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Public, private or both: what is the hybrid cloud?


Storage, computing power, big data analytics, virtual networks, artificial intelligence… Both computing and cloud computing allow us to access a wealth of online tools and services. Instead of acquiring a specific software and infrastructure, businesses pay solely for what they need, accessing levels of scalability and flexibility that are simply unattainable on a local level.

When it comes to hiring cloud-based services or infrastructure, one of the first questions to come up is which cloud model is best suited to our project. The question basically boils down to choosing between a public cloud, a private cloud or a hybrid cloud, each one of which has its own advantages and characteristics.

Definition of a public cloud

The definition of “public cloud” includes all cloud-based services offered by external suppliers on the public net. They are the most common form of cloud computing, for they are available all over the world and are low-cost or even free. With public clouds, everything, from hardware to system administration, is in the hands of a third party. These are its most noteworthy characteristics:

  • Low-cost. Users only pay for services used and for the time they spent using them. This saves all sorts of hardware, admin and maintenance costs, which are taken on by the service provider.
  • Practically unlimited scalability. Public clouds count with almost unlimited resources depending on the needs of the user. These services are backed by the infrastructure of IT giants such as Amazon or Microsoft.
  • High reliability and stability. Counting with the backing of a large infrastructure and a wide range of servers will in most cases guarantee a reliable service provision.

The advantages of a private cloud

On the other end of the spectrum we find private clouds. Although the infrastructure can be physically located in the user company or in that of an external supplier, all of its computing resources are used exclusively by the same organization. The infrastructure remains within a private network and the use of both the hardware and the software is exclusive. Its main traits are:

  • Flexibility and customization. The cloud environment can be adapted to the specific needs of a company.
  • Security and privacy. Having the cloud’s resources be exclusive bolsters the organization’s data protection, be these data sensitive or not.
  • Scalability and costs. Although they are increasingly offering more scalability, private clouds don’t yet reach the levels of public ones. Furthermore, the costs of resource acquisition, management and maintenance are much higher.

So what is a hybrid cloud?

As its name suggests, a hybrid cloud is a cloud solution that stands halfway between a public and a private cloud. It’s a computing environment that combines features of both types of cloud, enabling data and applications to be shared between a private infrastructure and a public cloud.

With a hybrid cloud, for instance, during peak data processing moments, tasks can occasionally draw from the power of the public cloud without providing access to all of its data, keeping the more sensitive information in the private cloud. Hybrid clouds are usually described as having the best of both worlds, with the following features:

  • Control and security. Less sensitive data can be processed in the public cloud at a lower cost while confidential information remains protected in a private cloud infrastructure.
  • More flexibility and scalability. The practically unlimited resources of the cloud are available for the organization whenever it may need them.
  • Cost-effective. Without reaching the low-cost level of certain public cloud services, hybrid clouds allow for an affordable local infrastructure and accessing the cloud computing capabilities of the public cloud when necessary and on demand, by paying only for used services.

All the most important cloud services providers, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, offer hybrid cloud architectures for combining their public cloud services with the infrastructures and resources of private clouds.

Images | Unsplash/Nareeta Martin