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Multi-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud: The Difference is Not Just Semantics

The National Weather Service defines 10 basic cloud types. Similarly, "the cloud," the technology that's like a force of nature behind the digital transformation, is on its way to being almost as varied. As the cloud matures, the nuances between possible deployment strategies are getting to be about as confusing as the differences between cumulous, cumulonimbus and cirrostratus.


First, let's get the basic details straightened out. A private cloud is hosted on a server used by just one organization, whereas public cloud computing is a "style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are provided as a service to external customers using Internet technologies." In public clouds, you share hardware, storage and network devices with other tenants. 

Simple enough, right? Each type of cloud – and cloud deployment – has strengths that make them better suited for some tasks than others. The picture becomes cloudy *ahem* when you start mixing the two.


  • With a hybrid cloud approach, services are used on premises and in external clouds. In a hybrid cloud environment, you have two types of clouds, public and private. It's also possible to share data between servers and have the security of private cloud as well as the burstability of public cloud.
  • A multi-cloud strategy employs a mix of public, private or hybrid cloud solutions, but does not necessarily use different types of clouds. A company might opt to use more than one private cloud. Or, they could connect to several public clouds, provided by more than one cloud service provider. Finally, they could mix it up by adding a hybrid cloud deployment as well.

Enterprises using a multi-cloud solution can leverage the service that is the most cost-effective, and precisely when they need it. However, cost savings is not the only advantage. An effective strategy can help to prevent vendor lock-in, support business objectives such as continuity and disaster recovery and performance optimization and create agility for an organization.


The types of cloud deployments can be confusing, but the options give IT teams the ability to meet the needs of each business unit in the enterprise, instead of compromising or prioritizing one process over another. Users don't need to compromise either: In a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environment, demand for bandwidth is met without slowing other processes, varying levels of security can be executed, and data stored and accessed only by authenticated users.

You are not alone if the differences still seem confusing. But it's important, not just a matter of semantics. Knowing how public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud deployments impact an enterprise is like knowing whether to put on extra sunscreen or to carry an umbrella.

The CoreSite Team
Combining expertise, research and thought leadership to inform and advance hybrid IT.