Big cloud inside a data center.  Sustainable data computing background.

Public, Private, and Hybrid Cloud: In-Depth Comparison

Use this in-depth comparison of public, private, and hybrid clouds to help you choose which is best for your business.

Big cloud inside a data center.  Sustainable data computing background.
Image: Negro Elkha/Adobe Stock

Today’s era of digital transformation has made businesses increasingly dependent on cloud computing for their operational needs. Cloud computing has three main types of public, private, and hybrid models, each offering unique benefits and potential challenges.

SEE: Use this TechRepublic Premium Recruitment Kit to help you find a cloud engineer.

We comprehensively compare these three models to help companies determine which option best fits their business needs.

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Public Cloud, Private Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud: Comparison Table

Cloud model Public cloud private cloud hybrid cloud
Cost Low initial costs, pay-as-you-go model High upfront costs but can be cost effective in the long run Combine the costs of public and private clouds
Safety Low level of control; rely on the supplier High level of control; ideal for sensitive data Balance control and cost
Scalability Highly scalable; resources are virtually unlimited Scalability depends on internal resources Scalable but depends on the design
Accessibility Internet-based access; available everywhere Restricted access; often limited to organization Flexible access, depending on data and applications
Maintenance Vendor managed Requires an internal IT team Combination of both
Examples AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure OpenStack, VMware vCloud and IBM Cloud Private AWS Outposts, Google Anthos and Azure Arc

What is Public Cloud?

Public cloud is a model where a third party provider owns and manages the resources and multiple users share these resources. These resources, including servers, storage and applications, are provisioned over the Internet and available on demand. This model is similar to renting a unit in an apartment building; you share the infrastructure and utilities with other tenants but pay only for what you use.

When to use public cloud

Use public cloud when your business:

  • It has variable workloads that require the ability to scale resources up and down rapidly.
  • He is looking to minimize upfront IT costs and prefers a pay-as-you-go model.
  • He does not have extensive internal IT resources and prefers to outsource the management and maintenance of the IT infrastructure to a third-party vendor.

Benefits of public cloud

  • Cost Effectiveness: With public cloud, your business only pays for the resources it uses, which can be quickly scaled up or down as needed, minimizing the need for significant capital expenditures.
  • Scalability: Public clouds offer virtually unlimited scalability, which is invaluable for businesses with fluctuating workloads.
  • No maintenance: IT infrastructure maintenance is handled by the cloud service provider, freeing up internal IT resources.

Disadvantages of public cloud

  • Potentially less secure than other models: Since the public cloud environment is shared with other users, there may be potential security risks, but reputable cloud service providers take strict security measures.
  • Potential for unexpected costs: While the pay-as-you-go model can be cost-effective, unexpected increases in usage can lead to higher-than-expected costs.

SEE: For more information, check out our in-depth public cloud overview.

What is Private Cloud?

A private cloud is a model where computing resources are dedicated to an organization. These resources can be on-premise or hosted by a third-party provider, but either way other organizations are not sharing them. It’s like owning a house; you have full control over the infrastructure and services.

When to use private cloud

Private cloud is ideal when your business:

  • Handles sensitive data that requires greater security and control over the data environment.
  • You work in a regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance, and must comply with specific data handling and privacy regulations.
  • It has unique IT requirements that require a customizable IT environment.

Benefits of private cloud

  • Greater security and control: With a private cloud, businesses have complete control over their data and applications, which can improve security.
  • Personalization: Private clouds can be customized to meet companies’ specific IT requirements.
  • Improved performance: Unlike public clouds, because resources are not shared, businesses can experience higher levels of performance in a private cloud environment.

Disadvantages of private cloud

  • Higher costs: Private clouds require significant upfront investment and ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Requires computer skills: A skilled in-house IT team is required to manage and maintain the infrastructure.

SEE: For more information, check out our in-depth private cloud overview.

What is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid cloud is a model that combines elements of private and public clouds. This allows enterprises to leverage the benefits of both models, using the public cloud for high-volume, low-security needs and the private cloud for sensitive and business-critical operations. It’s like having a main house (private cloud) for core operations and a guest house (public cloud) for additional capacity when you have guests.

When to use hybrid cloud

Consider hybrid cloud if your business:

  • It has different IT needs, with some workloads requiring high security and others requiring high scalability.
  • Seek to leverage the affordability of public cloud with the security and control of a private cloud.
  • Is undergoing a digital transformation or cloud migration and needs a transition phase that allows for a smooth transition to the cloud.

Benefits of hybrid cloud

  • Flexibility: Hybrid cloud offers the flexibility of private and public clouds, allowing teams to use the public cloud for high-volume, non-sensitive tasks while keeping sensitive data on a private cloud
  • Cost Effectiveness: By using the public cloud for high-volume, non-sensitive tasks, your business can save on IT costs.
  • Scalability: Like public cloud, the hybrid cloud model is highly scalable.

Disadvantages of hybrid cloud

  • Complexity: Managing a hybrid cloud environment can be complex, requiring careful management to ensure all components integrate properly and security is maintained across all platforms.
  • Network dependency: The performance of a hybrid cloud model is highly dependent on the network connection between the public and private cloud components; network problems may affect the performance and availability of the services.

SEE: For more information, see our hybrid cloud overview and hybrid cloud cheat sheet.

Which cloud should you use for your business?

Choosing between public, private and hybrid cloud depends on factors such as your specific business needs, the nature of your data, your budget and your internal IT capabilities.

Public cloud is an excellent choice for startups and small businesses that need access to scalable, high-powered IT resources without a significant upfront investment. However, it’s worth noting that public cloud may not be the best choice for handling highly sensitive data due to potential security risks.

On the other hand, companies that handle sensitive data or have specific regulatory compliance requirements might consider private cloud as a better solution. Private cloud offers greater security and control, allowing companies to customize the environment to meet their specific IT requirements. However, this comes at a higher cost and will require an in-house IT team to manage and maintain the infrastructure.

The hybrid cloud model offers a balance between public and private cloud and is ideal for businesses with varying IT needs, with some applications or data requiring a high level of security and others requiring high scalability. However, managing a hybrid cloud environment can be complicated and requires meticulous planning and management.

SEE: You might consider a multicloud approach.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right cloud model is a strategic decision that can have a major impact on your business’s efficiency, agility, and bottom line. By understanding the differences between public, private and hybrid clouds, you can make an informed decision that best supports your business goals. Remember, the best cloud solution is one that aligns with your business goals, operational needs, and budget constraints.

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