Cloud computing has fundamentally changed the way businesses operate. It has allowed organizations to reduce costs, increase productivity, store data more safely, and serve customers more efficiently. Further, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, it has enabled a more flexible workplace.

Although the transformative nature of the cloud is now widely understood, many still aren’t aware that there are different cloud models, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. Here, we’ll look at the public cloud and how it can help your organization.

What Makes the Public Cloud Different from the Private Cloud?

Public cloud refers to cloud services that are offered to multiple customers by a third-party provider. “Public” is used to differentiate this cloud model from the private cloud, where all the computing resources are dedicated to and accessible by just one customer. In the public cloud model, virtual machines, applications, storage, and other resources are pooled together and made accessible to users over the public Internet.

Public cloud providers may offer services such as platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to users as a subscription or via on-demand pricing. Public clouds offer organizations an easy way to scale their resources while eliminating the need for them to host and manage these services in their own on-premise data center.

[Related Reading: Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud]

How Does the Public Cloud Work?

The public cloud brings together various computing resources into a shared infrastructure and makes it available to multiple clients. Cloud service providers partition large groups of data centers into virtual machines. Organizations become “tenants” by renting the use of these virtual machines. Additionally, they can pay for cloud-based software, storage, or app development tools. All these services are accessed virtually from the organization’s computers and devices.

Since multiple clients share a single public cloud, several organizations may be storing data or running different applications on the same physical server at the same time. This is known as multitenancy, and it’s a key attribute of the public cloud. Even though multiple tenants share the same resources, each tenant’s data is kept completely separate and secure from all the others. The arrangement is much like a bank, where two account holders won’t have knowledge of or access to each other’s assets.

What Are the Benefits of Public Cloud?

Utilizing the public cloud allows organizations to offload the overhead of maintaining a cloud infrastructure to a third-party vendor. That brings some significant benefits.

The most obvious is cost savings. By using the public cloud, organizations reduce or eliminate the expense of investing in and maintaining their own on-premises IT resources. The virtually unlimited scalability of the cloud allows them to achieve further savings because they can expand or contract resources to meet demand rather than wasting money on overprovisioned or idle on-premises resources.

The public cloud also removes much of the burden of server management. The service provider takes on the bulk of this administrative, maintenance, and monitoring responsibility, freeing the organization’s internal IT resources for other business-critical tasks.

Increased security is another benefit of using the public cloud. Many small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the staff, budget, or knowledge to implement the necessary level of protection for their assets. Cloud service providers employ their own infrastructure security teams that watch for anomalous or suspicious activity in their client’s environments.

Finally, the public cloud gives organizations access to analytics features they might not otherwise have. The ability to leverage insights from business data is critical for remaining competitive today. Public cloud providers can analyze high volumes of a variety of data types to deliver essential business insights back to the customer.

What Are the Challenges of Public Cloud?

For most organizations, the benefits of the public cloud far outweigh the challenges. Nonetheless, certain attributes of the public cloud can pose concerns for some businesses.

Multitenancy, for example, might not be ideal for businesses that are bound by strict regulatory compliance standards. Though the risk of data leakage is extremely small, these organizations will have to determine if they can tolerate that risk or if they’re better served by a private cloud.

The public cloud can also create a false sense of security in the customer. As mentioned, most cloud providers follow very high security standards. But public cloud security operates on the shared responsibility model, with both the cloud provider and the customer overseeing defined security controls. Though each vendor may dictate security responsibilities differently, the model typically makes the vendor responsible for the security of the cloud — the hardware, software, networking, and other infrastructure components — and the customer responsible for security in the cloud — the operating system, web applications, data encryption, and so on. If an organization doesn’t make itself aware of their vendor’s security policies, they may neglect security measures believing they’ve been taken care of by their provider.

Vendor lock-in is always a concern with the public cloud. Once an organization migrates its data to a particular cloud provider’s infrastructure and integrates the vendor’s software into its business processes, it can become dependent on those services. That’s a potential problem if the vendor’s services no longer meet the business’ needs, its pricing increases, or its service quality decline.

What Are Public Cloud Pricing Options?

Generally, cloud service providers use one of two pricing models. The first is straight subscription pricing, where customers are billed monthly for the services they’ve ordered, whether or not they use them. The second is pay-as-you-go pricing, in which the customer starts each month with a zero balance and gets charged only for the resources they use that month. Some providers bill based on the number of active users of the cloud subscription. Still, other providers offer some combination of these models.

What is the Future of Public Cloud?

The next phase of public cloud is expected to involve more artificial intelligence capabilities and automation, to further simplify data management, security, and other business processes. It should also see higher security standards. These developments, along with providers offering more interconnected services to meet a wider array of user needs, will likely prompt wider adoption of the public cloud over the next few years.

Click one of the following links to learn more information and to learn how Alert Logic’s Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solution runs in the leading public cloud platforms — AWS and Microsoft Azure.

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