Why public cloud doesn't really mean public

By Lucy Wright - July 16, 2019

The public cloud versus private cloud debate is not uncommon among decision makers within small to medium-size enterprises; especially when weighing up the pros and cons of costs, efficacy of in-house IT teams, data control and security. In many instances, the very term 'public cloud' can seem alarming for some organisations. Media attention is rife these days with credentials being bought and sold on the dark web for serious money, significant breaches - often in the millions - seem to be more and more commonplace. Terms such as data breach, cyber security, hack and phishing attack are all too prevalent in today's hyper-connected, always-on world.

For many businesses we speak to, 'public' implies something being out in the open and vulnerable. You wouldn't leave important intellectual property or sensitive data lying around in a public place, would you? So why would you want to put it into the public cloud?

In this instance, the terminology is very definitely doing a disservice. Most of the public cloud services you are likely to implement for a business have tools in place to secure your data. Just because your information is in the public cloud, it doesn't mean that your information is publicly available. The 'public' cloud label is acting as a deterrent and stopping many organisations from benefiting from cloud solutions, when it really shouldn't.

What does 'public cloud' really mean?

The term 'public cloud' refers to whether the service is publicly available. A business owner, an IT manager, or a procurement officer can go to the Microsoft Office 365 portal and sign up to the service. It is a platform available to them as members of the public that they can subscribe to, but once they have a subscription, that is something they have control over. If you sign up to Office 365, for example, you will be given a tenant on the platform which you can think of as your own private area within the public space.

If your name's not down, you're not coming in

As an analogy, think about renting an apartment in someone else's building, instead of building a house of your own. Just as a good landlord shouldn't let strangers into your apartment without your knowledge and permission, Microsoft won't let people have access to your data without your knowledge and permission. You can choose to grant access to some of your data, for example, sharing a file with a partner to work collaboratively on it, and there might be some circumstances when Microsoft will request access, like if you raise a support ticket, but in general you hold the keys to who can come into your tenant and view your documents and other information.

Given that your data remains private in the public cloud, the next logical question is, what is a private cloud, then?

Private cloud

A private cloud is something that uses some of the hallmarks of cloud-based technology (subscription services, flexibility, scalability) but in a way that is not generally available to the public.

A large organisation may choose to implement their own data centres in such a way that departments and business units can spin up resources on it in a flexible manner, requesting use of services as and when they are required. There may be a billing mechanism built in so that the cost of the datacentre resources gets spread between the departments' budgets according to their usage. This gets referred to as a cloud because it uses many of the mechanisms of cloud platforms, but the difference is that its run and managed for the use of a single organisation (or occasionally, a dedicated group of organisations).

So, the terms public and private really refer to who can sign up to use the resources, not who can access the data of those who are already using them.

What about security and data protection?

Security is still an important consideration when moving to the public cloud, but that is because you are in control of how public your data is, and you should make sure that your security is appropriate to the needs of your organisation. Cloud solutions like Office 365 and Microsoft 365 have robust security  and compliance capabilities to help your organisation protect data or comply with legal or regulatory standards.

As part of our cloud services, Core can migrate you to the cloud and help your organisation start enjoying the benefits and enhanced productivity that cloud solutions bring. You can move some or all of your IT to the cloud - lots of organisations take a hybrid approach at first and migrate gradually. Our service calculator will tell you which cloud solutions can help you achieve your business goals and given an instant quote based on the number of users you have.

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