A quick look at cloud terminology

The more IT terms you understand, the more you can help your institution stay safe

The cloud may be easier and more affordable than advertised, but it isn’t free. Still, computing horsepower is finally a virtual (or, perhaps more appropriately, a virtualization) bargain. It’s entirely possible for your college or university to spend $10K a month and tap enough power to drive a 1,000-user organization. That’s less than the cost of hiring a single engineer (even if it may sound like overkill, especially given today’s budget realities).

It’s essential to place your applications and data in a maximum-security environment. Hosting plans should be designed expressly to deliver both data integrity and data protection, deploying technologies such as clustered firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention software, which is capable of detecting threats to sensitive client data that even the best firewall won’t catch. And as cyber threats become ever more insidious, those in higher education are looking to implement systems that go well beyond basic malware and antivirus “solutions.”

In IT, as in higher education, language is everything. Teaching undergraduates is tough enough; most university administrators would prefer not to wade into the fog of IT, especially given just how obtuse the tech world has become. Familiarizing yourself with some basic terminology won’t turn you into an expert but it can provide a grounding in the fundamentals. With that in mind, let’s look under the hood and decipher some of the more pervasive and vexing terms.

Public cloud? Private cloud? Hybrid cloud?

As the cloud has expanded, it more or less subdivided:

  • private is proprietary or internal to one organization
  • public is when service providers make applications and storage available to any business over the Internet, typically for a monthly usage fee
  • hybrid is a blend of public and private. Some of your workload is under your control, some outside of your control, and some situations mix the two. These days, the hybrid cloud is ubiquitous.

The right question isn’t, “Should I opt for the hybrid cloud, the public cloud, or a private cloud?”

The smart question is, “What’s strategically best for my institution?”

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