Over the last few years, cloud computing has moved from being one of the most hyped innovations for the future of the enterprise IT sector to a mainstream technology that every businesses needs to at least consider. If you don’t explore the possibilities of the cloud when you’re planning a new deployment – whether it’s a critical software application or key infrastructure – you could be missing out on the chance to make your business more efficient and cost-effective.

But cloud computing isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that you can just set up and hit the ground running. It’s actually a very broad term that covers a wide range of solutions and innovations. And one of the most important decisions that will have to be made is whether you opt for a public or private deployment.

The first choice for the future of your IT

Which of these options is the best is up for debate, and there’s no right or wrong answer, as every business will have its own unique needs. But to make the best choice, enterprises need to understand what each of the technologies is, and what it can offer.

Essentially, public cloud services involve an organisation purchasing resources on third-party data centres. These resources are shared with other customers (hence the ‘public’ designation) and the provider will be responsible for much of the management and maintenance.

Private cloud, by contrast, is a single-tenant solution, where the resources are devoted exclusively to one customer. As a result of this, such services can often deliver a much more tailored, bespoke solution, but will require closer attention from an IT department.

The pros and cons

Public cloud may well be the solution users are more familiar with, as it’s also the backbone of many consumer services – from email to online file storage systems. One of its main benefits is the flexibility and scalability it can provide. Users pay only for the resources they use and there are typically no contracts. Customers also do not have to worry about maintenance, as this is taken care of by the provider.

However, they will have less choice in the hardware, which means less control over performance. And as the data centres are shared with other users, it will not be possible for certain businesses to meet their compliance requirements in a public cloud environment.

Private solutions, meanwhile, are perfect for businesses where security and compliance are key concerns, as they are dedicated to a single client. The level of customisation on offer also makes them highly beneficial to larger enterprises with very exacting requirements.

On the other hand, such solutions do not usually offer the same level of management as public alternatives, while they can also take longer to provision and scale up.

Understanding your requirements

Therefore, while the right choice can take your business to the next level, getting it wrong can hold you back. That’s why the first thing every company needs to do when considering a cloud solution is to consider what their environment will look like and what their ‘must haves’ are.

For instance, if your business needs to remain compliant with regulations such as PCI DSS or the Data Protection Act, the only option may be a private solution. But on the other hand, if you are a highly seasonal business – such as a retailer – the ability to scale up quickly for peak periods and then wind down again for quieter months means the flexibility of a public option will be invaluable.

You also need to think about how you’re going to use the technology. For instance, if you need to view or edit key documents from multiple locations, solutions such as Microsoft 365 are a great idea. Meanwhile, tools like Microsoft Azure can help you manage every aspect of your operations, from web apps to databases.

Find out more about what Microsoft cloud tools can offer your business