Firstly, we have to understand what is meant by Cloud and why it is relevant to any business operation; putting it fairly simply, there are a lot of different types of “cloud” out there, the important factor is to understand the main differences between the three most commonly referred to types of cloud: Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds. (There are others, and precise definitions do vary).
• Public Cloud is what most people think of when you mention the magic word “Cloud”. Simply put, the computing resources (e.g. CPU, RAM, storage, and to some extent network) are hosted out there on the internet somewhere, and anyone can use them (they may have to pay for the privilege, but anyone can use them).
• Private Cloud is the same idea, but restricted to one user / customer, i.e. the computing resources are hosted out there on the internet somewhere, but with controlled access.
• Hybrid Cloud is a combination of cloud based computing (out there in the internet somewhere), and on-premise based computing resources.
What’s so great about these options?
Cloud computing has been gaining great traction for one reason: Flexibility.
This flexibility comes about because as more (or fewer) resources are required, they can be easily added to (or removed), in the traditional on-premise world, resources were relatively static; new hardware would need to be purchased if more resources were required, hardware would lie idle if not needed. This may sound ideal, however there are some caveats which must be borne in mind, as there is no such thing as a perfect world. By putting systems into “the cloud”, there are all sorts of implications, including performance impact (latency, bandwidth), security (who else has access to the data), and visibility (how to see what is happening); these are typically the main concerns to bear in mind, and to varying degrees can be addressed whether in the cloud or not. Because most users now have an awareness of cloud capabilities, the expectation is also growing from the user perspective that they should have access to all data at all times, across all platforms, which also drives the move to cloud.
That said, there are factors which many organisations must bear in mind which can make the move to cloud almost impossible. One example is compliancy requirements which may mean that complete control over all resources must be maintained; in this case, of course, on-premise hosted systems make complete sense.
There will always be arguments for and against both options. Most organisations are moving towards a hybrid model, whereby some elements of control are retained over data, and how it is used, but the more routine types of software (full desktop and server operating systems, productivity, ranging from document editing, spreadsheets, presentations, authentication mechanism, data storage) are outsourced to cloud providers of varying types.
So, the answer to what is better? That, of course, depends on the customer, the application, the use-case, the future requirements and the security posture…. This is what we can help with, the arguments, for and against each option and the hybrids that this often presents.