Private vs. Hybrid vs. Public Cloud: Types of Cloud Computing

Dec 20, 2016 by Brent Earls

types of cloud computingSo we’ve talked in a previous blog about the different types of cloud computing (colocation, HaaS, IaaS, SaaS, PaaS) and how they actually work. That’s all well and good, but how do we actually implement them? What do the terms “private,” “hybrid” and “public” cloud really mean? In short, it all comes down to how much of your environment you want keep in your control.

Fully Private Cloud

This is the traditional datacenter/server room that we’ve all used for decades. You keep the equipment under your control and subsequently, you’re responsible for everything. Whether you put it in a colocation facility or it sits in your environment, you have to take care of things like expansion, servicing end user needs, and all of the bits and bops that go along with this. From a control standpoint, there is nothing that gives you remotely as much control as a private cloud, since it’s ALL yours. Think of this in terms of having a pair of Exchange servers that are on site and are yours completely, with your own on-premises Active Directory (AD).

Hybrid Cloud

This is the gateway drug to using the cloud. This is what 99 percent of people who have “gone to the cloud” actually run. A hybrid means some of your infrastructure still sits onsite in your office/datacenter, and some of it is hosted in the public cloud. For example, a lot of businesses will do a hybrid cloud for email — they’ll keep an Exchange server on premises, maybe for specific mailbox needs or for certain application integration, but the rest of the accounts will all go into Office 365. The two pieces (on premises and off) work together to form one offering to the end users, rather than two diverse and separate pieces. Mailboxes can be moved to and from the cloud without massive effort and pain. This interoperability is the key difference between just opening an Office 365 account and having some of your users on email addresses with non-AD logins and having an Exchange server on premises with some users on and full AD authentication. A proper hybrid cloud integrates the on-premises and off-premises environments so that there isn’t a massive change for the users if they go from one to the other.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is another place that you often run into hybrid environments.  Forklifting the entire infrastructure from on premises to the cloud is a daunting (nigh impossible) challenge. It almost always has to be phased in. Typically, the proper networking will be established early on so that workloads can be moved and migrated more seamlessly from on premises to the cloud. This way certain servers can exist in an elastic, highly available public location (websites, for example) while other servers are on premises in a more controlled environment (like an internal ERP). The hybrid connectivity of the two then allows for the websites in the cloud to talk to the on-premises ERP system rather than having to operate in two separate islands.

Fully Public Cloud

This is the “full enchilada.” Going fully to the public cloud is a very daunting challenge for all but the smallest of shops and almost no one has done it. Fully public cloud environments don’t have any servers on premises, not even domain controllers and file servers. Normally the reason that people can’t fully reach the public cloud 100 percent is due to those aforementioned two items and the connectivity that comes with them (see our next blog for that topic). Fully public clouds entrust 100 percent of your infrastructure to the third-party vendor, leaving no part of it behind.


So what does all of this really mean? Not much, honestly. Most of this is simply a way of dispelling with a lot of FUD (in other words, “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt”) that’s being sold in the industry right now. For most companies, it makes sense to have a combination of the three types of cloud implementation. Perhaps you create a hybrid Office 365 environment that talks to your on-premises Exchange servers. Maybe you have a fully public cloud hosted dev/test environment that doesn’t touch your datacenter at all. Maybe your ERP system sets in your datacenter and doesn’t leave it under any circumstances.

Most organizations are private/hybrid/public on a per-application level, rather than their full infrastructure. When you read things that says “by 2020 80 percent of organizations will be in the cloud,” it doesn’t mean fully public cloud — it means there will be at least some resource that is at least at some level hybrid. Most companies can already claim that title, simply by outsourcing one SaaS app, or by using a public spam filter like ProofPoint or something of that nature. Anything being in the cloud technically lets you claim that you’re putting forth your due diligence with your managers that you are following buzzwords like a good little industry veteran without actually jumping in headfirst at the first sign of a new fancy technology.

If you have questions about which types of cloud computing are right for you, you can send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404 and we can talk through it!

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