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Public vs. Private Cloud: what business owners need to know

By Andrew Chalmers, Managing Director of Ballard Chalmers, the leading IT consultancy for the Microsoft Application Platform.

 

Date: 25 Feb 2013

Moving business systems to the Cloud is now generally agreed to be ‘a good thing’ and a strategy that a majority of leading businesses are now pursuing for long-term cost reduction and improved business efficiency.


And today much of the lack of clarity that has existed around what this really means has been pretty well resolved at a high level into two concepts: Public Cloud, and Private Cloud.


Public Cloud
Very briefly, Public Cloud for business as an overall technical environment encompasses the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform, and the Google and Amazon offerings, and platforms such as SalesForce.com.


In this environment, for example on the Microsoft platform, custom software applications are developed in Windows Azure technology and hosting provided by Microsoft themselves is costed on a usage basis; or Azure-enabled software such as Microsoft Office 365 is purchased for the business on a per-user per-month basis to replace internal systems.


Private Cloud
The term ‘Private Cloud’ has been coined to cover business systems which have been opened out securely to the wider world for agile working and mobile devices as well as for internal use to enable ‘always-on’ and on-premise and remote work collaboration.


Traditionally business systems have been locked down within internal networks, and with multiple sites these were connected via secure private wide area networks, but you needed to connect via VPN or other often clumsy methods which ensured this remained difficult for the user and slowed them down in their work activities.


Today business systems are opening up to the mobile worker and to clients and partners on the Secure Private Cloud platform. This can include for example Microsoft SharePoint, or custom business systems, and custom portals to provide the secure online connectivity and integration to back office systems. Technology is such today that security concerns have faded while the demand for constant availability for remote and agile workers goes up and up.


Secure Private Cloud systems can be deployed either on-premise or at an external data centre - deploying a private cloud application means you do not necessarily even have to move systems to external hosting providers, you can keep them under your own direct control.


Examples
We recently provided consulting services on the design for a globally available deployment of SharePoint for NATO Science and Technology, enabling scientists around the world to collaborate and communicate securely in real-time utilizing very securely on-premise deployed Windows, SharePoint and SQL Servers. The client was satisfied after careful consideration that a secure private cloud system would provide high enough levels of data security, yet still harness all the benefits of the cloud.


Another variation is the Cloud-system/on-premise systems integration. In this scenario online software is securely integrated with offline back-office systems. This option was chosen by a fast-growing consumer energy and utilities provider who asked for development of extensions to back-office business systems, enabling both call-centre staff and end-public users to access the system for customer-service and self-service functionality.
Cloud systems can directly improve customer and stakeholder benefits. A Private Equity Fund Administrator asked for development of an extensive private cloud deployed business system, which is today transacting billions of dollars securely. This has a live connection into the City of London banking system and integration with the company’s own back-office accounting and ERP systems. This system has been operating securely for more than 2 years and easily passed banking-level security and penetration tests.


My own company has been developing custom business applications and deploying them securely to the cloud environment for over 10 years. Clients such as American Express, BP, O2, NHS, Customs and Excise, Dell Financial Services, who have often led the way in adoption, have established the Cloud as a backbone of business operation.

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