What is it?
The public cloud is IaaS and PaaS provided by a managed service provider. The two largest are Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, however their are literally thousands of smaller offerings available, from pretty much every vendor on the planet.
Why use a public Cloud?
With any business when you are looking to make that leap from the firewall, NAS and tower server located in the corner of the office. You used to only have one option. Invest in new equipment and find a somewhere secure to house it all. Which would take time and a substantial amount of money. Now you have an alternative.
The benefits of using a public cloud are primarily the upfront cost. The simple truth of the matter is, it can be really difficult to determine capacity when you have no idea how large your business or service will grow. Unfortunately if you don’t buy enough you end up buying even more, which lets be honest is the best possible scenario. The alternative being you over provision to the extent that you have wasted resources. The key selling point with any cloud provider is that you only pay for the resources you use.
Cloud is pay as you grow an shrink as you need.
Which is the best Cloud Provider?
The question should really be, which is the best Cloud provider for you. The simple fact of the matter is that most vendors have a similar solution. Amazon AWS was the first big player on the block and to that end a lot of people feel safe in the knowledge that they have been around along time. Additionally most people are re-assured by some of the large services they host, Netflix for example. The other big player is Microsoft Azure, they fit well primarily as most businesses use Microsoft servers internally and they feel comfortable (for better or worse) with Microsoft. On top of those two there are literally hundreds of public cloud providers out there from Rackspace to VMware chances are you will be able to find a provider that is suitable for your needs
Anything I should worry about?
I would probably start with a well known provider before diving into a friendly but local private cloud/ managed service provider even if only to see what you need or want from an independent.
My only real word of warning is that although public cloud providers are pay as you grow and shrink as you need, this is only applies if you tell them to shrink. If you build a large infrastructure and spin up loads of services for testing and then forget about it, you may wind up with a bill that is a bit larger than you expected.
Where should I start?
It’s only fair to point out that all public clouds have a certain amount of lock in, simply because as soon as you have a large infrastructure with all your data in one place you are not going to be keen on moving it in a hurry and neither are they going to be keen on letting you go.
As a first step I’d suggest selecting a service that can be easily moved to the cloud and see how you get on. Have a website? how about migrating some of your storage? or maybe just utilise a DNS service and see how it works for you. The good news is that most of the main providers offer a trial period or a low cost entry point to test the waters.