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Public Cloud Vs Private Cloud: What's the difference?

The scalability, power and convenience of cloud computing make it a must-have for businesses of all sizes and there are various cloud deployment models that offer unique benefits to meet all use cases.

Public vs private cloud

The scalability, power and convenience of cloud computing make it a must-have for businesses of all sizes and there are various cloud deployment models that offer unique benefits to meet all use cases.

In order to get the most value from cloud solutions, businesses need to determine which model is most suitable for their specific data storage and application requirements, ensuring that it provides the necessary security, functionality, and capacity.

There are three main cloud models – public cloud, private cloud and hybrid.

What is a public cloud?

A public cloud is a third-party service that enables businesses to access IT resources over the public internet. This model allows organisations to host applications, store and share data without the expense of on-site infrastructure.

One of the main advantages of this model is scalability, which provides unlimited resources and the ability to adjust network usage as required, ensuring optimal performance and avoiding costly downtime. Additionally, it operates on a pay-as-you-go cost model, making it an affordable option for businesses of all sizes.

Find out more about the benefits and limitations of the public cloud and its deployment models in our in-depth guide.

What is a private cloud?

A private cloud is a cloud environment that is fully dedicated to and controlled by a single business. It offers the advantages of customisation and heightened security, as organisations can tailor the network to their specific needs.

However, the development of private cloud networks may be restricted due to resource demands. To overcome this, many businesses opt for a hybrid model that combines the benefits of private cloud solutions with the scalability of the public cloud.

Find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of public clouds in our dedicated guide.

Combining private and public cloud solutions

A hybrid cloud model combines multiple cloud environments – typically public and private cloud infrastructure.

A hybrid cloud approach provides businesses with the best of both worlds, leveraging the enhanced security and compliance features of a private cloud network, along with the scalability and reliability of a public cloud solution.

Businesses may adopt a hybrid cloud model when testing new applications or offerings, establishing a disaster recovery plan or simply boosting efficiency by accessing the speed and scalability of an unlimited public cloud network.

For more information on the hybrid cloud and its use cases, check out our comprehensive guide.

Which cloud strategy is right for my business?

Each cloud deployment model has various benefits and limitations, so businesses need to ask the right questions to establish which makes sense for them – a public cloud, private cloud or hybrid approach.

These include:

What existing IT infrastructure does the business have in place?

Those with the provisions and infrastructure in place to support a private cloud network may choose this option or a hybrid approach. In contrast, for new or small businesses, a public cloud may represent a more accessible and cost-effective solution.

Which resources are available to invest in cloud solutions?

Is cost a limitation to the business? Is there a dedicated IT specialist or team available to manage a private cloud network? These questions help determine whether it is cost-effective to securely deploy a public or private cloud model.

Which resources are required for the network?

What is the business model, and how does this impact cloud requirements? For instance, does the business have a website that experiences demand fluctuations during peak periods? In such cases, the organisation may consider leveraging the scalability offered by a public cloud model, where capacity can automatically increase or decrease to prevent downtime and enable it to pay only for the resources it needs and uses.

Does the business have compliance requirements or regulations?

Public cloud use cases

Some of the common reasons businesses adopt a public cloud model include:

  • Web hosting – for websites and apps that require permanent connectivity.
  • Web development and testing – of new projects before they go live.
  • To meet demand – as a cost-effective method that allows businesses to scale during peak periods and only pay for what they need.
  • Historic data – archiving data that doesn’t require regular access, long-term.

Private cloud use cases

Private cloud models are often adopted to fulfil key business priorities, including:

  • Security – giving businesses complete control over their data. This is especially important for those required to comply with data confidentiality regulations.
  • Customisation – configuring the cloud environment to the exact needs of the business.

Hybrid cloud use cases

Alternatively, businesses may adopt a hybrid cloud model to reap the following rewards:

  • First steps in the cloud – for businesses looking to embrace digital transformation while continuing to manage legacy applications.
  • Back-up-as-a-service – allowing businesses to store data in multiple places in case the worst happens.
  • Experimentation – with businesses trialling new apps, tools and strategies in the cloud before assuming the costs associated with rolling them out across private networks.

The cost of cloud solutions

The costs associated with adopting cloud solutions depend on the deployment model as well as the scale of the network and the workload of the businesses.

Research suggests that 82% of businesses are overspending on their cloud environment, with the main reason being a lack of visibility over costs.

So, businesses must understand the fees associated with the various cloud deployment models to better manage their finances and take advantage of the benefits of cloud technology.

These main costs include:

  • On-site infrastructure required to maintain the network, including data centre storage, floor space, electricity and more.
  • Network management via a dedicated on-site IT team or the public cloud host.
  • Storage costs to host data, applications and more. As these resources grow, so do the costs.
  • Security of the network to protect against the latest threats and malicious actors.
  • Scalability is one of the benefits of a public cloud, however, failing to manage usage and regularly increasing data allowances can be costly.
  • Optimisation of the network to allocate the required resources to each application and workload.
  • Training employees to access and work within cloud applications securely.
  • Transferring data from one cloud provider to another can be costly.


Public cloud vs private cloud vs hybrid cloud – a summary

Businesses may choose public or private cloud solutions or even a hybrid model that combines elements of both offerings, depending on their needs and resources.

Below, Softcat summarises the key pros and cons of each cloud model for businesses looking to adopt cloud solutions:

Public cloud

Private Cloud

Hybrid Cloud

Scalability – matching resources with demand to avoid downtime

Security – business configure their own IT infrastructure

Agility – taking advantage of the benefits of both models

Cost-effective – businesses only pay for what they need

Customisation – businesses can configure the network to their exact needs

Performance – businesses can roll out applications in the most optimal environment

Security – businesses must trust potentially sensitive data in the hands of a third party

Resources – on-site infrastructure can be costly compared with third-party networks

Visibility – working across multiple networks increases challenges in managing data and applications

Legal compliance – industry regulations may require a business to have complete control over its data

Limited scalability – the physical infrastructure and dedicated IT resources needed to expand on-premises offerings can be limiting

Compatibility – data may not seamlessly integrate between networks


Softcat is an expert in business cloud deployment – offering support from initial consultation and advice to management and operations to help businesses get the most out of their investment.

For more information on the rewards on offer with a custom cloud deployment, speak with our IT experts today.