Frank-Robert Kline | Wired

The debate about use of public vs. private clouds for file storage and collaboration is easily couched as the stark difference between simplicity and privacy. For enterprises requiring both, discussion and focus should shift to the value in synthesizing the simplicity of the public cloud with data privacy and security offered by the private cloud.

With public cloud storage and collaboration solutions, enterprise data is transferred to and stored at the third-party servers of the service provider. As the service provider has a ready-made, already-managed infrastructure in place, configuration and maintenance burden is minimal – and with access to enterprise data, public cloud services provide great usability in the web. Conversely, private cloud storage and collaboration solutions are characterized by the uncompromising security and privacy, because data is stored completely within the enterprise enclave. However, as deployment and configuration is left to the enterprise, private clouds have traditionally been defined by large capital investment, high complexity and low usability.

Use of public clouds is frequently prohibited in highly-regulated industries, enterprises with conservative views and requirements on proprietary data control, and internationally where data is forbidden to be hosted within U.S. borders.  Uncertainty associated with legal rights and requirements of both data owners and service providers also has tempered public cloud adoption in enterprises. The U.S. government, in a legal brief, argued that users’ property rights are lost or severely limited when uploading data to a third-party public cloud storage solution.

Real value can be created if public cloud services are decoupled from the traditional requirement of storing enterprise data. Enabling data to reside internally within the enterprise, yet still providing ready-made, already-managed infrastructure and user simplicity, creates a new cloud-managed private cloud model.  By adopting this model of cloud collaboration, where services remain in the public cloud and data remains private, enterprises can experience the benefits of both public and private clouds.

In this cloud-managed private cloud paradigm, the administrative tasks for cloud, user, access and organization management are performed via the public cloud, but data remains in the enterprise’s existing internal storage infrastructure. This model enables enterprises to more easily deploy collaboration tools, support collaboration across enterprises, and allow for Web and mobile access — accomplished via publicly or privately deployed resources depending on the privacy needs of the enterprise.  Fundamentally, enterprise file data must stay private, and any cloud-managed private cloud must operate without knowledge of files and file meta-data an enterprise has stored.

The private cloud side of this hybrid collaboration model strives to move away from the specialized hardware and complexity typically associated with traditional private cloud collaboration solutions.  A simple private cloud infrastructure and set-up is enabled by moving administration functionality into the public cloud; there is no specialized central authority needed inside the enterprise firewall.  The desire for simplicity across and within security silos pushes a decentralized private cloud inside the enterprise. Doing so enables any commodity computing resource inside an organization (physical or virtual and local or in the cloud) to join the private cloud as both a content source and content sync.

This design is viewed as an ad-hoc network, but with the connection coordination managed automatically via the public cloud service.  Pushing out this decentralized private cloud eliminates a common drawback of public and private collaboration: the need for a centralized and federated data repository to serve content to clients.  In addition, there are no unanticipated fees or file size constraints when data remains inside the private network with a cloud-managed solution, because the  data remains on existing storage while increasing asset utilization.

The benefits and drawbacks of the traditional public and private cloud storage and collaboration solutions make it difficult for enterprises to select a single option. But that decision is getting easier, with cloud-managed private cloud models taking the best from both models to deliver the ease of deployment and use of public clouds, combined with the security of private cloud deployments.


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