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Multi-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud: What’s the Difference?

The cloud is officially where it’s at. According to Statista, the percentage of information stored in the cloud has doubled since 2015 and now comprises 60% of corporate data resources.

A growing trend is the practice of using multiple cloud solutions to meet business objectives. A survey conducted by Flexera in late 2021 found that 89% of organizations with a cloud presence are using more than one cloud. Up to 80% are employing a hybrid cloud approach to run their businesses effectively. 

Two multiple cloud strategies exist that offer organizations methods of addressing business requirements. This article will look at the differences between a multi-cloud and a hybrid cloud approach to help you determine which model may work best for your organization.

Two Types of Cloud Building Blocks

A discussion of multiple cloud environments first requires an understanding of the distinction between public and private cloud environments. These two entities are the building blocks used to construct hybrid and multi-cloud architectures.

Public Clouds

A public cloud is a multi-tenant environment where customers share computing resources. Third-party service providers offer computing resources to customers using a variety of pricing plans. The provider is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure, network, and virtualization software that allows multiple customers to share physical resources. 

Public cloud vendors offer service models that include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Customers can opt to deploy as many services as they wish to address business needs. In many cases, public cloud offerings include cutting-edge technology that may be beyond most customers’ in-house capabilities.

While workloads are logically isolated in a public cloud, they are being run on shared hardware components. This can result in contention over resources and the possibility of security issues initiated by other tenants. 

Private Clouds 

In a private cloud, the infrastructure is allocated to a single organization. Private clouds can be hosted in an organization’s data center or by a third party. Customers are responsible for the maintenance of a private cloud in the same way they would be for a traditional data center. 

The single-tenant nature of private clouds offers several advantages compared to their public counterparts. Customers have more control over the environment and are not competing for resources with other tenants. Security is enhanced in a private cloud by isolating data resources to eliminate possible misuse by other customers.

These advantages come at a cost as the customer needs to devote more technical resources to maintain a private cloud. A private cloud may have less flexibility and scalability than the seemingly limitless offerings of public cloud vendors.

What Is a Multi-Cloud Environment?

A multi-cloud environment is built using multiple clouds of the same type. A multi-cloud approach deploys either public or private clouds but does not combine the two. In most cases, businesses use multiple public clouds in multi-cloud environments. Multiple private clouds can also be integrated into a multi-cloud environment.

Multi-cloud environments can be simple or complex and deploy the offerings of a single vendor or multiple third-party providers. Companies can choose services from whichever vendor best meets their needs.

Benefits of a Multi-cloud Approach
  • Capital expenditures (CapEx) on infrastructure are reduced as companies rely on the resources of commercial cloud providers and their flexible payment options. 
  • Customers can address business requirements with specific services offered by public cloud vendors. The ability to pick and choose services that best fit a business model is one of the most compelling reasons for going with a multi-cloud strategy. 
  • Enhanced resiliency is possible using a multi-cloud approach as companies can engage redundant services from multiple vendors to safeguard critical processes. 


Challenges of Multi-cloud Environments

  • It may be difficult to maintain compliance with regulatory standards with a multi-cloud approach. 
  • Increased complexity may accompany a multi-cloud strategy, and IT departments can struggle to contain the spread of unapproved services. 
  • Maintaining robust security can be challenging when attempting to integrate multiple public clouds to address business objectives.  


What Is a Hybrid Cloud Environment?

A hybrid cloud environment is also comprised of multiple clouds. It differs from a multi-cloud approach in that both private and public cloud components are used together to address business objectives. The clouds are integrated to provide users with stable access to resources and services. The size of the worldwide hybrid cloud market is expected to grow from $52 billion in 2020 to $145 billion in 2026, representing an increase of 278%, according to Statista

Hybrid clouds are becoming more popular in the business community because they address some of the shortcomings of a multi-cloud approach. Specifically, security can be enhanced in a hybrid cloud by segregating sensitive data to the private cloud portion of the environment.

Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Approach
  • Enhanced security is one of the most important benefits of hybrid clouds. The ability to store sensitive data resources in private clouds eliminates the security risks inherent in public clouds.
  • Costs can be more easily controlled with a hybrid approach as companies can use whichever platform makes the most financial sense for specific aspects of their cloud environment.
  • Businesses can more readily react to evolving market demands using the combination of public and private clouds.
Challenges of Hybrid Cloud Environments
  • Integrating the public and private cloud resources used in a hybrid cloud can present a major roadblock to a successful implementation. A high level of technical expertise is required from the customer’s IT team.
  • The expense of maintaining a private cloud can be substantial and can negate the overall potential for cost savings. 


Final Thoughts

Businesses have numerous ways to build multiple cloud environments that directly address their needs. A multi-cloud approach offers flexibility and potential cost savings in many situations. Hybrid clouds may be more appropriate for customers who require enhanced security and operate in regulated industries. Corporate decision-makers need to look at the options and tailor an approach that best meets their objectives.