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The benefits of public cloud computing

Businesses that want to use cloud computing have a choice of using a public or private cloud, or a mixture of the two in the form of a "hybrid" cloud.

This HP whitepaper looks at the benefits of using public cloud services and will be followed by other separate whitepapers outlining the advantages of using private and hybrid cloud platforms.

Public and private

A public cloud sees a service provider make available applications, data storage capacity and other resources to organisations or the general public. This is unlike a private cloud, which is a cloud infrastructure run specifically for a single organisation, and which that organisation may have built itself or which was built by a third-party on its behalf.

The main difference between private and public cloud infrastructures is that a public cloud provider will use their infrastructure to house and distribute data for multiple organisations, not just yours.

Companies considering a move into the cloud first have to consider how critical the data and applications are to their business. They must also consider any regulatory or data protection requirements relevant to their organisation.

Organisations in financial services or health, for instance, must comply with strict rules regarding the control and security of their data, so they are more likely to choose a private cloud service. Other organisations in less sensitive industries, or organisations that need cloud services quickly and cheaply to deal with less critical data, are more likely to choose a public cloud infrastructure.

A well established solution

The marketing of "cloud" services is only a relatively recent phenomenon. But most of us are used to using public cloud services every day, whether that be web email like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo, social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, or basic internet browsing - trusting web service providers with our personal data.

Data from free public services like this has been stored in a public cloud since the internet gained critical mass in the early 1990s, and most never really gave much thought about it.

But with most businesses having to use the internet to fully operate, a greater focus has now been put on how the data they generate is processed, stored and protected.

Pay as you go

Public clouds usually work out cheaper than buying the dedicated hardware for a private cloud to handle the apps and data, which also needs managing and updating - creating even more costs.

The servers and other hardware in a public cloud are hosted off an organisation's premises, and enable users to rent server and computing capacity in a scalable "pay-as-you-go" way in response to business needs.

Economies of scale

By delivering such economies of scale, public cloud systems are suitable for organisations needing temporary added data capacity at peak times or for special ad hoc projects. They can also be used to host basic apps such as email.

Companies using the Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps email and desktop productivity suites, for instance, are using a public cloud service. The end users of such services can access apps from any location where they have an internet connection, so the public cloud makes remote and flexible working very easy indeed.

Public cloud services are also popular in the CRM, ERP, HR, social media management, and data storage and data archiving market segments, to name but a few.

While the security around public clouds is often a concern for potential users, it's not as if the security through the public cloud is more susceptible to security breaches. That's providing both the cloud user and the cloud provider can make sure the servers and other hardware storing the data are secure, and that the networks the data travels on are protected.

Opex vs Capex

For organisations wanting to reduce their capital expenditure (Capex) and move more to a lower operational expenditure (Opex) model, through relying on a cloud service provider's infrastructure to deliver apps and other services, public cloud infrastructures are an ideal opportunity to do it. And that for many, really is the bottom line.

Add to this the fact that using public cloud services means organisations can potentially lower IT staffing costs, as servers and other hardware does not have to be managed and maintained, and you have a good outline as to why public clouds are good for business.

Mobility and storage

The public cloud is a potential godsend for small businesses, start-ups and individual departments in large organisations that need cheaper and more scalable services that can be set up in response to flexible business needs.

Such organisations can benefit from free public cloud-based mobile applications for smartphones and tablets, that can be used by staff working in a variety of locations, and with all the data backed up in the cloud for free too.

They can also store all the data generated from their main operations in a public cloud, benefiting from the common free data storage limits offered by a variety cloud data storage providers. And they can do this without having to deploy and maintain costly data storage appliances.

While not the perfect cloud model for all organisations or business processes, the public cloud is an opportunity that can not be ignored.