Managed public or private cloud – which one offers your organisation the best mix of flexibility, cost and control?
It’s well known that cloud services give growing organisations the capacity to scale quickly, simplify remote access, and to de-risk reliance on a legacy IT environment. But most mid-sized organisations do not have the budget to build a data centre and/or hire the staff needed to manage a cloud environment. Instead, these businesses often have to choose between a managed public or managed private cloud.
Economics can also be a significant factor for organisations when deciding whether to opt for a managed public cloud or a managed private cloud. Public cloud wears the label of being a more affordable option due to its shared model and its relative set-and-forget nature. But to default to a managed public cloud without examining both would be a mistake. A managed private cloud provides benefits that a managed public cloud cannot. And they are not always the more costly option overall.
For comparison purposes we will ignore hybrid cloud complexities in this article.
Managed public clouds are a common type of cloud computing solution. The shared hardware, software, and other supporting solutions are owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider. Examples include Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. The cloud service is then managed by another third party managed service provider to operate and monitor the workloads.
A managed private cloud consists of cloud computing resources, hardware and software reserved exclusively for one organisation. The organisation’s own data centre might host the cloud hardware, or a managed service provider can provide and manage the complete private environment on behalf of the organisation.
A managed public cloud offers a range of benefits. One potential benefit is cost reduction through economies of scale, with multiple clients sharing operational infrastructure costs.
Public clouds also enable quick turnaround times, letting you access the most advanced software and applications available without having to constantly upgrade, while easily scaling up or down to meet your needs. These features mean you only pay for the resources you need at any given time. And you generally don’t need to worry about being locked into long term contracts, as most cloud providers operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, with flexible use comes dynamic pricing, which must be factored in.
Managed private cloud solutions provide greater control over the environment, which makes it easier for you to configure your infrastructure to suit your needs. It also make it possible for the same managed service provider to offer related services to the organisation including WAN, security and support, for a complete end-to-end solution and one point of contact.
Private cloud solutions also help to simplify accountability, with the burden of governance falling on one specific entity. This simplicity streamlines the chain of responsibility and makes it easy to know who’s in charge of what.
This level of control can also be a critical factor in some industries that handle sensitive data. Private cloud solutions offer peace of mind – you can know where your data is physically located at any given time and control the protocols that enforce information security. Private clouds also help you use any in-house knowledge relating to systems, processes, and organisational priorities directly within the IT environment.
Managed private clouds differ from in-house private clouds in that the managed storage capacity is not limited to what you have available on-premises. Instead, your managed service provider can offer access to additional resources as required, making it a little more scalable than an in-house system. And when those needs decrease, so too can your resource allocation – and your costs.
Managed public cloud has a distinct advantage over managed private cloud when it comes to the speed and ease of scalability. So, if your business needs to scale up or down rapidly to support user demand (for example, a retailer in the lead up to Christmas or a business requiring a dynamic software development environment), then a managed public cloud may be most suited.
Just be aware, though, that vigilance is vital when it comes to monitoring cloud usage so that you can budget for it in advance and avoid bill shock.
Organisations that opt for a managed public cloud should do so in the knowledge that they are relinquishing a degree of control over who handles their data. While some companies may once have kept all their data on a public cloud, this trend is changing. In addition, some studies show that moving some critical applications from the public cloud to on-prem solutions can achieve substantial cost savings for the business – particularly for larger organisations.
But the big question isn’t just about controlling expenses – it’s also about convenience, responsiveness and responsibility. Splitting services may help lower individual expenses, but leaves operational and management costs as a long-term issue, as multiple infrastructure stakeholders make management more complex. The question then becomes: whom do you want in charge of your infrastructure? Do you want a single point of contact in control of all your IT, or are you comfortable dividing the responsibility to save costs? Public cloud solutions can offer your business more providers for more competitive rates but add complexity. In comparison, managed private cloud offers streamlined accountability, which clients can extend to other areas of service, such as network management, information security, and end-user support. These outcomes need to measure up against the potential cost-benefit on both sides.
Ultimately, the question becomes about value. Do you value the simplicity and accountability that comes with having a single entity in charge of all things IT?
Or the flip side, is it more valuable to you as an organisation to save costs? Would it be worth spreading the services you use across multiple vendors to achieve this?
The answer depends mainly on your capacity as an organisation, the resources you have available, and what you want to achieve with them. For some organisations, control is worth more as it clarifies responsibility and makes it easy to enforce accountability. In turn, these clarifications help drive responsiveness, with better access to experienced personnel helping to improve overall service quality.
Neither managed public or private cloud environments are inherently more secure than the other.Some organisations may prefer a particular public cloud environment, such as Microsoft Azure, because they wish to utilise a particular stack of security applications and licencing to take advantage of an integrated ecosystem.
Whereas, a private cloud environment allows a greater mix and match approach to combine alternative or additional security measures.
Private cloud setups can also provide the opportunity for a single entity to take full responsibility for active security. The managed service provider may be capable of providing the client with qualified advice on specialist security tools for use in a controlled environment, alongside professional monitoring, support, and incident response.
There is no definitive answer regarding the choice between a managed public cloud or a managed private cloud. One is not necessarily cheaper than the other as it depends on the organisation’s specific circumstances, requirements, and internal capabilities.
To receive balanced advice on the correct setup for your business, it may be a good idea to talk to a provider that offers a mix of managed public and private cloud services. That way, you can go beyond simple cost-benefit analysis and get a comprehensive look at how the pros and cons of both types of cloud platforms can impact your organisational workflows, user behaviour, and future opportunities.