There are two phrases that are often used when people are discussing cloud adoption and management. These are hybrid cloud and multi-cloud. The two terms are often used interchangeably which can be confusing because, although on the face of it they may seem similar, in practice they do not mean the same thing. In fact they mean quite different things.

When considering which model to use it’s important to be clear about the distinction between the two approaches. In this article we’ll clarify the difference between them and explore which one might suit your business best.

Private vs. Public vs. Hybrid Cloud?

What is multi-cloud?

Multi-cloud is where an organisation uses different public cloud solutions from different cloud providers for specific workload requirements. There is no connection between them and they are used for entirely separate business requirements.

A multi-cloud model can also encompass private clouds and any other on premise deployments as it is an environment in which different clouds exist however there is no communication between them. An organisation that’s using a multi-cloud approach therefore could also be using hybrid cloud but it doesn’t work the other way round.

Private, public and hybrid cloud

The decision about whether to go fully and solely public, or to combine private and public clouds in a hybrid cloud model, very much depends on the data protection and privacy needs of your business.

An enterprise might be considering a full scale move to iomart’s CloudSure, AWS, Microsoft Azure or even Google Cloud, but there is still going to be a transition period when some resources cannot be moved where hybrid cloud would be the best approach. The same might be said where there’s a need to store more sensitive data in a private cloud.

The Best Cloud Computing Solution for Your Business

So, when considering the best cloud computing solution for your business, which one is the best option? Perhaps that’s actually the wrong question, as one is not necessarily better or worse than the other – it all depends on what your business requirements are.

For instance if security is a key issue then separating the infrastructure for the more secure data in your business will mean two clouds, public and private, and therefore a hybrid cloud approach.

If you want to take advantage of cost efficiencies then a multi-cloud approach means you are less likely to be locked in to price rises from a single vendor. It also means you can take advantage of the latest cloud technologies which, in turn, encourages innovation.

By exploring the benefits and drawbacks of the two separate models you can discover which one could be the best choice for your business.

Benefits of multi-cloud

A multi-cloud approach gives a business the ability to innovate faster and adapt quickly to sudden changes in the market. There is flexibility of control because you’re not locked in to a single contract with one vendor. The knock-on effect is that this avoids being at the mercy of single points of failure and downtime.

Within your business each department will have specific requirements when it comes to cloud – a cloud for app development/a cloud for database etc. – so a multi-cloud approach allows you to select the appropriate public cloud to meet the needs of each application and each data source.

Example of multi-cloud

An app may run all its compute and networking in AWS but will get its database services from Azure. There is no mix or swapping between resources on different public clouds. Each cloud resource is for one separate use.

Or, one public cloud might be used for enabling collaboration while another might be used purely for development.

Challenge of multi-cloud

There are multiple challenges associated with the multi-cloud model. In addition to selecting the right providers and understanding the cost and platform potential, there is also the issue of security and governance.

Given that individual cloud services may be used by very separate teams and departments, how do you decide who has overall control? How are decisions made about what to use and what not to use? How do you ensure that the cost is appropriate to the workload and kept under control?

Do you apply the same processes and procedures to each different cloud provider and how can you ensure that the approach to audit and compliance is the same across all your providers. In a borderless multi-cloud environment, security and governance have to be your priority and not just an after-thought.

So what about the pros and cons of the hybrid cloud model?

Benefits of hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud allows you to deploy your workloads across multiple cloud providers. These providers have made significant investments in security and specialise in keeping data safe. Where a workload requires private cloud, security is maintained because the resource is not shared with any other organisation. Your data is not exposed to the Internet, you know exactly where it is, you control access to it, and you decide what backup and recovery management it requires.

An efficiently designed hybrid cloud can provide continuous, secure and high speed access to data while also delivering monitoring and unified resource management with a single view of what’s happening at any one point in time.

Hybrid cloud also enables developers to spin up and move around resources quickly which is invaluable in the development and testing phase.

By being able to mix and match the best elements of public and private cloud, your business gains the ability to be flexible and innovative, while still meeting any regulatory and compliance obligations.

Challenge of hybrid cloud

Although the long term costs are economical, the set up costs for hybrid cloud can exceed what it would cost for a public cloud environment and the infrastructure can be quite complex. Performance can be an issue if your clouds are incompatible – your fast on premise private cloud might not perform in tandem with the slower public cloud.

The data transferred between the different clouds needs to be protected so you need to ensure that you are compliant with all the relevant regulations that apply. There also needs to be a clear view of the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of each cloud provider involved.

The benefits of using a combined Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud

The fact is, it doesn’t have to be a case of either/or when looking at these two models. A combination of public, private and hybrid cloud could be the best solution for your business. One size does not fit all and you can actually make good use of both models at the same time. The big question is, if you want to go down that road, do you have the connectivity to make everything operate seamlessly?

Bursting out of a data centre with a secure private connection to the Internet requires having a provider with high speed and low latency connectivity directly into AWS or Azure. With the right data centre provider this is achievable.

As global Laboratory Information Management Systems provider LabVantage discovered, the main advantages of using a combination of both are flexibility and security. The company benefits from a customisable and more flexible platform for its staging and development environments, while also meeting the security considerations required for the relevant industry sectors in which its customers operate.


The average business is said to use around six types of cloud. Managing those cloud computing resources can be a challenge which is why by understanding the clear distinction between the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud approaches you can ensure that you’re getting the best out of them.

The end game is to get a cloud that works for your business, which gives you the capacity, flexibility and security you require for your particular business needs.

Don’t be confused by the terminology. With iomart as your partner you can get maximum advantage from both multi-cloud and hybrid cloud and create a best of breed cloud strategy that delivers what you need, in the way that you need it.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, get in touch.