A cloud is an IT environment where an organization’s computing resources are housed remotely and accessed over the Internet. In a public cloud, those resources are owned by a third-party provider and obtained as a service by a customer base. An organization’s entire IT environment can be cloud-based, or a subset of elements, such as the operating infrastructure (operating systems), user applications (such as Microsoft Office 360), data, developer tools and testing environments, and network security elements.
A public cloud environment is ideal for small and medium organizations, as well as project-based business environments because the organization only pays for the resources it consumes on the cloud. Project-based organizations, where computing requirements and staffing rise and fall based continuously on active projects, can add and remove resources as projects begin and end, making the IT resources efficiently used and no need to build overcapacity into the environment.
Most public cloud providers are continually updating their systems. Users are freed of the need to invest time in installing these upgrades on their own, which is a great benefit.
The cost savings of a public cloud can be extensive. First, there is no major hardware to purchase or replace every 2-4 years. Second, in a fully remote public cloud, your organization does not require an IT professional, which can save an organization over $50,000 per year. The other two benefits also have a cost savings element. Scalability means the organization needs not to invest in IT equipment speculatively in anticipation of future growth or to handle peak demands. And, public cloud infrastructure mostly eliminates the incremental time and investment costs of system upgrades. Note that even if a subset of IT environmental systems is being relegated to a public cloud, organizations can still achieve many of these cost savings.
Although there is a perception that public cloud environments are less safe than traditional physical environments, an adequately configured public cloud environment can be just as secure as a conventional environment. The best way to understand how cloud security works is to understand its architecture. Providers of cloud environments function primarily as landlords, and their environmental architecture is specialized to allow multiple tenants to share computing resources. From a security standpoint, keeping your systems secure is a shared responsibility, just as a landlord is responsible for keeping your building secure. Still, you must keep your particular apartment safe.
A poorly planned, configured and executed public cloud project can result in a loss of all the benefits of a public cloud system. Furthermore, without a robust security infrastructure, a public cloud environment is an easy target for hackers and malware. It is essential that an organization carefully plan their cloud architecture for optimal performance. The first decision is to choose the right good cloud provider.
Cloud providers range in size from small, local organizations to large providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. While smaller providers may be less expensive for essential services, the large providers offer additional benefits such as state of the art perimeter security, 24/7 support, faster connectivity, greater scalability, better-managed risk (large providers have multiple redundant datacenters) and most importantly, stability.
It is no small matter to transfer your cloud systems to a new provider if your old provider suddenly goes out of business. Second, you must decide how to interconnect your systems. Interconnectivity is most uncomplicated with a typical cloud provider for your entire infrastructure. However, several organizations will end up with a mix of physical and cloud systems and separate service providers for infrastructure, applications, and possibly security. Poor connections will cause trouble for your users, or result in time-consuming inefficiencies as users need to log in and out of multiple sub environments. Third, your organization needs to secure its systems.
As mentioned above, cloud providers provide some security, mostly to protect their servers and secure data repositories. However, without adequate security measures, your organization’s applications and data storage may be accessed and attacked by bad guys. Remote devices, such as laptops and smartphones, can still get viruses, and an organization’s Web presence can be attacked as if it were at their facilities.
Lastly, an organization needs to configure its environment correctly. Many providers have ancillary charges for specific elements, such as static IP addresses (because they are a limited resource). If an organization can operate with exclusively dynamic IP addresses, it stands to save a good deal of money. Also, when downscaling services, sometimes the downscaling leaves remnant environmental elements that an organization no longer needs but will incur charges if not cleaned up properly.
Providers can configure systems to clean up these elements when no longer needed automatically, but that configuration must be set appropriately. As an ongoing maintenance element, an organization needs to track its usage to ensure the cloud environment is rightsized correctly for the organization’s use.