Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is gradually becoming an accepted standard option for data-driven business operations. No wonder, as the cloud brings a lot of value to the table. Among other things, it is used to streamline workflow, efficiently scale applications, manage machine learning algorithms and neural networks; the list goes on. 

But these are well-known things. What is not often understood is that there are several distinct types of cloud platforms and that they fit different operations. Public, private and hybrid cloud solutions 

In this article, we will explain:

  • The difference between public, private and hybrid cloud solutions
  • Where are these three types of cloud used?
  • How to choose the best suitable cloud option?

Let’s start with the basics. 

What is Public Cloud?

The term “public cloud” refers to a general understanding of what a cloud platform is. It is also the most common form of cloud computing used by companies of all scopes. 

In this configuration, your company shares hardware, storage, and network infrastructure with other companies, aka “cloud tenants.” 

The cloud resources (i.e., hardware, software, and related infrastructure) are owned and managed by a third-party vendor (folks like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, AWS, and IBM Cloud).

The services themselves are delivered through the internet and managed from a web browser interface.

The defining feature of a public cloud is cost-effectiveness. You get a fine package of high scalability and elasticity of computing capacities combined with relatively low costs of the services.

The traditional structure of the services is a combination of free and freemium (for more basic packages) and subscription-based with a “pay-for-what-you-are-actually-using” pricing structure.

As such, Public cloud is the right solution for the following:

  • Data storage;
  • Data Loss Prevention tools for Archiving and backups;
  • Application Hosting and also Development of software applications and flexible testing environments;
  • Data Mining, Data Analytics, and Business Intelligence applications with a vast scope of data to work on; 
  • Applications with high scalability requirements. Things like streaming apps, geolocation apps, file sharing, etc.
  • Applications with predictable computing requirements (internal tools for communications, analytics, etc.)

Public Cloud Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of Public Cloud solutions include:

  • Automated deployment. No need for investing in infrastructure. The cloud service provider handles the deployment and maintenance of the infrastructure. This means,
  • Superior reliability and boundless workload scalability. Public cloud infrastructure provides autoscaling features that allow to balance the workload accordingly and avoid downtime and crashes.
  • Relatively low cost of ownership - the pricing structure is flexible, covering only actually used resources. 
  • The lower costs of services are due to a flexible pricing model that covers only used resources.  
  • The versatility of solutions of public cloud platforms can address all sorts of business needs ranging from storage options to sophisticated predictive analytics neural networks. 

The disadvantages of the public cloud go like this:

  • The total cost of ownership tends to grow exponentially as the company’s cloud infrastructure expands. 
  • Due to its nature, security is always a sensitive issue for the public cloud. While you can do your part, there is no guarantee that the cloud provider will be up to speed.
  • The control over infrastructure is limited, and that may cause compliance issues with different regulations (GDPR and the likes).

What is a Private Cloud?

A private cloud is a form of cloud computing in which the infrastructure is deployed and used by a single organization exclusively. This kind of cloud platform can go as far as to be physically located at the company's datacenter (or operated by a third-party vendor off-site).

The critical difference between public cloud and private cloud is a significantly higher level of control over the system by the company. The company itself handles the hardware and infrastructure maintenance. The system resources are isolated to a secure private network so that no one from the outside can access it.  

Control and security are the main reasons to use a private cloud. Because of this, it is the preferred option for government institutions, legal & financial organizations, enterprise companies - basically any organization with a high turnaround of sensitive information.

As it is, the private cloud is rarely used as a single cloud solution. Much more common is the use of the private cloud in combination with the public cloud as a place to host sensitive information and critical applications.

This makes a private cloud a reasonable option for companies whose business needs require high adaptability and flexible configuration. 

It also makes sense to go private cloud for organizations that have enough financial resources to handle the costs of maintaining their on-premise cloud data center.

Operation-wise, the public cloud is a preferable option in the following cases:

  • For systems that contain sensitive data that requires private hosting and tight security. For example, personally identifiable data that includes social security numbers, addresses in systems like cloud erp, etc.
  • When application maintenance has predictable scalability and requires low storage spending.
  • When the requirements are strict security, latency, regulatory, and data privacy levels.
  • The hosting of critical or sensitive business data and applications (communication, analytics tools, etc.).

As such, a private cloud is a right fit for:

  • Industries with high regulations (construction, manufacturing, healthcare, IT) and also government institutions.
  • Tech companies that require full control and in-depth security policies for their data and cloud infrastructure.
  • Large enterprises that require advanced data center technologies to operate efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Organizations that can afford to invest in high performance and availability technologies.

