Public Clouds vs. Private Clouds vs. Hybrid Clouds

Cloud computing is already big news, and as remote work continues to grow, the cloud will as well. In fact, public cloud spending is expected to rise 23.1 percent in 2021 alone. Cloud solutions enable employees to access important data and applications, regardless of where they’re physically located. But do you know whether you need a public or private cloud environment? What about a hybrid option? In this article, we’ll discuss the differentiators of each and help you determine which is right for your business.

What are public, private, and hybrid clouds?

Infographic showing the percentage of companies using public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.

Public clouds are probably the most well-known type of cloud, used by both individuals and businesses alike. In fact, 97 percent of businesses say they use a public cloud. These clouds are owned, operated, and maintained by third-party vendors, like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle. Generally, public clouds are cheaper and don’t require maintenance from users. However, they offer less control over the environment and therefore, aren’t very customizable – and potentially less secure.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are very popular with companies in highly regulated industries or those with sensitive data. Private clouds can be an external cloud managed solely for one entity by a third party, but it can also mean an internal virtualized data center that is pooled and managed internal resources delivered as a service to end-users. Many compliance regulations require that companies store their data in private cloud environments. Even though they’re sometimes more expensive, they’re very customizable and usually perform better.

Hybrid clouds are basically the best of both public and private clouds. Companies can store sensitive data on private clouds to keep it secure and meet compliance requirements while storing all other data on public clouds to keep costs low. This strategy is widely used, with businesses having 2.6 public clouds and 2.7 private clouds on average. Hybrid clouds are more flexible than either public or private clouds alone, and they make it easier for companies to respond to outages.

Also read: Cloud Usage is Shifting and Data Center Density Increasing: Report

Considerations for public, private, and hybrid clouds

  • Total cost of ownership
  • Compliance regulations
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Vendor lock-in

    Total cost of ownership

    When deciding between cloud environments, it’s best to look at the total cost of ownership, including costs for instances, hardware, maintenance, and utilities. An instance is a virtual machine that runs a company’s workload in the cloud. Depending on the size of the workload, company’s may need more than one virtual machine running at once. Cloud providers often charge per instance use to prevent companies from paying for more computing power than they’re using.

    Public cloud providers often charge their customers on a pay-as-you-go model where the business pays only for the instances they used during that period. Businesses can also use reserve, or prepaid, instances to lower their costs. With public clouds, companies won’t need expensive hardware or dedicated staff to maintain their servers—the vendor provides these services.

    For private cloud environments, companies can choose a flat monthly rate, or they can opt for the pay-as-you-go model. They’ll also need to consider any necessary hardware, utilities for running the servers and keeping them cool, and staff needs to maintain the servers. Many companies opt for hybrid clouds to keep their hardware and staffing needs lower.

    Also read: Choosing a Cloud Native Architecture for Business

    Compliance and security

    Where public cloud vendors engage in multitenancy, storing data from several different companies on the same server, businesses that only use public clouds may not be able to meet their compliance requirements. Most vendors follow very high security standards, but there is the risk of data leakage, which most regulatory bodies won’t tolerate. Private clouds are the only way for many businesses to ensure regulatory compliance.

    For this reason, many companies choose to store regulated data on private clouds while keeping other information in their public cloud environments. For example, a large hospital system might keep their patient records on a private cloud to comply with HIPAA while choosing to keep their purchasing system on a public cloud to cut costs.

    Maintenance requirements

    With public clouds, the vendor handles all of the maintenance and updates for the platform. This removes maintenance costs from the equation and allows small businesses to enjoy the benefits of cloud computing without having to add IT resources.

    However, private clouds are owned, operated, and maintained by the user, which can sometimes result in high maintenance costs. If servers fail, it’s up to the company to fix or replace them and provide the staff to do so. Companies without a full IT staff may need to hire more employees to handle maintenance, or they can contract with a managed service provider to handle it.

    Hybrid clouds allow companies to customize their private clouds for data and applications they need a high level of control over while minimizing the amount of maintenance they need to do for other aspects of their business.

    Vendor lock-in

    Vendor lock-in comes when the cost or difficulty of moving to a different cloud provider is too high to be justifiable. Despite changing needs, these barriers can cause users to stick with their original vendor and result in lower performance. Both private and public clouds are subject to issues with vendor lock-in, although public cloud users may feel vendor changes more dramatically because they aren’t maintaining their own servers.

    Hybrid clouds are the best way to protect against issues stemming from vendor lock-in because customers can choose different providers for their different environments. By diversifying their cloud infrastructure, a company will have an easier time moving to a different vendor should one of their current providers stop meeting their needs.

    Choosing the right cloud environment for your business

    Choosing cloud environments can be tricky, but it’s important to remember that cost isn’t the only factor here. While you shouldn’t abandon your budget, you do need to consider maintenance requirements, compliance regulations, and customization needs before making your final decision. And remember that with hybrid cloud options, you can get the benefits of both public and private clouds without sacrificing cost or security.

    Read next: 3 Challenges You’ll Face When Migrating Apps to the Cloud