The 4 types of cloud you need to know

The idea for this post was partly inspired by a conversation I had during breakfast last week.  Yes, the cloud does sound very nerdy as breakfast conversation, but I have come to accept that part of me now. At least I am growing too, but I digress. The conversation made me realize that we often refer to the ‘public cloud’ when we talk about, well, the cloud. By understanding the different types of cloud options available, it might help broaden our thinking about the possibilities that the cloud provides. 

The Public cloud

Starting with the public cloud is useful because 99/100 times it’s the one that we refer to when we talk about Microsft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. Public cloud is most easily thought about as having a third party manage all your computing infrastructure. All the services are delivered to you over the internet from the datacenter. 

Public cloud benefits from the pay-as-you-go model since you only pay for the infrastructure for the time that it is in use. This, therefore, can allow for significant cost savings if you require variable compute. 

Public cloud enjoys basically unlimited compute as you are able to request what is needed on demand. In the case of a Black Friday sale, for instance, the ability to scale up compute for that particular day for your Webshop could enable a seamless experience even though web traffic might be extreme. 

Finally, it’s easily globally redundant. That is a complicated way of saying that you could spread your data across multiple zones, even globally, and have the data be synchronized. This means that you don’t have to open up 3 data facilities across town in case one goes down. 


Use Case Quickie: A couple of weeks ago I needed to transfer all my fiancée’s pictures from Apple’s iCloud to Google Photos. There were over 10,000 pictures and videos, and I had already tried several times to do it on 2 different laptops. The internet was slow, it used an in-browser download manager, the files totaled around 50GB and it was giving me an estimated 8 hours wait time. So I decided to spin up a powerful virtual machine that did the whole thing in about 3 hours – download + upload. It cost me less than 1 euro. Perfect.


Private Cloud

There are several organizations that are keener to have a tighter grip on their data. Governmental agencies or some banks, for instance, might prefer to have more control over the infrastructure they use and secure it behind some heavier firewalls. For these organizations, the cloud providers tend to have their own unique solutions, however, think of the private cloud as having your own datacenter(s) that run cloud computing technology. 

This means the infrastructure is only intended to be used by one party and often they own it all as well. By being the sole user of a private cloud, you are able to add several extra layers of security to prevent unwanted access to sensitive data for instance. Having a private network, so data doesn’t travel over the internet, as well as knowing the exact location that your data is stored, are both possibilities that can increase the control you have over your infrastructure. 

Private clouds can therefore be customized to the specific needs of the end-users. This could have the additional benefit of enabling certain use cases that might not be possible (yet) in the public space.

Hybrid Cloud

This, as the name might imply, is the combination of various cloud set-up solutions. A hybrid cloud solution most often refers to having a private cloud solution with the ability to extend this into the public cloud. This is often the case faced by clients migrating to the public cloud. Many believe that this has to be one giant leap with the possibility of a fatal production failure – which would be a serious operational risk. However, it is possible to gradually offload certain workloads to the public cloud.

Working with a hybrid solution also enables customization as you select which aspects of the business need to remain on-premise and which can be uploaded. In this way, you can both experiment and decide whether the cloud is worth it for your organization. 

For migration projects, as mentioned above, it occurs that certain applications or certain department teams are individually moved to the cloud to test feasibility. This sometimes leads to situations where the simulation team for instance only works with the public cloud, while the customer service team all use the private cloud. 

Multi-cloud

Finally, we have the multi-cloud solutions that tend to refer to using a combination of public cloud services. This is often a solution that arises for organizations that are further in their cloud journey. Companies that tend to understand the cloud landscape a bit better, are able to distinguish the unique cloud solutions that each offers. 

As these companies compete, they naturally differ slightly in the services they offer, the global regions they are dominant in as well as the pricing structures they use. Organizations opting for multi-cloud solutions might choose to use different public cloud providers for offices around the world or might have backups of their data across multiple vendors as well. This can lead to cheaper solutions, decreased risk, and larger availability of resources. 

Additionally, ‘vendor lock-in’ is often a concern for organizations. By being too reliant on one cloud vendor, you are subject to their pricing and conditions. Certain groups prefer to spread their risk of being overly dependent by spreading their workloads across several public cloud providers. This is especially true for large organizations that can more easily negotiate their terms.

Which strategy is best?

Well, as in a lot of cases, it depends. You can see from the above cases that each has its own unique advantages. Cloud Architects are often responsible for analyzing the business needs and coming up with unique solutions and designs that cater to each use case. You have to ponder costs, performance, speed of feature and security updates, security, control regulations, etc.

Just being aware that these different options exist, might help you expand your thinking on what is possible and hopefully mitigate some fear that might arise as you consider your cloud journey.

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