In the beginning there was “the Cloud.” The concept was a bit fuzzy around the edges (like all clouds, really) but compliance officers understood what the term meant. The cloud was the capability of one company to provide computing, storage, and networking capabilities to another, via the Internet – whenever the customer needed those services, and as many services as the customer needed.

As cloud computing evolved, so did specializations. Large organizations such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) created massive cloud environments not just for themselves, but for paying customers too.

Those “big three” cloud providers became what we now know today as the public cloud. Not every business, however, was ready to surrender control of its IT infrastructure to the public cloud providers.

Many wanted to keep some semblance of control and to continue using private data centers, either hosted on-premises or in a co-location. The lure of the cloud, however, became stronger as a new wave of application developers began creating cloud-first applications.

Amid that pressure, IT teams began exploring a hybrid approach: perhaps development and testing done on premises or in a “private” cloud, with routine services delivered via the public cloud. As applications and infrastructure started to exist in two places, orchestration between the two became important. The hybrid cloud was born.

As cloud technology adoption increased, businesses wanted more flexibility. Not only did they want cloud presence; they wanted redundancy. Organizations embracing several cloud services, both private and public, pioneered the multi-cloud movement.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the common cloud approaches, what are the differences between them?

The Hybrid Cloud Difference

The hybrid cloud environment typically consists of physical data center locations you control as well as a public cloud. Between the public and private cloud exists an orchestration layer. The orchestration component is what allows workloads to move from one place to another seamlessly.

Organizations find this flexibility useful since it can be more expensive to run a workload in the public cloud rather than a private cloud. The elasticity of the public cloud solution, however, is still necessary for a variety of reasons – such as, say, a spike in application traffic. Examples of hybrid cloud service providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Some of the benefits of a hybrid cloud include:

  • Greater support for your remote workers
  • More cost-effective
  • Greater control and scalability
  • Greater agility
  • Better business continuity
  • Redundancy for computer power and data storage

Additionally, when compared to multi-cloud, hybrid cloud provides greater computing speed because IT departments can spread the workload across hardware and their different cloud platforms to reduce latency. And with a hybrid cloud setup, an organization responsible for maintaining sensitive data within a data center can still leverage cloud resources for other aspects of its business.

Why Multi-Cloud?

There is a common misconception that when someone talks about a multi-cloud strategy, he or she is referring to multiple public cloud providers. In reality, “multi-cloud” is generally recognized as Azure, AWS, and GCP as well as private cloud infrastructure.

There are other minor players for a public cloud option such as IBM (which provides a different public cloud option), but most developers work on applications and workloads for the larger cloud providers.

Why do many organizations leverage multi-cloud environments?

  • Risk reduction, just like having multiple internal service providers to a data center for disaster recovery
  • Departmental preferences in large organizations
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Features, since not all features may be available for each cloud vendor: Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS), Software as a service (Saas)
  • Mitigation of vendor lock-in

Key Differences Between Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud

The key difference between hybrid and multi-cloud environments is that the hybrid cloud environment includes a data center.

Multi-cloud is generally recognized as having Azure, AWS, and/or GCP as well as private cloud infrastructure.

Some look at multi-cloud as only multiple public clouds, but it all depends on what you consider “cloud.” For a hybrid cloud model, there are typically physical data center locations that you control as well as public cloud services.

The orchestration is what drives a true hybrid cloud environment. Furthermore, organizations can have a hybrid multi-cloud platform if they wish; it depends on their unique business needs.

Overall, cloud computing has changed the way organizations provide services to customers, regardless of how many clouds are being leveraged.

What Is the Best Cloud System for My Needs?

Regardless of whether you choose a single- or multi-cloud deployment model, or you opt for a hybrid cloud strategy with an in-house data center, cloud security is important.

Cybersecurity incidents are growing more prevalent in public cloud environments. So it’s imperative for organizations using a multi-cloud architecture or a hybrid cloud deployment to prioritize risk management, compliance, and ongoing support for monitoring existing and emerging threats.

Onboarding a cloud security solution can empower you to resolve short-term threats quickly while working to embed risk management optimization throughout the organization over time.

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance platform that can support your cloud infrastructure. It can automate many of the repetitive tasks associated with compiling your security documentation and following up on alerts to implement security controls.

ZenGRC can also trace your security requirements and compliance stance across multiple frameworks such as FedRAMP, HIPAA, CMMC, PCI DSS, and more (in real-time), showing you where your gaps are and what you need to do to improve your compliance stance.

To see how ZenGRC can improve your risk management and continuous monitoring strategies, schedule a free demo today.