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Getting your head in the cloud – Part I: Public vs Private

The year is 1996. ‘Trainspotting’ is opening in cinemas, the 100,000th website is launching on the internet (current count: 1,197,982,359), Dolly the Sheep is being cloned and, according to MIT Technology review, in an obscure office park outside Houston, a marketing executive for Compaq Computers is about to coin a term that will define the future of computing.

Though many credit Google and Amazon for first using the term in 2006, in the picture below George Favaloro can clearly be seen with a Compaq business plan that has been verified as containing the first use of ‘cloud computing’.

Why anyone would pose for a picture holding a report that someone has scribbled all over is anyone’s guess, but the fact remains – Compaq coined it and then went on to evolve it into a $2bn annual business selling servers to Internet providers.

Cloud computing is not a trend. It’s a fact of life. Everytime you open an app, browse the internet or binge-watch this week’s must-see series, you’re accessing information stored in the cloud.

According to a recent report, 99% of enterprises and SMBs are using a cloud service. The question is now: What is the optimal cloud set up for my business?

In this article, we weigh up the pros and cons of public vs private cloud to help you decide which is best for your business.

What is a public cloud?

Public cloud is like staying at an Air BnB (remember those?).

You choose a property to stay in that can sleep however many people are travelling with you, it’s fully furnished and maintained, you use the facilities as needed and when you’re done, you pack up and leave having spent considerably less than you would have if you owned the property.

Just don’t go trying to remodel the house – big no-no.

Public clouds are the most common conception of what a “cloud” is. Servers and storage are owned and operated by a third-party provider and delivered over the internet. All hardware, software and any supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider.

You share the same hardware, storage and network devices with other organisations or cloud “tenants” and use a web browser to access and manage your account.

With a public cloud, you have immediate access to a vast pool of resources with practically no startup costs. It’s also massively scalable and enables you to handle a growing, or shifting, volume of data. As you don’t have to manage or maintain the IT infrastructure, it can also be a cost saver.

A public cloud is used by many modern organisations for development, testing, training servers as well as general hosting.

Advantages of public clouds:

  • Costs – You don’t have to purchase any hardware or software and you only pay for what you need.
  • Maintenance – As in you don’t have any. You don’t have to worry about upkeep or purchasing any further hardware
  • Scalability – As much storage space and resources as your business needs.
  • Reliability – Cloud providers stake their reputation on their up-time, they have large-scale backups to ensure they don’t go down.

Disadvantages for the public cloud

  • Control – You don’t own the infrastructure, so you’re relying on third-party policies and practices for your data and software integrity. This can be dangerous when it comes to vital or sensitive operations and software
  • Long-term costs – While initial costs are substantially cheaper, if your data and storage requirements remain consistent, it may be more cost-effective in the long-term to build your own cloud
  • Security – Your data may be at risk of unauthorised access as it is hosted in a shared infrastructure. While most cloud providers have a robust security policy, it will still generally be inferior to private and serviced clouds.

What is a private cloud?

To stretch the property metaphor further – think of on-premise private cloud as owning a house and off-premise private cloud (ie. managed data centres) as renting.

In the first instance, you own all the infrastructure, pay for maintenance and upkeep and have total control over every aspect of the property. In the second, you rent the space and maintenance is included in that cost. You have a fair degree of control over infrastructure and can pick and choose which equipment you own vs which equipment you lease.

With a private cloud, all services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network and the hardware and software are dedicated to your company.  In simple terms, it’s a single-tenant cloud environment built on dedicated hardware.

With a private cloud, you can customise and create a setup that meets your organisation’s exact needs. You have full and total control over your IT cloud environment.

Advantages of private clouds

  • Flexibility – Ability to customise your cloud environment to specific business needs
  • Control – You have higher levels of control and privacy as you are not sharing resources with anyone
  • Efficiency – With dedicated resources it becomes easier to optimise and monitor performance. Private clouds generally have better performance than public ones.

Disadvantages of private clouds

  • Expense – Building a private cloud can come with large-scale initial costs as well as ongoing operational ones. It may not be worth it depending on your long-term cloud strategy.
  • Scalability – Any change in scope or capacity will come with costs and effort. You will have to plan carefully if you need to upscale or downscale your cloud services.


At the end of the day, a business needs to find the cloud option that works for them. If you foresee rapid growth and scale, a public cloud solution may be best. In addition, if your IT infrastructure requirement is relatively low, again a public cloud can be the right solution for you.

If you work in an ultra-regulated industry – such as finance – a private cloud option may be better with the level of control it provides you. Alternatively, what may be best is a combination of private and public options.

This concludes part 1 of our ‘Getting your head in the cloud series’. Tune in for Part II where we take a deep dive into Hybrid Cloud Architecture.


Jokes aside, the backup solution we offer clients can do everything mentioned above and more. It’s scalable, affordable and very easy to set up and manage – give us a shout at contact@relltek.com or call us on +44 (0)203 0922 787 and let’s have that chat.

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