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What is public cloud?

A public cloud is a type of computing in which a service provider makes resources available to the public via the internet. Resources vary by provider but may include storage capabilities, applications or virtual machines. Public cloud allows for scalability and resource sharing that would not otherwise be possible for a single organization to achieve.

Some public cloud providers offer resources for free, while clients pay for other resources by subscription or a pay-per-usage model. Cloud services are available to individual users, as well, and prices scale depending on the user's resource needs. Organizations with huge amounts of data need to develop a cloud migration strategy before choosing a cloud vendor.

Public cloud security

Modern public cloud service providers take security very seriously. Providers employ specialized security staff to automate security functions and monitor the system for anomalies. Strict policies protect user data from being accessed by other cloud tenants. To gain access to additional levels of security, organizations can leverage a public cloud solution within a hybridized environment.

Public cloud vs private cloud vs hybrid cloud

Private cloud, or corporate cloud, is either supplied by a service provider or constructed on-site at an organization's data center. In either case, private cloud tends to offer more security because the resources are earmarked for specific users only.

A hybrid cloud environment extends a secure private cloud to a public cloud when resource demand rises. This paradigm allows organizations to maintain compliance while simultaneously taking advantage of public resources. Organizations that utilize hybrid cloud can maximize their internal resources without risking an overload if resource needs spike unexpectedly.

How is public cloud structured?

The public cloud allows users to share resources while maintaining the privacy of each user's data. Public cloud architecture is completely virtualized, providing an environment where shared resources are leveraged as needed.

A key advantage of public cloud architecture is the ability to access a service or application on any internet connected device. Because the device itself performs little to no computation, individuals can use highly complex applications almost anywhere.

Public cloud is typically designed with built-in redundancies to prevent data loss. A service provider may store replicated files across several data centers to ensure that disaster recovery is smooth and fast. Data stored on a public cloud platform is generally regarded as safe from most hazards.

Public clouds may be structured differently depending on the type of service being provided. Here are the three most common models on the market today:

Software as a service is a cloud model in which a provider distributes software hosted in the cloud. Users access the application via the internet. This model eliminates the need for individual users to install software on their personal machines. This reduces the hardware needs of the organization and cuts down on support and maintenance costs.

Platform as a service is a computing model that allows an organization to develop software without needing to maintain the underlying infrastructure. Essentially, a provider builds and supports an optimized environment which it delivers to users through a broadband connection. PaaS often includes version control and compile services as well as computing and storage resources.

Infrastructure as a service is a model in which an organization outsources their entire data center to a cloud service provider. The provider hosts everything from storage servers to networking hardware and maintains virtualization of the environment. IaaS makes cloud adoption simpler. The system is often more cost-efficient than purchasing and maintaining hardware on-site.

Benefits and challenges of public cloud

Public cloud solutions allow organizations to scale at a near infinite rate, something that would not be possible in an on-premises data center. As a business grows, it doesn't need to acquire additional hardware or maintain a sprawling network. Likewise, cloud-based services and applications require far less hardware than applications delivered in a traditional manner. In other words, users no longer have to worry about installing and updating applications on their machines. Instead, their cloud-hosted applications will always remain up to date with the latest features and security.

Financially, a public cloud strategy offers organizations a way to grow at scale without accumulating substantial costs. Providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure offer per-per-usage deals which allow organizations to pay only for the resources they use. As an operational cost, public cloud services can protect an organization's budget from high up-front capital investments.

Though public cloud hosts take security very seriously, organizations may choose to protect their data by hosting it on a privately controlled cloud. Organizations operating in heavily regulated industries, such as health care, may get the most benefit from a hybrid model. Established businesses with highly specific computational needs may also prefer a private or hybrid model for enhanced optimization of resources.

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