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Ever streamed a video? Stored your photos in iCloud or another online service? Conducted online banking? Then you’ve used public cloud.

But public cloud technology doesn’t apply just to our personal lives. In business, the public cloud has moved far beyond an off-site hosting environment or sandbox for developers to play in. It’s proven and here to stay, delivering benefits to organizations across industries. And in today’s largely online world, public cloud – and cloud computing, in general – are key enablers of digital transformation.

Today, many businesses are migrating mission-critical workloads and applications from on-site at their offices or data centers to the public cloud – tapping into an environment with instant scale, and access to advanced tools and controls. And while the public cloud first became popular by providing an easy way to deploy computer resources for dev/test or back-up environments, its uses have greatly expanded. Public cloud providers now offer nearly infinite options to configure your environment to specific use cases, applications or business requirements, while also leveraging services such as cloud-native development, AI and big data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning.

Fools rush in?

Harnessing the benefits of public cloud can be compelling and even game-changing for businesses today. But the public cloud isn’t an automatic, magic cure-all to technology cost, complexity and scalability issues. In fact, a quickly conceived, hastily executed 'lift-and-shift' strategy likely won’t deliver the ROI you’re looking for (and could even wind up costing your business more, or introducing new security holes to contend with).

Rather than rush in without a plan, organizations must marry any move to the public cloud with concrete business goals, and ensure they’re migrating the right workloads for the right reasons to a properly configured public cloud environment. To drive positive, repeatable outcomes, it’s important to pair speed and agility gains with operational service models to keep systems secured, governed and in compliance.

At NTT, we get a lot of questions about public cloud – how and why to move there, how secure public cloud is, benefits and challenges to expect, which workloads to migrate, oversight concerns and so on. This article, along with the others we’ve linked to in this series, will address those areas and more.

First, let’s take a look at what preceded public cloud, to better put it in context today.

Pre-public cloud

Some trace the launch of public cloud to 2006 when Amazon began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses, through a cloud computing model. Prior to public cloud and other cloud hosting models, many businesses did (and some still do) purchase and maintain their own equipment: network switches, routers, servers, storage and so on. They typically stored the equipment on-site and often in a 'server closet,' IT room or data center, either on-site or near their office – being careful to ensure proper ventilation/cooling.

Once procured, the equipment didn’t just run on its own. Organizations also needed to hire and train specialized staff to operate, update, service and maintain it. IT staff also busied themselves with software and patch installations – manually and computer-by-computer. Plus, for users, accessing company applications and documents typically required them to be in the office or using a VPN.

A benefit of this completely on-premises approach was that businesses were in control: they knew what equipment they had and knew their exact capacity. But scaling in a cost-effective way posed challenges, and continual maintenance, management and upgrades rapidly became hassles. Everyday tasks might represent huge IT endeavors. For example, provisioning new users was time- and resource -intensive. Large increases in traffic could cause a company’s server to crash. For small- and mid-sized businesses, especially, keeping up with all the IT demands could be overwhelming.

Cloud computing offers an easier and often more cost-effective way – freeing businesses from maintaining the underlying network and IT infrastructure and instead enabling them to pay for only the resources and storage they need, while also ensuring things like security and compliance.

A definition of public cloud

At a basic level, you use public cloud when you access resources (such as storage, applications, etc.), hosted by a third-party provider, remotely and through an Internet connection. Typically with public cloud, many organizations/users (or ‘tenants’) share the same resources and infrastructure. Sometimes this happens directly, such as a business running its SAP environment in AWS; other times, you are using an application that is based in the public cloud (such as streaming video).

The major public cloud providers with the greatest market share are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. There are smaller, specialized providers as well. To determine the best cloud provider(s) for your organization, you’ll want to consider your business requirements, along with factors including costs, security, services offered by the provider, and more.

Regardless of the provider(s) you’re using, common public cloud characteristics include:

  • On-demand resources and computing services
  • Self-service provisioning (with a pay-as-you-go model)
  • Resource pooling (serving multiple organizations in a multi-tenant environment)
  • Elasticity and scalability
  • Greater speed (application performance)
  • High availability

Working with an MSP

Developing and executing a public cloud (or private, hybrid or multi-cloud) strategy takes time and expertise. A managed services provider, such as NTT Managed Services, can help you maximize success on your cloud journey and drive public cloud cost optimization. We provide leading solutions in IT operations, mission-critical application hosting, cloud infrastructure, comprehensive managed services, and security and compliance – helping clients all over the world, every day, mitigate risk and drive successful business outcomes.

Learn more about our Managed Cloud Services and how we can help each step of the way – from cloud planning and migration to management and modernization.