Main Types of Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing allows an organization to outsource the responsibility for managing some portion of its IT infrastructure stack. Instead of hosting data and applications fully in an in-house data center, cloud customers lease infrastructure from a cloud services provider, who is responsible for managing and securing the portion of the infrastructure stack under their direct control.

By transitioning their IT infrastructure to the cloud, organizations can take advantage of various benefits. Cloud providers are specialized in maintaining and securing IT infrastructure and enable their customers to focus their efforts and resources on their core business goals.

What are the Main Types of Cloud Computing?

Cloud deployments come in a variety of different forms. One of the main differentiators is the cloud deployment model that a cloud customer selects: public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud.

data center vs. cloud

Public Clouds

In the public cloud, customers lease shared infrastructure from their cloud services provider. Each customer has access to a private virtual machine (VM) that is located on a shared server used by multiple different parties. These VMs are isolated from one another, providing an experience similar to renting a dedicated machine.

Public clouds offer high flexibility, scalability, and potential cost savings due to the provider’s ability to take advantage of economies of scale. However, the use of shared underlying infrastructure has security implications if an attacker is able to overcome the VM isolation.

Private Clouds

Private clouds are similar to public clouds in that the cloud customer can deploy and configure virtual computing infrastructure on demand . However, unlike the public cloud, private cloud customers use dedicated physical infrastrastructure which is often owned by the customer and hosted on-prem in their data center .

This use of dedicated hardware decreases the security risks of cloud computing because a cloud customer is no longer sharing a server with other, unknown parties. However, this comes at the cost of decreased flexibility and scalability and increased cost compared to the public cloud.

Hybrid Clouds

Public and private clouds both have their advantages and disadvantages. Hybrid cloud deployments use a combination of public and private cloud infrastructure to balance the pros and cons of each. These environments can be linked to allow data and applications to communicate across them.

There are many use cases that justify using hybrid clouds. For example, an organization may have high-sensitivity and low-sensitivity data and applications. A hybrid environment allows the company to host more sensitive resources on private clouds where they are better secured while taking advantage of the benefits of the public cloud for resources that do not require the same level of security.


Many cloud customers have deployed multi-cloud environments, which use the services of multiple cloud providers.

Different cloud environments can be designed with different specializations, making them more or less suited to particular use cases. With a multi-cloud environment, an organization can optimize the hosting environment for all of its data and applications. However, this comes at the cost of increased complexity in infrastructure and multi-cloud security.

What are the Cloud Computing Service Types?

In addition to the different types of cloud environments, cloud customers can also pick between different service models. All cloud environments split responsibilities for managing and securing infrastructure between the cloud provider and customer, and the various cloud computing service types divide these responsibilities differently. The three main types of cloud computing services include the following:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): With IaaS, the service provider manages the underlying infrastructure (normally including compute, storage and networking capabilities) up to the virtualization layer. The cloud customer installs their own operating system and is responsible for any applications or data within that OS.

Platform as a Service (PaaS): A PaaS solution offers a managed environment where a cloud customer can host their applications and data. In this case, the service provider is responsible for providing all of the resources that these hosted applications or data may require.

Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS solutions are developed by software vendors and offered to their customers. While these solutions are hosted on cloud-based or on-premises infrastructure, the cloud customer only has access to the software, not the underlying infrastructure.