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Public, Private or Puffy: What Exactly Is the Cloud, Anyway?

Eastern DataComm Cloud Phone SystemMulti-cloud and hybrid cloud adoption is on the rise, according to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Report, which found that organizations are using an average of eight different clouds. Eighty-five percent of organizations have a multi-cloud strategy, with 41 percent of IT workloads in public clouds and 38 percent in private clouds.

Multiple studies expect up to 60 percent of workloads to be running in the cloud by the end of the year. The cloud enables organizations to minimize capital investments in infrastructure, paying for the IT services they use as an operational expense. It also enables organizations to access IT resources with minimal risk, and scale those resources up or down as business needs dictate. Cloud-based phone systems, video conferencing solutions, and storage and backup services are among the most popular cloud applications.

However, there remains a general lack of understanding about what the cloud is and why organizations are using the cloud, especially in upper management. In a 2016 Forrester Research survey, 96 percent of CEOs said they don’t fully understand cloud computing, and 91 percent of IT company CEOs don’t know exactly what their companies are doing in the cloud.

Much of the confusion about the cloud stems from the practice of “cloud washing.” Many vendors enable to customers to access the vendor’s services via the Internet and market these services as cloud apps. However, connecting to services via the Internet does not a cloud platform make.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” The NIST requires a cloud platform to have the following characteristics.

  • Provisioning and launching of resources through an on-demand, self-service portal without service provider assistance.
  • Broad network access that is not limited by proprietary standards and devices.
  • The ability to quickly add or remove resources from a shared pool according to business need without service provider assistance.
  • Tracking, measurement and reporting of cloud service usage to ensure optimization and billing accuracy.

There are three primary cloud deployment models. A private cloud is used by a single organization and can exist onsite or offsite. It can be managed internally or by a third party. A public cloud offers virtually unlimited resources that are shared by multiple organizations or the general public. It is hosted and managed by a cloud service provider. A hybrid cloud uses a combination of on-premises infrastructure and public and/or private clouds. All operate independently but communicate to allow data and applications to flow back and forth between environments.

The RightScale report found that private cloud adoption dropped from 77 percent to 72 percent as more organizations focus on public cloud deployments. Public cloud is easier and less expensive to implement and maintain than private cloud. Although the main advantage of private cloud has always been control and security, public cloud providers have made major security gains in recent years.

To be clear, there is no perfect cloud formula that applies to all organizations. Some can’t use public cloud because of industry regulations. But, in many cases, public cloud enables organizations to tap the benefits of the cloud quickly, with less effort and at lower upfront costs.

By understanding basic cloud characteristics and deployment models, you can make the right decision based on your business goals and processes.

Contact Eastern DataComm to learn how our cloud solutions can give you simple, cost-effective access to state-of-the-art voice and data services.