Although public cloud platforms, like AWS and Azure, are getting much of the attention these days, many businesses are more comfortable housing their mission-critical workloads in a private cloud. We recently looked into the “why” in our cloud platforms comparison post. But space and power infrastructure are finite, especially when you manage your own on-premises data center. Many are now turning to 3rd party providers to host their private clouds. In this post, we’ll discuss the advantages of a hosted private cloud and what to look for in a private cloud provider.
But first, we need to define what we mean by a private cloud.
What is a Private Cloud?
A private cloud is a platform where cloud resources are solely dedicated to one organization. Contrast that with a public or multitenant cloud, where cloud-based resources are shared by multiple organizations.
Two types of private clouds
Private clouds also come in different flavors, and before choosing a provider, you’ll need to decide which makes the most sense for your organization and workloads. Here are the two types:
On-premises private clouds
An on-premises private cloud typically refers to cloud-based resources housed in a data center owned and operated by the organization that uses those resources. This data center might literally be on-premises, e.g., in a dedicated room or storage closet. Or it might be a data center located in a separate facility, either owned or leased by the organization.
Advantages of on-premises private clouds:
- Offers the greatest control over your cloud environment, including physical aspects such as building access.
- Allows you to fully depreciate existing hardware.
- Can allow you to better utilize unoccupied space you already own.
Disadvantages of on-premises private clouds:
- The opportunity to convert CapEx to OpEx is extremely limited
- You still have to maintain and upgrade equipment
- You incur all the overhead costs – heating, cooling, janitorial, security, etc
- Physical security is your responsibility
- You have to employ IT staff to maintain your on-premises environment and equipment
On-premises private clouds might be a good first step into cloud computing, but for most organizations, the cost and effort of maintaining an on-premises private cloud outweigh the benefits. This is especially true when you consider the other private cloud options available.
Hosted private cloud
A hosted private cloud is like a private cloud but hosted and managed in a third party provider's data center. The responsibility for private cloud is shared by the provider and the organization. The organization deploying workloads in the cloud continues to own the management of data, applications, databases, and operating systems.
With that said, most hosted cloud providers also offer an array of managed services that cover day-to-day tasks as well as unique services such as disaster recovery.
Advantages of a hosted private cloud:
- Convert most CapEx to OpEx
- No direct hardware expenses
- No facility expenses
- Managed services can help you fill gaps in in-house skill sets
- Greatest opportunity to refocus your IT staff on revenue generating projects
Disadvantages of a Hosted Private Cloud:
There is a vast difference between hosted private cloud providers. Finding the right cloud provider is a matter of knowing what you need, so that’s where we’ll turn next.
10 things to look for in a hosted private cloud provider
1. Multicloud and hybrid cloud capabilities
Most organizations have workloads running in more than one type of cloud. This is typically referred to as a multicloud environment. If the workloads interact, it becomes a hybrid cloud.
Multicloud infrastructure: The use of multiple cloud platforms in one environment.
Hybrid cloud infrastructure: The use of a combination of technologies, both cloud and non-cloud, in the same environment.
If you’re running workloads in a multicloud infrastructure, you’ll need a hosted private cloud provider with expertise in other types of cloud environments. The value they can offer to your organization will be greater. If you need to run workloads in a hybrid cloud infrastructure, you’ll also need your hosted private cloud provider to understand how workloads operate in other types of cloud environments.
2. Audits and certifications
Hosted private cloud providers often look a lot alike at the surface level. Independent audits and certifications can help you dig a bit deeper.
There are two types of audits and certifications you’ll want to look for:
Industry audits and certifications
The first are those required by your specific industry. For example, healthcare providers will want to choose a hosted cloud provider that’s been audited according to HIPAA standards. Unfortunately, there is no certification for HIPAA, but you can assess the quality of the audit by examining the qualifications of the firm that conducted it.
Operational audits and certifications
The other type of audit is one that covers a multitude of industries. The primary one to look for is SOC 2 compliance. Created by the AICPA, SOC 2 covers five pillars: security, availability, process integrity, confidentiality, and privacy, so it offers a well-rounded validation of your provider’s operations.
3. Cloud migration expertise
Some cloud providers are experts in managing a hosted private cloud, but they don’t offer much in the way of professional services to help you get there. Depending on your internal experience with cloud migrations, you may want to look for a provider that can help you choose the right migration methodology, configure and optimize your destination environment, and plan and execute the migration.
4. Breadth and depth of managed services
As previously mentioned, most hosted private cloud providers offer additional managed services. However, the portfolio of services they offer can vary widely. And, unfortunately, their skill levels also vary.
Before choosing a cloud provider, do an assessment of your in-house skill sets. Then look for a provider that can augment your in-house team. Managed services can cover applications, databases, operating systems, disaster recovery, security, compliance, and more. Also, review the vendor’s case study & customer testimonials to get a feel for the types of businesses that have chosen their services and read what they have to say.
You’ll want to look for an organization with a collaborative culture to help you reach your goals. You can assess some of this during the sales process. If you find their salesperson difficult to work with, chances are their engineers will be too. Look for an organization that takes the time to understand where you are in your cloud journey and where you want to go.
Out of site should not equal out of mind. Ask your potential provider how they’ll keep you appraised of the performance of your hosted private cloud. This could include features such as dashboards or portals for certain services, regular reports, and a defined meeting cadence with their engineers and your account manager.
Items one through six have been all about the provider’s organization. Now, it’s time to look at the facility. Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to do a site visit, but much of this information can be gathered from the provider’s spec sheets. Here’s an example of a spec sheet for just one of our forty data centers across the US – Chicago West.
The keyword to look for here is carrier neutral. This means the data center provider isn’t tied to any specific telecom provider. This has both cost as well as connectivity benefits. If one carrier goes down for any reason, the provider can switch to a backup carrier. Carrier availability is dynamic, so check with the provider for current details on the carriers they use for the data center(s) you’re considering.
Data center proximity matters. If you have a concentration of users in a specific region, choosing a data center closer to those users can decrease latency. For this reason, some organizations will choose to house different workloads in different data centers because these workloads serve different types of users. These data centers are also known as Edge Data Centers. If you plan on replicating data to a disaster recovery site, you’ll also want to look for a private cloud provider that can offer replication services to a data center in a different region.
9. Physical Security
The industry focuses so much on cybersecurity it’s easy to forget about the importance of physical security. Access to the building should be tightly controlled. That includes access to sensitive areas within the facility as well. Here are several physical security features to look for:
- Gates and fences
- 24x7x365 on-site personnel
- Badge/photo ID access
- Biometric access screening
- Secure cages
- Full-building video capture
Related Reading: 8 Must-Have Physical data Center Security Features
10. Power Redundancy
No area of the country is immune to power outages, so choosing a provider with backup sources of power is essential. Most of us are familiar with the concept of a UPS device, and hosted private cloud providers use them as well. But you should also ask about other sources of power, such as backup generators.
Need help finding the right hosted private cloud provider and solution?
Migrating to the cloud isn’t easy. It takes expertise and experience to make sure your migration goes off without a hitch. Our experts can not only help you with migration but also devise a cloud strategy and match the best cloud platforms with your IT requirements and business goals. As a managed services & hosted private cloud provider, we can also provide a range of services to help with day-to-day operations, including security monitoring, network management, disaster recovery, and compliance. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.