Multi cloud vs hybrid cloud: What’s the difference?

When seeking flexible and scalable cloud models, companies often contemplate whether to adopt a multi cloud or hybrid cloud approach. While both models involve the utilization of multiple clouds, they differ in terms of their deployment. A multi cloud combines various clouds of the same type, whereas a hybrid cloud integrates multiple cloud types within a single infrastructure.

Explanation of different cloud models

The cloud serves as a foundation for streamlining processes in numerous companies, particularly in the areas of processing customer data and delivering services. When implementing cloud computing into business operations, various cloud models are available to choose from. These models differ based on factors such as computing power, scalability, and data security. The four commonly recognized cloud types are:

  • Private Cloud: As a dedicated cloud environment, resources and services are available exclusively to internal users in the form of an intranet or servers and data centers.

  • Public Cloud: Third-party providers offer cloud hosting services, making resources and services available to multiple users (e.g. Google Cloud, iCloud, Amazon Web Services, Dropbox or Microsoft Azure).

  • Multi Cloud: This cloud model also uses a distributed cloud infrastructure composed of a single cloud type (private or public cloud) from different third party providers.

  • Hybrid Cloud: This combines external cloud resources (public cloud) with internal cloud infrastructure (private cloud).

By their nature of cloud deployment, both multi clouds and hybrid clouds support the three most common deployment models in cloud computing. These models can be formed by using one or a combination of the following deployment types:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service): Scalable IT resources and clouds are virtually available immediately.
  • PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service): Various hardware and software tools hosted by third-party vendors and made available for software or project development.
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service): Third-party services provide software services, applications and IT infrastructure via the cloud as a service in customized models or all-in-one plans.

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What is a multi cloud?

As the name implies, a multi-cloud solution utilizes multiple cloud platforms in combination. These platforms can be sourced from different providers while remaining within the same type of cloud. In the case of multi-cloud, this typically involves employing at least two public clouds from different providers. The combination of several private clouds is rather rare in this context, as the purpose of a private cloud is the homogeneous, closed environment.

If cloud models are mixed, then it no longer referred to as multi cloud computing. Companies thus outsource tasks, services and resources to cloud providers such as Google, Apple, Microsoft or IONOS.

The complexity of a multi-cloud environment can vary based on the specific requirements of a company. It can range from relatively manageable setups with two or four cloud platforms to more intricate cloud infrastructures. For instance, companies may choose to host their workloads on the IaaS principle on a provider’s public cloud. Simultaneously, they can leverage the public cloud services of other providers to implement proprietary applications and access additional features such as development tools, cost allocation tools, or analytics capabilities within their cloud environment.

What is a hybrid cloud?

Hybrid clouds combine the benefits of scalability and flexibility offered by public clouds with the dedicated environment of a private cloud. This is achieved by utilizing the local cloud infrastructure, including internal servers and data centers, for data storage and business processes. Simultaneously, workloads and other processes are outsourced to the public cloud structures provided by external vendors. This approach allows organizations to combine the advantages of a private cloud, such as enhanced cloud security and a controlled environment, with the flexible scalability and cost-saving resources provided by public cloud computing.

What distinguishes the hybrid cloud is the concurrent but separate utilization of different cloud models. This requires interoperability of the heterogeneous environment through different touchpoints such as common software services and cloud management tools. When exchanging or migrating workloads and resources, secure and encrypted interfaces (APIs) are employed. This ensures that even in multi-cloud scenarios where multiple public clouds from different providers are combined, a closed private cloud can be connected for business-critical workloads, preventing sensitive data from being leaked to the public cloud.

Similarities and differences between the multi cloud and hybrid cloud

Both cloud solutions share important similarities but also have distinct differences that are significant for companies.


  • Both require the implementation of a public cloud solution to effectively be considered a multi cloud or hybrid cloud.
  • Both offer on-demand flexibility and scalability by offloading workloads and resources to public cloud capacity.
  • Both reduce the cost of in-house on-premises infrastructure, including maintenance, by drawing on external resources.
  • One-time large capital expenditures (capex) for an own IT infrastructure can be transformed into regular, smaller and predictable operating expenditures (opex) for public cloud solutions.
  • Both solutions can reduce dependency on individual providers.


