Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud: What’s the Difference?

According to a recent survey from Unisys, most companies plan to move to the cloud within the next two years. If this describes your business, you’ll probably start comparing providers soon. Before you do, you should know that the cloud isn’t just one option, it’s three: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.

This article will help you understand the differences between the three options, so you can save on research time.


The Public Cloud

When most people talk about “the cloud,” they mean the public cloud. This extremely popular option is characterized by sharing.


How it works

In a public cloud environment, you and all the other users of an application (like Netflix) share servers that you don’t ever have to worry about. You also share what’s called a multitenant architecture, which offers the same exact service to every customer, with scalability based on pricing tier. Not only will you share servers with other companies, you’ll also share software features, customer service options and security and software updates, which will be automatically applied.

Now, with all of this sharing taking place, the perception with the public cloud is that it’s always going to be a cheaper option. Not so. While you do pay for the private and separate data you use, for many organizations, the public cloud is not cheaper and can even be higher than other options. We’ve heard of companies getting a large bill and not exactly sure why they’re getting charged tens of thousands of dollars per month. So be aware of this possibility and make sure that any option you choose has a full breakdown of costs.


Best-fit companies for the public cloud

The public cloud is a great, cost-saving choice if you don’t need a lot of customization and don’t have steady compliance needs. The public cloud is now fairly well certified in compliance frameworks but in many cases, it’s a contractual obligation that can’t be broken. If your business doesn’t mind such constraints like this, it’s not so much of an issue.



The public cloud makes it very fast to spin up infrastructure and more common to host applications in a server-less environment, often known as Platform as a Service architecture. The public cloud’s flexibility of only paying for what you’re using and leveraging that immediately can be a great benefit compared to a more traditional infrastructure where you wait for computing resources to be available. For example, if you have a time entry application, you may only pay for the week you actually use it. Not weekends.



While the public cloud is the fastest growing sector of the cloud-computing world, it’s not a good choice for companies that require extensive customization or don’t want to deal with “surprise” software updates.

In addition, there is a real shortage of public cloud-based skills in the marketplace, making it tough to ramp up for engineers. Over time, that shortage is going to go away, but the current state is that not enough of the talent that companies employ in-house knows how to create applications for the public cloud.


Private Cloud

The private cloud is like a cloud that your company owns. It offers control and tailored customization, but also could involve a higher cost.


How it works

In a private cloud, you control all the data and run all the maintenance for your own company, so you can decide when the best time is for upgrades and patches. You also control and house all your own servers, you employ an IT staff and your business data is stored behind your company firewall.


Best-fit companies

The private cloud is great for companies such as law firms that can’t or don’t want their customer data in a public cloud. Believe it or not, public clouds can be actually more secure than private clouds because they’re constantly targeted by hacking groups and have to install the strong defenses to protect themselves whereas private cloud users will often have a false sense of security at times. That said, certain circumstances demand that the client data simply can’t be stored off-premise.

The private cloud setup provides full control to you. You know all about the data within the system and you can perform maintenance when it’s convenient for your company. This makes financial planning far more predictable from a capital spend perspective.



The main drawback to the private cloud is the potential cost. You’ll need to maintain a team of operations personnel and engineers so you can keep a private cloud in-house. There are also expenses associated with licensing and security. You could end up overspending a great deal due to purchasing servers, electricity and other elements of overhead. In short, you may find yourself in a constant mode of plunking down cash for assets you may or may not use.


Hybrid Cloud

The hybrid cloud can save costs and headaches by combining public cloud and private cloud options, offering complete data access with varying levels of data and application control.


How it works

With a hybrid cloud solution, companies can store their data and applications that require customization on the private cloud, and put everything else in the public cloud. For example, your company could store intellectual property, HIPAA-regulated data or manufacturing operations software in a private cloud behind your firewall, but could store prospect/lead-gen information in a public cloud CRM so it’s affordable and easy for your sales team to use.


Best-fit companies

The hybrid cloud is great if you’re unsure how your mission-critical applications would perform in the public cloud, yet you also see the need for scalability in certain parts of your business. In this instance, it may make sense to split up your private and public clouds. For example, let’s say you operated a hospital. You could have billing information go to the public cloud but other parts, like patient records, would certainly need to go to the private cloud due to necessary restrictions.



A hybrid cloud can offer the best of both worlds, offering customization and protection where you need it and extremely affordable flexibility everywhere else.



Since this is a hybrid system, it doesn’t offer the cost savings of a solely public cloud system; you do have to pay for infrastructure and IT staff. You also incur costs associated with integrating between the public and private cloud. So as you have one foot in one space and one foot in another space, you’re encountering fees while you implement changes in both worlds.



In Short

No matter your company and industry, you may be able to find a cloud solution that meets your needs. However, there is a cost factor to be aware of too. For instance, if you’ve already heavily invested in massive applications running on a mainframe or you have a large amount of capacity you’re paying for in-house, moving to the cloud may not be your most cost-effective option.

That said, when you start sorting through public, private and hybrid cloud options, give us a call. Here at Silent IT, we’ve worked with all the various cloud types and we’re happy to help you determine the next move for your company, based on your strategic goals and budget.