Public, Private, and Virtual Private Clouds: What’s the Difference?

Difference between private cloud and virtual private cloud

Technology is constantly evolving, so just when you think you’ve got a good grasp of the latest innovation, something new materializes. Now, the question that has everyone outside of the IT department scratching their head is “what’s the difference between a public cloud, a private cloud, and a virtual private clouds? And why does it matter to me?”

Because a virtual private cloud (VPC) shares similarities with both public and private clouds, it’s important to first take a quick look at these cloud computing options.

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Public Clouds: The Apartment Complex

In the public cloud, organizations buy into a large shared infrastructure; the “Big Three,” consisting of Amazon Web Services (AWS),  Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure, are prime examples. Public clouds operate on a "one-to-many" ratio wherein thousands or even millions of customers all use the same shared physical and virtual infrastructure. While public cloud services are likely to have some logical segmentation between customers, complete security is elusive because of sharing at all levels.

Think of the public cloud as an apartment complex; all tenants have their own designated space, but utilities are shared. Because of this sharing, one bad tenant compromising the apartment’s “gated entrance” can put all other tenants at risk. So despite the cost benefits of shared resources, these issues of security are ultimately a deal-breaker for many organizations.

Private Clouds: The Single-Family Home

The private cloud solves for the drawbacks of the public cloud by offering exactly what the name says: privacy. With this solution, an organization’s data is housed within its own dedicated space, completely segregated from other organizations. This isolation results in superior customization and reliability, while allowing for increased levels of security. It also heightens performance by eliminating the "noisy neighbors," something any apartment dweller can relate to.

Think of the private cloud more like a single family home—the tenant is free to make modifications or improvements to the home or the landscaping without affecting neighbors, and parking an RV or horse trailer in the driveway is no problem (try that in an apartment complex!)

Virtual Private Clouds: The Best of Both Clouds

Virtual private clouds, or VPCs, provide the resource-sharing benefits of a public cloud, along with the performance and security benefits of a private cloud. A VPC achieves this in two ways:

  • Savings. Organizations only pay only for what they use each month, similar to a utility such as water or electric. This also reduces their carbon footprint, something that’s highly promotable and potentially profitable in a marketplace that continues to go green; it also just happens to be a shopping priority for today’s “green generation”, the millennials.
  • Security. Information passed through a VPC stays within an organization’s control. They dictate what goes on within their VPC, and who or what has access to it.

Organizations contemplating a move to the cloud need to be aware that some service providers are offering fully-managed hardware or HaaS (Hardware-as-a-Service) and referring to it as a VPC; in the end, clients wind up with nothing more than a dedicated rack of equipment that the provider manages. This rather deceptive tactic further complicates cloud terminology, when in fact it isn't a cloud at all, as it doesn't meet the most basic criteria of the cloud: being scalable and resilient.

Choosing the Cloud That’s Right For You

Every organization has different needs, that’s why there are different clouds designed to meet them. Some are focused on saving you money. Others are designed with your security as a priority. Still others try to give you the both of best worlds.

If you’re considering taking your business to the cloud, trust the IT experts at DSM. Our M-Cloud service is Florida’s largest VPC, powering the resources of dozens of government agencies throughout the Sunshine State. With over 30 years of IT expertise and a track record of 99.99%+ uptime, we can take on any of your private or virtual private cloud needs.

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