By 2022, the growth of the cloud services industry will be nearly three times the growth of overall IT services, according to Gartner. And by the end of 2019, more than 30% of technology providers’ new software investments will move from cloud-first to cloud-only, so it would be an understatement to say that cloud networks are growing in popularity.

There are various kinds of cloud networks that work in different ways for different businesses, however. And working out whether a public or private (also called enterprise) cloud network is best for your IT team means balancing the needs and wants of your business with the capabilities and potential each of the choices provide.

Access, Security, and Storage

A private cloud lives on a company’s own infrastructure, such as on an intranet or existing data center. A public cloud, as the name might suggest, exists outside the company walls, and is owned and operated by a third-party that provides it over the internet. With the public cloud option, many companies share the hardware, storage, and network devices.

With a private cloud, the access is restricted to only one organization, and there’s dedicated storage behind a firewall. Security, therefore, can be tighter and more customized depending on the activities of the business.

For a public cloud, there can be many companies that share the data storage infrastructure, but this doesn’t mean that it’s much less secure; all the data is kept separate. Instead, it means that the security protocols and systems compliance will likely be a standard one, which works for the majority of companies, but which cannot be altered and customized for unique businesses or those with more stringent compliance standards.

Costs and Maintenance

Private clouds tend to be more expensive to set up due to the infrastructure required and the team of expert IT professionals to build the system. Physical servers, for example, must be acquired and installed on-site. The hiring of skilled labor, too, can be a long process with indirect costs beyond that of the high salary.

A public cloud, on the other hand, is much cheaper to set up, as the upfront cost is usually pre-determined by the provider; no costly physical infrastructure is required; and highly-skilled dedicated IT professionals are not crucial to have in-house as full-time salaried hires. The maintenance costs are also far lower as the burden of updates rests on the third-party provider, and to keep up with the competition, are rolled out regularly to keep customers satisfied – something which may be too costly to do as frequently with the private cloud setup.

Scalability, Personalization, and Long-term Thinking

One of the key benefits of public cloud setups is their modular nature. As your company grows and changes over time, your IT network needs will shift. By opting for a public cloud, the third-party provider can relatively seamlessly add or remove space and infrastructural abilities as demand dictates. This eliminates the need for a highly-skilled internal IT team, budget sign-offs, and multiple stakeholder buy-in for a big technical update (which eats up time). Instead, your company can test and deploy new products in partnership with the provider, which will most likely already have these new products built and ready to go.

Of course, a private network can be adapted, but the task could be an expensive one, or – if the cloud system was set up in a particular manner – one which may present a complex editing task. The internal control in customizing the cloud network does count for a lot in business environments where unique security protocols are required or where the cloud system is an integral part of the offered product.

In short, the difference between private and public cloud networks centers around how much, and what kind, of control you require. Whether you choose a private or public cloud, the key to success in building future-facing, relevant, and effective IT systems is in understanding the core needs of your business, and identifying what is most important for the future success of your company.