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What are some of the business limitations of the public cloud?

Q:

What are some of the business limitations of the public cloud?

A:

If you’re looking to run your business in the cloud, you’ll have to make the choice between using a public cloud and using a private cloud. There are advantages and disadvantages to using both approaches.

The biggest advantage in using a public cloud is that you can be up and running quickly. You don’t have to buy servers, slip them in racks and then install any other software you need.

The biggest disadvantage is the same reason public clouds are so popular: you don’t have control over the platform. Everything about what a cloud-based application does is up to the mercy of a cloud provider.

For example, one of the most common implementations of public clouds is as a multitenant system. Think of a multitenant system like an apartment building. Residents get housing, electricity and water provided to them in exchange for rent, but they’re limited in what they can do. While they can bring in their furniture, they’re not allowed to make major modifications to the building. They also have to deal with any noise their neighbors might be making.

In the cloud computing world, a public cloud limits the scope of what customers can do. If another client in a multitenant system is running a job that consumes a lot of CPU time, the other customers will follow. If the administrators haven’t patched a security hole, everyone is at risk of a major security breach. There can also be effects on uptime and increasing costs from increasing uses.

There are also privacy concerns for customers who handle sensitive data, such as companies in the healthcare industry.

A private cloud, by contrast, is like a private house. While a house might be more expensive and requires upkeep, owners will have a lot more freedom than by renting an apartment.

Likewise, private clouds allow companies to tailor a system to its needs and then provision internally to its customers. It’s ideal for organizations that require privacy and performance.

Still, the biggest disadvantage of a private cloud is that organizations must deploy their servers, install software and provision cloud services internally. For extra redundancy, big companies might want multiple data centers. That quickly offsets one of the biggest advantages for cloud computing: companies don’t have to invest in lots of computing hardware.

One way to split the difference is to opt for single-tenant cloud systems on public providers. With a single-tenant system, customers have the advantage of both systems because an application is hosted on a dedicated (usually virtual) server. That way, companies can have more control over their cloud application without having to spend time and money setting up new servers.

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Written by David Delony
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David Delony is a Bay Area expatriate living in Ashland, Oregon, where he combines his love of words and technology in his career as a freelance writer. He's covered everything from TV commercials to video games. David holds a B.A. in communication from California Sate University, East Bay.
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