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Public vs. Private Cloud: What Marketers Need to Know

Posted on 12.12.2016

By Randy Apuzzo, Zesty.io


Making a technology decision is becoming less of a “shadow IT” slap on the wrist to marketers, but rather it’s becoming an essential part of the marketer’s job.

This article will explain the difference between public and private cloud offerings and when it matters which type of cloud you choose. Whether you are a pharmaceutical company running landing pages or a consumer packaged goods company collecting emails, understanding the difference between public and private cloud will help you make better marketing technology decisions.

The Public Cloud

The public cloud is a reference to cloud computing, where the computer’s resources are pooled together to power multiple tenants. Common examples of public cloud are compute platforms like Amazon Web Services, shared hosting like DreamHost, or SaaS platforms like MailChimp. Think of public cloud as a large apartment complex with multiple tenants. Tenants have their own allocated space with a deadbolt door — and hopefully a security guard.

You share computing, so it is efficient both in cost and time.

You share computers, so your neighbors may be a security risk.

Public cloud examples (not limited to):

Most all websites (marketing sites, blogs, personal sites)

Most consumer applications (video games, note-taking apps, file sharing)

The Private Cloud

The private cloud refers to a computer network only used by a single tenant. Common examples include physical onsite office servers or paid dedicated hosting services. Think of the private cloud as a single home, single family with their own security system, Rottweiler, iron fence, etc.

Since you own or rent the whole computer or private computer network, it is naturally more expensive.

You are the only tenant, so it is more “secure.”

Private cloud examples (not limited to):

Transactional websites (banks, financial, healthcare)

Some mobile applications (money sharing, financial tracking)

What’s the Big Difference?

It all comes down to security — or the illusion of security. Security levels determine the difficulty of an attack, but nothing is truly secure. Sticking with the home analogy, you need to know that both the apartment complex and the single-family, secure home can be breached. It really depends on the strength of your security, which is a very subjective topic. But for the purpose of demonstration, imagine you live in a multi-tenant apartment complex and your neighbor leaves their door open. It would not be a big deal except that you share a balcony, and the back door lock is not a deadbolt locked door. So if a burglar was targeting you, they could go through your neighbor to get back-door access. Now, if you own your own house, it would ensure you keep all the doors locked — all the time — except that one instance when your aunt was visiting and you forgot about locking the patio door before driving to the lake house.

Point being, no matter the solution, vulnerabilities or errors will occur. Regardless, private cloud solutions have a slight advantage.

When Does It Matter?

Compliance standards get passed easier if you are on a private cloud. So you will want to look into private cloud services if your team is building a marketing website that processes transactions that include personal payment or health information. In that scenario, your site will need to have compliancy to match the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

At that point, you will want someone more technical available to vet the service.

If the standards mentioned above are not a requirement, then you should only be looking at public cloud options. Public cloud offerings will be more cost efficient, faster to deploy and easily scalable. Most public cloud offerings will be hands-off maintenance, which means less IT involvement and more budget for marketing.

Hybrid Solution

If you have a marketing site that collects personally identifiable information (PII) and your company requires specific standards to be met, you have an alternate option. You can use a public cloud service that has an information collection form on it and securely connect that form to pass information to a private cloud or already-compliant service. This is easy to do; just let your IT team know you will be posting the form information securely to one of their compliant servers. They will give you the specifications, and a form can be quickly implemented to communicate back and forth between the services. This is a great way to stay agile but still compliant.

Take a look at this diagram, and then read over the real-life example below.

For a real-life example of the diagram above, we have an enterprise customer that collects information from users but has very strict PII rules. We worked with their security team, and the solution was to have a form on the marketing site that submitted information to their private, compliant server. The submission is seamless and happens behind the scenes, so the site visitor’s experience is never interrupted.

Remember, ALWAYS have legal and IT verify that all data transferred complies to with your regulations.

More Agility, Less Budget

In conclusion, marketing departments should always be looking at public cloud solutions (e.g., any SaaS solution or compute clouds) to give marketing efforts more agility and free up IT budgets. If you are a marketer that has previously run into red tape trying to do this, show your IT and legal team this post as there may be ways to stay compliant if your company does collect sensitive information. As technology and security get better, scenarios like this will be less of an issue, and marketing teams will become more agile — but don’t let that stop you now.


Randy Apuzzo is founder and CEO of Zesty.io, the SaaS CMS company. A digital strategist with a computer science and branding background, Randy is a visionary in architecting solutions that help companies accelerate and scale their global digital content strategies. He is revered for empowering businesses with technology that grants agility, cost savings, security and increased market share. For more information about Zesty.io, please visit https://www.zesty.io

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