Private Cloud Advantages and Disadvantages

The Advantages of a private cloud are as follows:

  • Full control over the infrastructure - since the whole thing is situated on-site, you have complete control over what is going on with the system.
  • Dedicated and secure environments that cannot be accessed by other organizations.
  • Infrastructural Flexibility - you can freely customize private cloud to fit any business needs and requirements.
  • Better compliance - since you have more control over the system, it is easier to adapt it to current compliance requirements.
  • More efficient security. The other cloud tenants don't share infrastructural resources with your company. Thus, there is no threat of external cloud misconfiguration or breach. In addition to this, you can fully implement and manage your security solutions. 
  • High scalability. Private cloud infrastructure retains the same autoscaling features as a public cloud without compromises of security. It should be noted that scalability relies on hardware capabilities. You can't go broadway if your hardware doesn't allow this.
  • High SLA performance and efficiency.

However, private cloud solutions also have some significant disadvantages over public cloud solution:

  • The high cost of ownership - you need to maintain the entire system on your own.
  • High IT expertise requirements - you need trained personnel to keep the thing going.
  • Scalability features are limited to on-premise resources (this is an issue if the scope of operation is unpredictable) 
  • Mobile users may have limited access to the private cloud considering the high-security measures in place.

What is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid cloud is a sort of a middle ground between public and private clouds. It is a type of integrated cloud infrastructure that includes both public and private options according to specific business needs and requirements. 

  • In essence, the hybrid cloud merges the superior security of the private cloud and the more efficient scalability of the public cloud.

A hybrid solution allows optimizing your cloud investment by providing more infrastructural flexibility and diversity. 

The key is in the distribution of the workload between public and private cloud solutions. In this configuration, the company can orchestrate the workflow so that sensitive information will remain in safety while resource-demanding operations will get what they need without compromises.

As such, hybrid cloud solutions are a good company with high security, regulatory, and performance requirements. In addition to this, the hybrid cloud may be the right choice for companies that operate in vertical markets. In this case, customer interactions are handled in the public cloud, while the internal operations are taking place in the private cloud without a threat of accidental data breach.

Hybrid Cloud Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of Hybrid Cloud for business organizations include:

  • Cost-effectiveness. Public and private clouds split the workload. Private cloud handles sensitive operations. Cheaper public cloud infrastructure maintains resource-demanding processes like streaming analytics or big data machine learning.
  • Distribution across different public and private data centers result in higher reliability of the system.
  • High security and performance - the combination of public and private cloud create an environment where you can enforce high-security standards while retaining workload scalability of the public cloud.

However, the hybrid cloud also has its fair share of disadvantages:

  • The maintenance costs can balloon without close monitoring and swift resource management. 
  • Private cloud infrastructure requires compatibility with its public cloud counterpart.
  • The complexity of the infrastructure increases due to the combination of two different types of cloud architecture into one system.

How to choose between public, private and hybrid solutions?

The choice over which kind of cloud platform to use depends on three factors:

  • Performance & resources
  • Costs
  • Security

The key element of the equation is the business' requirements. However, it should be noted that the choice between public, private, and hybrid solutions doesn’t mean exclusive use of one option at all times. As time goes by, the business needs may change, and that may reflect on the cloud solution of choice. 

Let’s go through three key factors:

Security

  • Public clouds are more sensitive to security threats due to numerous customers using the same infrastructure and multiple access points to the system. In this case, the cloud provider shares the responsibility for the safety of the system. Infrastructural security is on the provider, while workload security is the company’s responsibility.
  • Because of increased control over the infrastructure, private clouds are more secure. In this case, the company bears full responsibility for the effectiveness of its security policies and protocols. 
  • A hybrid cloud is a mixed bag. As a combination of public and private clouds, you get a lesser case of split responsibilities. However, in this case, your company also has some control over private cloud infrastructure. The key point is that you can distribute the workload across public and private clouds according to compliance requirements, security policies, and other regulations.

Costs

  • Public cloud platforms usually operate on a “pay for what you use” model. In the majority of cases, it is flexible and cost-effective. Google Cloud, AWS and Azure go for 1-3 year purchase terms
  • Private cloud comes with a hefty price tag. You need to purchase, rent, maintain hardware, and manage infrastructural resources to scale the system. Private cloud is worth it if the workload is reasonable, and security requirements are strict.
  • Hybrid cloud costs combine a public cloud “pay for what you use” model and private cloud expenses. In terms of cost-effectiveness, this is the best option, since you can manage the workload and aptly allocate resources according to the current business needs. 

Performance & resources

  • Public cloud resources are limited to the financial resources of the company - they can handle as much as you need. As such, operating expenses grow with the scope of operation.
  • Private cloud resources are limited to the capacities of your hardware. If you want more - you need to buy or rent it. 
  • Deploying more private cloud resources requires buying or renting more hardware—all capital expenses.
  • Hybrid clouds give you the option of using operating expenses to scale out on the public cloud, or capital expenses to scale up a private cloud—you choose based on the situation.

What’s next?

The effective use of cloud platforms completely depends on the understanding of the company’s business goals and requirements, and what different cloud options have to offer. 

In this article, we have explained the general differences between different types of cloud computing infrastructure and where different types of cloud best fit.

In our next article, we will compare different cloud platform providers (i.e. Google Cloud Platform and the like) and explain which of them is good for which kind of operations.

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