Innovation is occurring at a rapid pace.  Today, as technology consumers, we’re faced with so many IT choices on a daily basis that it can often be overwhelming.

There’s no doubt – cloud computing services abound right now.  Everywhere you look, there’s a new cloud computing provider, service or application being offered in the cloud.  But just how do you know what to invest in, or more so, when to invest in this latest-and-greatest technology?  With every decision comes added complexity resulting from the diversity of the available options.

With the decision to move into the cloud, there are 3 main considerations you need to ask yourself:

  1. Does cloud computing ultimately serve my core business need, both now and in the future?  Getting to the core of your business needs will help drive the decision making process of whether you enter into the cloud or not.  And, it’s imperative to note your business needs both short and long-term.
  2. Does computing in the cloud provide me with additional flexibility or agility in providing the application to my user community?  One size certainly does not fit all.  With cloud computing solutions, businesses are given that extra dexterity to meet end user requirements and quickly respond to changing business conditions.
  3. Does cloud computing make financial sense?  By migrating to the cloud there will be an inherent shift in the way processes are handled on a daily basis which tend to drive financial benefit in and of themselves.

When choosing a Cloud computing option, it’s important you understand that there are a few different types of clouds you can choose from. Understanding their capabilities is important to finding the right cloud service for your needs.

Here are the three main types of Cloud computing options you can choose from:

Public Clouds

For a public cloud, the service and infrastructure of the cloud is hosted off-site over the Internet. A public cloud is great for collaborating online with multiple peers. However, many IT professionals are concerned over the security of these clouds as the service is hosted off-site (giving them less control), and cloud security breaches are becoming more and more common.

The main benefits of using a public cloud service are:

  • Easy and inexpensive set-up because hardware, application and bandwidth costs are covered by the provider.
  • Scalability to meet needs.
  • No wasted resources because you pay for what you use.

The term “public cloud” arose to differentiate between the standard model and the private cloud, which is a proprietary network or data centre that uses cloud computing technologies, such as virtualization. A private cloud is managed by the organization it serves. A third model, the hybrid cloud, is maintained by both internal and external providers.

Examples of public clouds include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), IBM’s Blue Cloud, Sun Cloud, Google AppEngine and Windows Azure Services Platform.

Private Clouds

Private cloud is the phrase used to describe a cloud computing platform that is implemented within the corporate firewall, under the control of the IT department.

A private cloud is designed to offer the same features and benefits of public cloud systems, but removes a number of objections to the cloud computing model including control over enterprise and customer data, worries about security, and issues connected to regulatory compliance.

A private cloud implementation aims to avoid many of the objections regarding cloud computing security. Because a private cloud setup is implemented safely within the corporate firewall, a private cloud provides more control over the company’s data, and it ensures security, albeit with greater potential risk for data loss due to natural disaster.

The downside is private cloud ROI (return on investment): The organization implementing the private cloud is responsible for running and managing IT resources instead of passing that responsibility on to a third-party cloud provider.

With a private cloud, the services and infrastructure are maintained on a (usually on-site) private network. A private cloud is more expensive than a public cloud. However, it gives your IT department much more control over who accesses the cloud and how. A private cloud is perfect for larger companies that must adhere to strict security and data privacy regulations.

Hybrid Clouds

A hybrid cloud allows you to choose which aspects of the cloud are public and which are private by picking and choosing services from different providers. This is a good option for companies who are interested in using the cloud with clients, as it allows you to make some data public to those clients, while keeping the rest of the data you have in the cloud private.

A hybrid cloud is a composition of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud. A hybrid cloud is typically offered in one of two ways: a vendor has a private cloud and forms a partnership with a public cloud provider, or a public cloud provider forms a partnership with a vendor that provides private cloud platforms.

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally. For example, an organization might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for archived data but continue to maintain in-house storage for operational customer data. Ideally, the hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities.  This type of hybrid cloud is also referred to as hybrid IT.

No matter which cloud you choose, make sure that you are consistently monitoring the security of your data and accessing that data with secure tools and apps.