When is a private cloud the right choice?

Cloud security considerations CSC Blogs

I love private clouds myself. I run my own small infrastucture-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud on ownCloud. But, before deciding a private cloud is right for you, look carefully at what you’re doing and what you’ll really get from a private cloud.

The reason I usually hear people argue for a private cloud is security. But, while it’s nice to see the “blinkenlights” in your very own data-center, are you actually any more secure?

I doubt it. As Ovum Senior Analyst for IT Infrastructure Solutions Alan Rodger said recently, companies are realizing that “some organizations do not have the resources to apply the right protection to this data if it is held internally.” So, sure, if you have in-house cloud and security experts you may be better off, but do you? Do you really?

In my experience, there are few security experts worth their salt and far, far fewer cloud mavens. Even if you do have people who can handle security, can they handle the legal requirements for, say, Sarbanes-Oxley (SAROX), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) or Payment Card Industry (PCI)? If they can, you’re a lucky IT person.

As David S. Linthicum, senior VP of Cloud Technology Partners, wrote, “For the most part, public clouds provide the required security as well as support vertical market compliance, such as that found in healthcare and finance. Private clouds, while they feel more secure since you can see the blinking servers in your data center, are as secure or less secure than public clouds, generally speaking. Enterprises are just discovering this fact, and are opting for public clouds as cloud projects come on-line.”

Now, that isn’t going to stop me because, as Linthicum said, the “control aspect of private clouds remains important to many enterprises. Private clouds are certainly a viable architecture choice, so if control matters more than any cost savings.”

For me, control trumps cost. I’m not a security genius, but I know more than the average IT bear, and I don’t have to deal with any special security requirements.

I also appreciate a cloud’s elasticity, and in my everyday small business work, I don’t need the level of flexibility a public cloud provides.

That said, I work with public clouds and I know them well. Over at PC Magazine, I recently reviewed the big public IaaS clouds: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace Managed Cloud and IBM/Softlayer. I use them, but I don’t “need” them.

I, however, am a special case. I own a small-office, home-office (SOHO) business and I’m technically adept. My capital expenditures (CAPEX) are in the thousands of dollars per year. Chances are your business doesn’t have top-of-the-line IT staffers and its CAPEX ranges from five to nine-figures.

For most businesses, whether you’re operating them from your kitchen table or your private jet on your way to London for the weekend, public clouds are likely more secure and they’ll certainly be cheaper. But if control is vital to your business model, or just your peace of mind, then by all means use a private cloud.


  1. “I run my own small infrastucture-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud on ownCloud”

    Could you elaborate more on that? I would understand running ownCloud on top of IaaS or PaaS, but running IaaS on ownCloud is a new concept for me.


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