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Ensure project success with private cloud planning

Before taking the leap to private cloud, it's important to ask -- and answer -- five common questions on performance, security and more.

When it comes to cloud computing, there are three main options: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. Public cloud offers scalability, elasticity and a pay-per-use model on shared infrastructure. Hybrid cloud is a mixture of private cloud and public cloud services with orchestration between the two. But what about private cloud?

While private cloud and public cloud offer similar benefits, enterprises choose private cloud for its on-premises nature and control. In a private cloud environment, a firewall limits user access and eliminates many companies' concerns regarding data security and compliance. However, companies must plan carefully for a private cloud project.

Private cloud planning casts a wide net that includes understanding its true definition, security, performance and other factors. Before choosing private cloud, it's important to understand what's involved -- starting with these five questions.

What is private cloud, really?

Although many enterprises choose private cloud for their data and applications, there is still some confusion surrounding its true definition and benefits. And much of that confusion stems from misidentification.

Some enterprises believe they are using a private cloud when, in fact, they are using virtualization. A private cloud is a cloud infrastructure protected by a firewall that limits usage to a single enterprise. In addition to their exclusivity, private clouds can be managed both on-premises and off. Private clouds often use virtualization for on-premises environments.

Understanding private cloud allows enterprises to take full advantage of its benefits -- automation, agility, control, cost-efficiency and more. With private cloud, enterprises control resources and manage costs.

Does private cloud guarantee security?

Security is always a top enterprise concern, no matter the IT service. And while its private nature implies a more secure environment, private cloud is not inherently secure. Enterprises need to take certain precautions for private cloud security. These include setting protocols for cloud access and continuously testing your cloud's security. Companies should determine which employees need private cloud access and grant permissions accordingly. Unlike public clouds, where providers handle security, private cloud users are responsible for protecting their own data. Therefore, if a breach occurs, the necessary staff needs to be in place to react.

Security breaches and hackers are a scary possibility with IT services, and private clouds are no exception. In many cases, undetected private cloud vulnerabilities are a gateway for hackers. To avoid these attacks, enterprises must continuously test their private cloud network to shore up any weaknesses. Additionally, they should keep records of private cloud access and monitor for unusual activity.

How can I optimize private cloud performance?

To reap the benefits of private cloud, performance is crucial. And while high private cloud performance starts with a strong design, that's only the beginning. IT needs to set performance-level standards for quality of service. Then, it's crucial to monitor and test the cloud's performance. Additionally, it's important to design scalable applications specifically for private cloud. Applications that aren't designed for the cloud can suffer from latency and poor performance. Many cloud services have spikes in demand, which create bandwidth issues and noisy neighbors. To avoid these issues, ensure that your private cloud architecture is optimized for your specific applications.

Enterprises should also have a failover plan in the event of poor performance or cloud project failure. In most cases, private cloud users are responsible for handling the ramifications of an outage. It's imperative to be prepared with the necessary failover or disaster recovery technology.

What if my applications use too much private cloud capacity?

Each cloud application has unique requirements and some are more demanding than others. If an application needs significant private cloud computing capacity, users can consider cloud bursting. Bursting an application in a private cloud to the public cloud allows enterprises to meet high application performance demands and free up storage capacity for other apps. Cloud bursting can also save enterprises money, as public cloud services are pay-per-usage and often cost-efficient.

However, cloud bursting is not the best option for every application. Mission-critical apps or apps containing sensitive information can become vulnerable in the public cloud. Additionally, enterprises considering cloud bursting must ensure their applications comply with security regulations, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.

How can I manage my private cloud budget?

While managing private cloud budgets is essential, it's also a challenge. Large enterprises have many expenses from multiple business units, so it's important to track each private cloud expense, along with which teams are using private cloud resources. To track spending, enterprises can use chargeback. Chargeback allows companies to bill a specific team or department for its private cloud costs. Companies using chargeback need to take an inventory of their private cloud services, applications, software and hardware. While this is difficult, it has many benefits, including better resource management, performance and more.

Showback is another option for enterprises that aren't quite ready for a full-fledged chargeback model. Showback allows companies to see who is using which private cloud resources, but doesn't bill the responsible team or department.

Nicholas Rando is assistant site editor for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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