  • Multi clouds combine public clouds (as IaaS, PaaS and/or SaaS) from different providers (rarely also private clouds), while hybrid clouds are a combination of private and public cloud.
  • Multi clouds usually use public clouds separately and apart from each other, while hybrid clouds usually provide a unified environment with interfaces between different cloud solutions.
  • Hybrid clouds can include a multi cloud, but not the other way around.
  • Multi cloud infrastructures are based on outsourcing workloads to external cloud providers, while hybrid clouds combine business-critical internal private cloud security with external scalability of public clouds.

The advantages and disadvantages of a multi cloud

Pros Cons
✓ Improved needs-based scalability and fail-safety thanks to expandable cloud infrastructure including backups and data protection ✗ Higher security requirements for protecting business-critical data due to parallel use of clouds from different providers (possibility of more security gaps)
✓ Cost reduction, as external resources don’t require maintenance, support and investment in on-premises hardware ✗ Multiple authentication methods, encryption and security configurations may be required per cloud provider
✓ Specialized public cloud services can be combined as IaaS, SaaS and PaaS as required, e.g. for hosting workloads separately and using cloud services for developer apps or machine learning services ✗ Higher compliance and GDPR requirements, especially when dealing with different providers outside the EU. Since tasks and resources are distributed across multiple providers, the susceptibility to disruptions can increase
✓ With domestic managed public cloud solutions, cloud security and adherence to data protection, GDPR and compliance requirements can be managed with reliable cloud providers
✓ Small and medium-sized enterprises benefit from state-of-the-art, expandable technologies, optimal resource allocation even with high workloads, and professional server management

The advantages and disadvantages of a hybrid cloud

Pros Cons
✓ Business-critical data is reliably protected with internal private cloud, while connected public clouds provide scalability and flexibility ✗ A unified environment for a heterogeneous hybrid cloud requires time for technical integration and connection of the interfaces
✓ A hybrid environment of private and public cloud makes it easier to migrate workloads, tasks and services on demand via secure interfaces ✗ Higher costs due to on-premises private cloud, internal server management and hybrid cloud maintenance, support and policies
✓ Compliance, security requirements and GDPR can be easily met by the private cloud environment despite connected but separate public clouds ✗ Combination of different cloud infrastructures can lead to compatibility problems and security gaps
✓ High scalability of public clouds, especially in case of fluctuating data traffic with performance peaks ✗ Reliant on wide area network (WAN) connectivity and thus dependent on trouble-free coupling of systems and clouds
✓ Competitive advantages thanks to flexible infrastructure for test environments, data processing and evaluation, and coping with parallel workloads

Possible applications for both cloud models

Multi cloud

A multi cloud solution is suitable for both small and large-scale deployments. The complexity of a multi-cloud environment depends primarily on the required resources. Implementing a multi cloud strategy is beneficial for optimizing performance and reducing IT costs by leveraging the robust IT resources provided by external cloud providers. It is particularly advantageous when specific services and applications from different providers are needed. For instance, workloads can be outsourced to a public cloud of one provider for improved utilization, while simultaneously utilizing storage instances, virtual machines, productivity applications, or AI features from other providers.

Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is utilized when hosting business-critical processes and data on a private cloud is necessary, while also requiring additional resources as needed. By separating and ensuring interoperability between private and public clouds, a hybrid cloud combines the security and reliability of on-premises IT with the flexibility and scalability of external cloud infrastructures. This approach enables the management of day-to-day business processes through on-premises servers, while simultaneously offloading security backups, general business data, or workloads to external resources during peak demand.

Multi cloud vs. hybrid cloud: which cloud is suitable for businesses?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for companies looking for the right cloud infrastructure. The choice depends on various factors, including costs, budget, business objectives, security requirements, and IT resource needs. Considerations such as data sovereignty and data protection also play a role if there is a requirement to host data internally and locally.

When to use a hybrid cloud?

For companies that require the flexibility to outsource workloads and resources, access external services, and simultaneously host data locally, a hybrid cloud is the recommended choice. This scenario is particularly applicable when developing cloud-specific applications and services, utilizing the public cloud for hosting while running or backing up business-critical data on on-premises servers in parallel.

When to use a multi cloud?

Multi-cloud solutions are well-suited for companies that do not possess the resources or interest in establishing a locally hosted cloud infrastructure and seek maximum flexibility in accessing diverse external resources. Additionally, the multi-cloud model offers the advantage of utilizing different cost models instead of being constrained by a limited subscription plan. Organizations that do not intend to make substantial investments in local IT infrastructure and desire access to a wide array of services such as productivity applications, AI functionalities, virtual machines, and storage capacities from external providers can benefit from adopting a multi-cloud approach.


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