Businesses of all sizes and across verticals are increasingly transitioning to the cloud to host their servers, core applications, and data. Forward-thinking companies have identified the cloud as an accomodating solution for their new fully remote workforce due to its dynamic flexibility and scalability. When businesses move their data to the cloud, they reduce the risk of data loss, increase flexibility, and minimize security risks.
But do businesses understand what IT specialists mean when they use the word “cloud”? Hopefully, we all know servers and routers aren’t floating in the stratosphere. But where are they? What is the difference between public and private clouds? Are there other types?
While the benefits of cloud services are extensive, the vast array of deployment options creates an information barrier for companies considering adoption. When businesses don’t have the necessary information, selecting the right cloud infrastructure for their business ecosystem becomes complex, time-consuming, and costly.
Let’s review the different cloud deployment models to ensure you have the clarity needed to take advantage of the extensive benefits cloud computing offers.
What are the Four Main Types of Cloud Infrastructure?
Once a business decides to migrate its network to the cloud, the next step is to identify the most suitable cloud infrastructure for its mission-critical applications. Companies should factor in useability, benefits, disadvantages, cost-efficiency, use cases, and the size of their organization when comparing different cloud deployment models.
There are four general categories of cloud infrastructure: public, private, hybrid, and community. Each cloud computing model has its advantages, offering varying degrees of security, control, and customization.
Here is a brief overview of the various cloud deployment models.
1. Public Cloud
Public cloud infrastructure is entirely owned, managed, and maintained off-site via the internet by third-party service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, or Google. With a public cloud, service providers rent out their computing resources, like servers, storage, and applications, to various organizations, ensuring availability to anyone who wants to use or purchase them.
Public clouds are less expensive than private clouds since businesses don’t bear the costs of purchasing, managing, and maintaining the on-prem infrastructure. All of these tasks are the responsibility of the cloud service provider. Public cloud models typically use a flexible "pay as you grow" pricing model, making it an optimal solution for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs).
However, the tradeoff for cost-effectiveness is less autonomy, customization, and security. While security is typically the most common concern with public cloud models, service providers continually patch vulnerabilities and implement proper security methods such as intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) to prevent data breaches.
2. Private Cloud
Private cloud infrastructure is dedicated to a single organization or enterprise. The software and applications in a private cloud are usually proprietary platforms tailored to meet the needs of the business. Private cloud architecture can be hosted and managed either internally by on-site staff or externally by a third-party service provider. It’s generally more costly for business owners to support their private cloud as they are responsible for setup and maintenance.
The main advantages of private clouds include greater control, privacy, and security. Private clouds are typically gated by a sophisticated firewall with access only granted to authorized personnel.
However, private clouds don’t provide the agility and scalability of public clouds. Scaling a private cloud is a significant expense due to the upfront costs of acquiring and installing the additional infrastructure.
3. Hybrid Cloud
As the name suggests, hybrid cloud infrastructure combines elements from private and public deployments, offering the robust security of a private cloud and the additional storage and cost-effectiveness of a public cloud. However, infrastructure is complex and requires highly technical expertise to install, manage, and maintain due to the evolving mix of public and private clouds.
A hybrid cloud is an optimal deployment option for industries that store sensitive information, such as healthcare, government, and finance. These regulated industries are often required to keep certain types of sensitive data on-premises while allowing less sensitive data to be stored in the cloud. With a hybrid cloud, companies have the flexibility of the public cloud for less regulated tasks and the security of the private cloud to ensure regulatory compliance.
4. Community Cloud
Community clouds are shared by enterprises with common operational and regulatory concerns, such as trade associations, non-profits, and government agencies. A community cloud is a suitable deployment option for organizations that need a cost-effective way to collaborate on joint projects, applications, or research. Community clouds provide a cheaper alternative to private clouds since the operating and maintenance costs are divided among the cloud tenants. This model is hosted either on-site or off-site and owned by one or more organizations in the community or by a cloud services provider.
Your Personal Guide for Navigating Managed Cloud Services
The time has come for companies to retire their legacy mindset and adopt the innovative capabilities cloud computing offers. With the influx of remote work, cloud services will be an essential tool as companies strive to maintain flexible, secure, and convenient tech infrastructures.
Whether your organization is large or small, or your primary concern is privacy or cost-effectiveness, understanding which cloud deployment options are available is the first step in selecting a cloud solution that best fits your organization.
In addition to selecting a suitable cloud infrastructure for your organization, you should also make sure you’re choosing an experienced cloud services provider. Cloud computing is complex, but the right managed service provider leverages deep technical insight and conducts comprehensive IT assessments to ensure the cloud deployment option chosen best fits your organization’s specific needs.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 15, 2013, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.