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Choosing the cloud that's right for you

Al Kuebler | April 1, 2015
There are degrees of commitment to the cloud, and more than one cloud model to consider.

It is worth repeating that moving to the cloud is not an all-or-nothing proposition. A cloud approach to IT management is compatible with either retaining some on-premise IT or eliminating it entirely. Finding the right fit is a matter of assessing what will bring you the most business benefits. But a deeper understanding of cloud options is where the matchmaking process is best begun.

The public cloud

The public cloud is a typical starting point for many businesses' journey to the cloud IT management option. It's easily available to even the smallest businesses, from some of the best-known vendors. Take Microsoft Office 365, for example. The cost benefits are clear. With the traditional, on-premises deployment of the Microsoft Office suite, every employee who will use the software must have a license -- a capital expense to be depreciated over time. But if the business scales back its head count, it retains those licenses that were already paid for. With the public-cloud Office 365 approach, you pay month-to-month for only the licenses you need at the time. And for most companies, that would be recorded as an operational expense, not a capital expense.

Naturally, this approach is good for cash flow. Instead of making a major purchase and depreciating it over three years, the cost is spread out.

The public cloud has a downside, of course, most notably that most of the available applications are not very customizable. If you have enhanced security or compliance requirements, for example, or the desire for more control or customization in your environment, you may want to step up to the private cloud.

The private cloud

Because a private cloud is dedicated solely to your company, run either by your own staff or a third party, you have more freedom for customization and can shape it to suit your needs. Upgrades can suit your timetable, which is usually not the case in the public cloud.

A private cloud is also a much more protected environment. In many cases, you don't have any administrative-level access to the environment; you only have the ability to configure the applications that you use. Companies that need to comply with Dodd-Frank or HIPAA, for example, where very clear controls and security measures are required, often find the private cloud a much better option.

On the downside, it's a more expensive option than the public cloud.

IaaS via the cloud

Companies that don't want to build and maintain a data center can turn to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. Building a data center can be a very large capital expense, especially for a data center that can withstand severe weather and has several redundancies for electrical power and computational capacity. Once it's built, the data center has to be physically secured, and it of course requires 24/7 staffing.


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