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The Right Cloud for the Job

Pros and Cons of Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds

Sort out the three main types of cloud computing with these definitions.

posted May 11, 2012  |  Appears in the Spring 2012 issue of EdTech Magazine.

A public cloud refers to a service that offers applications and IT functions to a general customer base with very few opportunities for individualization. However, higher education officials often define a public cloud as one that is hosted off premises by a third-party provider, but is protected in the sense that it is governed by a negotiated contract and includes customized pricing, service and security levels, as well as a strategy for data return should the arrangement end.

  • PROS: No capital investment; access to economies of scale and specialized knowledge; predictable, pay-as-you-go costs
  • CONS: Loss of control over institutional data; less ability to customize and prioritize how resources are managed
  • POPULAR USES: Student e-mail, storage, standard productivity software, non-core business applications

A private cloud is created for and used expressly by an individual college or university.

  • PROS: Control of data location, resource provisioning, security, service levels and compliance measures; improved flexibility and remote access
  • CONS: Resource-intensive and expensive; requires specialized IT expertise
  • POPULAR USES: Faculty and staff e-mail, enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources and finance systems, learning management systems (LMS), classroom applications

A hybrid cloud within higher education typically comes in two flavors. The first is a cloud run by a consortium or a higher education–focused provider for use only by a group of academic institutions. The second is an arrangement in which the underlying infrastructure, or all or part of the application, is hosted offsite by a public cloud provider, but more sensitive components (and sometimes the application itself) are maintained within a private cloud by the higher education institution.

  • PROS: Speed to market; access to specialized application knowledge and high-capacity IT resources
  • CONS: Loss of control
  • POPULAR USES: ERP, LMS, high-performance computing, massive data storage and management

Read about Middle Tennessee State's move to the cloud.

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