Public, private or virtual cloud: what does it all mean?

December 18th, 2017 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. Aaron O'Keeffe

Cloud computing has already revolutionised business IT infrastructure, but it’s undergoing a second wave with public, private, and hybrid or virtual cloud services. If you’re aware of the importance of cloud computing, you’ve probably come across these terms. Understanding their implications for IT infrastructure can help you make better choices at work and in business, whether you’re the CIO, a business owner, or an employee.

Defining public, private and virtual clouds

Cloud technology can be deployed in a number of ways – the three main ones are through a private cloud, public cloud, or a hybrid/virtual cloud.

  1. Private cloud

Also known as an internal or enterprise cloud, this type of cloud hosting solution might be based on the organisation’s intranet or internally hosted data centre, or it could be hosted with a provider. With a private cloud, your business doesn’t share any hardware resources with others.

If hosted onsite, the business is responsible for ongoing management, maintenance and updating of the data centre, and the servers might need to be updated over time. Private clouds could be considered more secure in some circumstances. This might be part of the reason 78% of Australian businesses are investing in private cloud technology.

  1. Public cloud

If your business uses a public cloud, you rely on your cloud service provider for hosting, maintenance, and management. Instead of being hosted in your internal intranet and servers, your data is externally hosted. You share resources with other subscribers to the public cloud service. Public clouds are less expensive than private cloud, and so it’s not surprising public cloud is a popular way to deploy cloud technology.

In Australia, total public cloud spend is around $5 billion. Figures from the ABS reveal the use of commercial cloud computing leapt from 19% to nearly one-third of Australian business from the 2013/14 year to the 2015/16 year.

  1. Virtual cloud

Virtual or hybrid cloud technology can be seen as the best of both worlds. Your virtual cloud service combines both private and public cloud features to access the advantages of both. In practice, this means your applications and data can be located and shifted onto your private or public cloud to support flexibility and productivity in your organisation.

For example, your business can opt for the public cloud for lower bandwidth processes such as email, while using the private cloud for sensitive data and business-critical work. You might also be able to use cloud-bursting features to have apps run in the private cloud until spikes in demand necessitate a switch on the public cloud.

Research has found around 40% of Australian organisations are already shifting to hybrid cloud technology, and nearly half of all Australian IT leaders are driving a transition to hybrid cloud within the next 18 months.

Cloud technology in practice

Private, public, and virtual cloud technologies have different advantages in practice. Security can be a major consideration, as well as cost.

Security, reliability, and cost

An onsite, self-hosted private cloud allows you to secure your data behind your own firewall and chosen security features. Your servers can be physically secured in the way you like, and you can refine the IT architecture to keep your sensitive data safe. As a result, your business could enjoy increased reliability.

It’s very important for businesses to note that this does not include defending against malicious attacks, and your employees will have physical access to your servers. If you’re a large organisation with your own IT department, these challenges might not be major. However, smaller organisations might lack the know-how to protect their data adequately with a self-hosted private cloud.

Public clouds are less costly than private clouds, because you won’t need to establish your own dedicated infrastructure or purchase dedicated, non-tenanted private cloud services from a vendor. While public clouds may offer enterprise-class firewalls within a secure facility, this very much depends on the vendor. Usually the security challenge with public clouds is not an issue with the provider or the service, but the way public cloud is accessed and used. Employees or hackers could obtain access from anywhere, and you’ll need to ensure your access policies reflect your desired security standards.

Virtual clouds: the best of both worlds

A hybrid or virtual cloud could offer your organisation the best of both worlds, allowing you to maintain control over the most sensitive information and processes with a private cloud facility, whether it’s onsite and managed by you or managed by a vendor offsite. You can enjoy the same levels of performance and stability traditionally associated with private cloud services. At the same time, you can have access to a public cloud when you need additional capability for non-sensitive processes and data.

Since you can scale up and down depending on sensitive/non-sensitive data need, your business can reduce unnecessary expenses and pay for the extra bandwidth or power only when you need it. This combination of flexible, cost control, and scalability makes virtual cloud a promising, secure option for businesses of all sizes.

When choosing a cloud service, the options now go beyond the private versus public divide. Hybrid or virtual cloud services offer businesses of all sizes the best of both worlds: security and stability with flexibility and scalability at an affordable price. If you’re looking to shift your business to the cloud, virtual cloud could be the best option for you.

Aussie Broadband provides enterprise-level virtual cloud services to businesses across Australia. To find out more about what we can do to help your business with a tailored solutions, request an obligation-free, no-cost quote from our expert team.

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About the author

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron works from an office in the tropical Northern Territory, inciting intense jealousy from his Victorian workmates during winter. He’s an expert in IT solutions from the ground up. Aaron is National Sales Manager of Aussie Broadband, which specialises in bespoke telco solutions for corporate and government customers.