Private, public, and hybrid clouds: What’s the difference?

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Because technology continues to evolve, the IT field also constantly advances. One piece of technology that’s becoming more relevant to IT and MIS professionals is the cloud. Taking an organization’s documents, files, email, and numerous other elements into the cloud creates seemingly infinite space in which to securely store and easily access a business’s important materials. Cloud-based computing can improve collaboration between employees and create an infrastructure that allows organizations to operate better.

Woman points to cloud computing icons on a monitor

According to the 2018 IDG Cloud Computing Survey, 73 percent of organizations have at least one application or one portion of their computing infrastructure in the cloud today. This rapidly growing trend is causing business leaders to rely on their management information systems personnel to evaluate public, private, and hybrid clouds, strategizing how to integrate the right one into existing strategies to achieve organizational goals. If IT professionals want a firmer grasp on developing data management and security trends, including cloud computing, they require professional experience and relevant knowledge. A master’s degree in MIS develops the technical knowledge and business acumen in graduates so they are prepared to ask the right questions when it comes to integrating technology into an organization, such as, “Which type of cloud is best?”

Public cloud

As the most common form of the cloud currently in use, public clouds are entirely owned and operated by a third party. Accessed via the web, common public clouds include Google, Microsoft Azure, AppEngine, and IBM’s Blue Cloud.

Because of the benefits of public cloud computing—which include ease of access, low cost, and complete lack of maintenance—organizations frequently use public clouds for web-based email, online office applications, storage, and testing and development environments. With high scalability and reliability, public clouds are great solutions for many strategic areas of business including:

  • Computing needs, such as providing email accounts for a set number of employees
  • Specific IT and business operations linked to an app or service
  • Peak-time operations

While public clouds are often the most cost-effective option when reviewing public vs private vs hybrid cloud computing, they do have certain limitations which MIS professionals should take into consideration when applying this technology to specific business needs. Public clouds are not necessarily the right choice when working with high-security content or sensitive IT workloads. It also may not include the right combination of features if specialty business needs require an infrastructure that’s easy to modify or customize.

Private cloud

As a computing resource that’s owned exclusively by an organization and maintained on a private network with hardware and software solely dedicated to a single business, private clouds offer the security and customizable infrastructure not available on public clouds. Physically located on-site or hosted by a third-party service provider, this option is often used by government agencies, financial institutions, and other businesses looking for enhanced control over their cloud-based environment. When comparing infrastructure, benefits of private cloud vs public cloud include increased flexibility, enhanced security, and high scalability. Private clouds give an organization greater visibility and control over their infrastructure, allowing for compliance-sensitive IT workloads to operate without increasing the security risk.

With increased ownership over the entire cloud structure, cost is one component an MIS professional should take into consideration when evaluating this option. Private clouds can be an expensive solution, especially when compared to public clouds. They can also make access more difficult due to the higher security measures often in place.

Hybrid cloud

Combining elements from both public and private clouds, hybrid clouds allow an organization to move between the two spaces for greater flexibility overall. With this option, an MIS professional could suggest that an organization put web-based email on a public cloud while maintaining content related to financial reporting within a private cloud. This can create a system of optimal protection and functionality for each type of application or content an organization wants to store virtually.

Hybrid cloud benefits include an additional, unique functionality known as “cloud bursting,” according to Microsoft. This is when an application or resource running within a private cloud hits a usage spike, causing it to push through into a public cloud to take advantage of additional tools. Utilizing a public cloud as an operational backup for your private cloud can lead to cost savings and a more efficient system should an organization experience this issue regularly.

When an organization implements a hybrid system, the technology manager overseeing the project should be aware that strong compatibility and integration is necessary throughout the cloud infrastructure and that limitations may occur in this area when working with the public component of the hybrid cloud. This can lead to the creation of complex systems as more combinations of public and private clouds are built into the hybrid, which can pose more challenges than might typically be seen using a separate public or private cloud.

Staying on top of cloud technology and other relevant trends in MIS

It’s not uncommon for an organization to leverage all three types of cloud solutions based on specific needs within different business areas, which is why it’s important the MIS professional responsible for making the final technology decisions understands each choice. Explore this and other trends related to MIS through an online Master of Science in Management Information Systems from University of Alabama at Birmingham. Bringing technology and business together in a single master’s program, an MS in MIS can expand your existing technical knowledge and help you develop skills applicable in business by providing you with the ability to concentrate your studies in cyber security management or IT management, focusing on areas such as technology planning, information technology and business strategy, and systems analysis.

Learn more about how a master’s degree in management information systems, offered through the Collat School of Business, can enhance your existing career. Reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

What’s the difference between local and wide area networks?

Benefits of earning an MS MIS online

General overview: online Master of Science in Management Information Systems


What are public, private, and hybrid clouds? By Microsoft Azure

Public Cloud vs Private Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud: What’s The Difference by BMC Software

2018 Cloud Computing Survey by IDG

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud by Forbes

Online Master of Science in Management Information Systems – University of Alabama at Birmingham