesses will eventually adopt cloud solutions to some extent – it is merely a question of which deployment scenario is most suited to your business.