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Understanding the Differences Between Hybrid, Public and Private Clouds

Understanding the Differences Between Hybrid, Public and Private Clouds

The cloud has become an essential tool for many individuals and organizations. While it may not be necessary for everyone, it certainly does offer a wealth of convenience and options for its users. However, every good thing in life comes with a silver lining and this is no exception. Cloud security is a big problem because the highly interconnected nature of a cloud can make it more vulnerable to attack. However, not everyone requires a high-security option, either. For these reasons and more, it is important to understand the different types of cloud networks that are available. Only then will you truly know which one is the best for you.

Public Cloud Networks

These are definitely the most common types of cloud network services. iCloud and Microsoft Azure are two examples of well-known public clouds. This is a cloud server (or group of servers) that has been subdivided and rented. It’s kind of like an apartment building in many ways. The owner of the servers is the “landlord” and the tenants pay this landlord for use of a certain area. While this does involve sharing space with other users/organizations, each “apartment” on the network is isolated. Any cloud that is subdivided and rented out in this way is considered to be a public cloud.

From a security perspective, public clouds do have some potential problems. First, there is at least some chance that other “tenants” might be able to get through (or around) the network isolation measures. This would theoretically give them access to everything in your part of the cloud. Further, the cloud provider itself will definitely be capable of spying on your data. Thus, you need to make sure that you can trust them.

Private Cloud Networks

This is a server (or group of servers) that are meant to service one particular group of users. For a closed organization, this is really the best way to go. Your network firewall is used to restrict network access in a variety of ways. You can restrict it by using IP addresses, MAC addresses, URL filtering, or any other unique identifier. These unique identifiers are used to distinguish legitimate users from non-legitimate ones.

Firewalls aren’t always effective, but highly exclusive firewall rules (like these) are going to keep out the vast majority of threats. When combined with strong network encryption and strong passwords, this will present a formidable combined wall against virtually all forms of network attack.

When you go with a private cloud, you can choose whether or not to provide your own servers. Having your own servers on-premises does have certain advantages. However, an external site would be better for security purposes. You can also go with a third-party provider of private cloud networks. Still, bear in mind that your cloud provider can see your data. If you don’t feel comfortable trusting that cloud provider, you should definitely host your own cloud.

Hybrid Clouds

These are combinations of public and private clouds, and they can take many different forms. These clouds result from the efforts of various companies to combine the best aspects of public and private clouds. In theory, this would give you the security advantages of a private cloud while maintaining the speed and convenience of a well-maintained public cloud. These efforts have met with varying degrees of success.

Using a hybrid cloud is kind of like using two workstations on the same desktop. You can switch back and forth between the two, but the workload is shared between both clouds. That means a lighter burden for each one, allowing them to work more efficiently. This is why hybrid clouds often tend to be pretty fast. However, you can run into trouble if the multiple cloud environments are not configured in the same way. Incompatibilities can break a hybrid cloud pretty quickly.

Cloud Services

All types of cloud computing should come with (or offer) a wide variety of services. That is, after all, part of the reason for using the cloud. These services can often take the place of expensive software, making them more cost-effective for the user. Pretty much all of these services can be classified as:

  • IaaS: Infrastructure As A Service: Involves the use of network infrastructure for hosting, data storage, etc.
  • PaaS: Platform As A Service: This one mainly takes the form of specialized software and is especially useful for software development.
  • SaaS: Security As A Service: This covers any service that is intended to increase security, such as encryption, sandboxing, or malware scanning.

Public clouds will tend to have the greatest number of options here because they have a greater number of users. Private clouds, when made “from scratch,” will have none. Thus, we do see one significant advantage for vendor-owned private clouds. Hybrid clouds, obviously, will be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

A Word About Sensitive Data In The Cloud

When speaking about the subject of cloud security, we have to reiterate one important fact: Never put your most sensitive information in the cloud. Cloud computing is best for low-risk operations, even if you are talking about an encrypted private cloud (which is easily the most secure kind). On an encrypted private cloud, you might even store some medium-security data, but never put your most valuable eggs in a fragile basket.

Also, make sure that your cloud is using strong encryption. Regular WPA-type wi-fi encryption is good, but HTTPS is a little better. Likewise, a VPN is significantly better than either one. If you can combine more than one of these types, so much the better.


Some people tend to make this subject a lot more complicated than necessary. In the past, people have defined these differences based on the location of the cloud servers. However, this was never a good idea as it was always too limiting. Clouds of all kinds can be hosted on-site or off-site, and there are potentially good reasons for each. If you would like to learn more about the cloud, you can call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.