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Public cloud vs. private cloud: Why not both?

Beth Schultz | April 4, 2011
As cloud computing moves from hype to reality, certain broad trends and best practices are emerging when it comes to the public cloud vs. private cloud deployment debate.

If you have major security and privacy issues, and you don't want to build your own private cloud, a virtual private cloud, your own gated community within the public cloud universe, is an option.

That model turned out to be the right answer for United Capital Financial Partners, a fast-growing national partnership of private wealth counselors.

"When we started looking, we thought, OK, we need a cloud - everybody says we need one. That's the word," says Brandon Gage, senior vice president of technology at the 250-person Newport Beach, Calif., company.

But the more Gage investigated the idea of building a private cloud, the less feasible the idea became, he says. "The level of expertise we would have needed in-house to make this happen doesn't make sense for a company of our size, and it doesn't even make sense for our road map for the next three to five years. What we really needed was a partner that'd already done all the heavy-lifting, had a SAS-70 data center audit, reference customers and could deliver the experience our users deserved," Gage says.

Now United Capital stores its data in a virtual private cloud, located at a collocation facility, using a file-management and collaboration service from Syncplicity.

"I'm not going to lie. This makes me look like a rock star - our cost-savings have been that incredible, in the 65% to 70% range, and we're only in year one," Gage says.

"Plus," he adds, "users report a much better experience getting at their data and, since we're getting rid of servers, my IT guys aren't running around all day logging in and making sure this or that got fixed."

Taking a different tack is the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which has a private cloud, and has no intention of ever moving to the public cloud because of security and patient privacy concerns.

Lynn Vogel, vice president and CIO at MD Anderson Cancer Center, says, "If I made the decision to put patient data in a public cloud and there's a breach, then the patient is much more likely to go after me as the person who made the decision and my institution than an Amazon or Microsoft. They'd get wrapped up with those guys for years," he says. "So we have a significant security concern that really moves us away from thinking about public cloud resources."

What's more, he suggests, a public cloud provider's profitability consciousness could conflict with how much it'd be willing to spend on data protections. "Public cloud companies are in the business to make money, as they should be. That's entirely appropriate, but ... if anyone is taking shortcuts to protect the bottom line, I don't want to be in the middle," Vogel says.

 

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