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The transition to cloud computing continues to be a strategic priority for the U.S. government. Increased collaboration, greater efficiencies, scalable data storage – all are tangible benefits of the shift to the cloud. But not all cloud solutions are created equal. Cloud computing encompasses a range of types and architecture models. Each is tailored for a specific use case, taking into consideration the inherent risk-tolerance for data loss or compromise. What’s the difference between public, private, hybrid, and community clouds? Let’s find out.

Cloud computing is the storage and retrieval of data, software, and applications over the internet, rather than relying on an individual computer’s hard drive. At the fundamental level, the cloud is either public or private. Public clouds are off-site shared resources that multiple organizations and individuals may concurrently use. By contrast, a private cloud is dedicated to the use of a single organization. Clouds that offer features of both public and private configurations are called hybrid cloud environments. The last category, community cloud, is reserved for like-minded organizations that have cloud hosting requirements closely aligned with each other. We’ll discuss each in more detail.

What is the public cloud?

The public cloud is the foundation of technology- and software-driven enterprises. In a public cloud, users (whether private individuals or organizations) share computer infrastructure that is managed by a third-party cloud hosting company or cloud services provider. The benefits of this shared-resources model include cost savings (typically a fraction of the cost of a private cloud environment), pay-as-you-go payment options, enterprise-level security measures, maximum scalability, fast upgrades, and readily available support.

The public cloud has a few downsides, mainly due to its extreme popularity and massive user base. Public cloud services are routinely targeted by hackers, do not meet stringent regulatory or compliance requirements, give users minimal technical control, and present notable privacy concerns. However, for businesses with few security worries that are looking for cost-effective cloud services, the public cloud is a smart choice.

What is the private cloud?

In contrast to the public cloud, where resources are shared between varying organizations and individuals, the private cloud offers dedicated resources for use by a single organization. Proprietary or internal platforms and applications are deployed on this private cloud, which can be located on premise or managed externally by a cloud hosting provider. Because the data is protected by a firewall on a private network, this is one of the most customizable and secure cloud computing configurations.

The high performance, privacy, and control also comes with the burden of ongoing maintenance and dedicated IT resources internally. Typically, this equates to higher overall cost (as compared with the public cloud), longer lead-times for deployment, and little-to-no external support. The configurations and security parameters are bound by the limitations of the internal IT team. Organizations on private cloud infrastructures also might not have the means to scale rapidly to accommodate unpredictable or fluctuating needs. Private clouds are ideal for companies wanting absolute control, who also have the resources to fully manage the infrastructure in house.

What is a hybrid cloud?

Any architecture that combines both public and private cloud solutions is a hybrid cloud. By splitting how the cloud infrastructure is configured and managed, organizations benefit from getting the best of both worlds. For instance, an organization might choose to secure their most sensitive information on a private cloud environment, while relying on a public cloud for day-to-day team collaboration tools. The crucial data is kept secure, while the organization simultaneously leverages public cloud applications that can scale easily at a reduced cost.

The few drawbacks to a hybrid cloud environment stem from the compatibility, data fluidity, and integration hurdles that arise when data is managed across cloud architectures. This complexity can lead to larger initial investments in building and configuring the total cloud hosting solution. The organizations that most benefit from the hybrid cloud include those who have varying performance, security, and compliance requirements across their network.

What is a community cloud?

Many organizations, like government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare providers, have industry-specific security and privacy requirements. Because each are held to the same compliance standards as others in their community, they can take advantage of shared cloud environments specifically designed to suit their needs. These community clouds provide high availability, reliability, privacy, security, and compliance. Only “like-minded” organizations can access the pooled resources. What’s more, by sharing software and development tools designed specifically to meet the community’s needs, costs for developing or maintaining custom solutions can be reduced.

Deciding which cloud is right for you.

Migrating all or part of an organization’s resources to the cloud involves deciding which cloud services and cloud hosting environment are most suitable for business needs. Now that we’ve reviewed the differences between public, private, hybrid, and community clouds, do you know which is right for your organization? The answer might be a combination of different clouds and service models. Speak with a cloud hosting specialist at GovDataHosting today. We’ll guide you through the best hosting and support configuration for your mission success.

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