Public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud: What's the difference?

Trying to understand and articulate the differences between public, private, and hybrid cloud? Here's a quick breakdown.

Cloud computing has transformed from a niche solution to the standard way of running IT in the enterprise. The biggest question today is often which type of cloud to run: public, private, or hybrid.

Much of the momentum today is around hybrid. To help you better understand the hybrid cloud, let's quickly break down the differences between the three types of clouds.

1. Public Cloud

When most people hear cloud, it's the public cloud that they think of. While this originally started out as applications hosted over the internet--Software as a Service--today's public cloud can involve applications, infrastructure, or data storage served up by a third party vendor. And, it's useful to think of the three separately.

2. Private Cloud

Special Feature

Special report: The art of the hybrid cloud

Many organizations are trying to find the right mix between public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions. This ebook offers a look at the strategies that are working.

Read More

To the cynics, the "private cloud" looks a lot like what we used to simply call an on-premises data center. The difference is that you use virtualization, software, and automation to organize your infrastructure like the public cloud. While this offers some of the flexibility found in the public cloud, the big benefit for private cloud is that it gives you more control over security, data privacy, and compliance.

3. Hybrid Cloud

Since it started as a marketing term, the definition of hybrid cloud can vary. Some see it as mixing and matching your apps, data, and infrastructure. For example, storing your data in the private cloud while running your app in the public cloud. Others see it simply as the use of multiple cloud services, orchestrated to work together. The key point is that this approach moves away from a monolithic either-or policy for public vs. private cloud, but one that relies on adaptability and a best-of-breed approach, which is why it's rapidly becoming the most popular cloud posture.

Special report

To learn more, read our full special report "The Art of the Hybrid Cloud." You can read all of the articles on ZDNet or you can download them in one PDF on TechRepublic, available for free to registered users.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener

The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener:

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