Different configurations of the cloud are putting unprecedented computing power into the hands of entrepreneurs for prices that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. They’re allowing small businesses to reach new customers, and are speeding up the pace of scientific development. Business cloud services are as varied and individual as their namesakes, but they come in three basic configurations: public, private, and hybrid clouds.
A public cloud is the type of cloud offered by Amazon, Microsoft, or Google, for instance. It provides both services and infrastructure, which are shared by all customers. Public clouds typically have massive amounts of available space, which translates into easy scalability. A public cloud is often recommended for software development and collaborative projects. Companies can design their applications to be portable, so that a project that’s tested in the public cloud can be moved to the private cloud for production.
Private clouds usually reside behind a firewall. A completely on-premise cloud may be the preferred solution for businesses with very tight regulatory requirements, though off-premise private clouds are gaining in popularity. Private clouds offer both security and control, but these come at a cost. The company that owns the cloud is responsible for paying for both software and infrastructure, making this a less economical model than the public cloud.
Hybrid clouds combine two or more clouds that maintain their unique identities. The clouds can be any combination of public or private, which creates some intriguing possibilities, though hybrids are perhaps more difficult to maintain than either public or private clouds; care must be taken to ensure that all aspects of the business remain in communication.
There are two commonly used hybrid models. Cloudbursting uses an in-house private cloud as its primary cloud, supplemented by a public cloud to handle periods of fluctuating service demands. The second model runs most applications on an in-house private cloud, but outsources non-critical applications to a public cloud provider.
The cloud represents an amazing opportunity for both new and established businesses to dramatically improve their processes. It will be exciting to see what new shapes these clouds will assume tomorrow and what kind of innovation they’ll make possible.