Small Business Trends

What Are the Different Types of Cloud Computing?

By | 8 min read | Published

Discover the different cloud computing services available for your business

Just about everyone has heard of “the cloud.” What was once a popular, sci-fi-sounding phrase is now an essential component of our daily lives, both personally and professionally. Although we are aware of what the cloud can do in a general sense, understanding how it operates and the meaning of the terms related to it is a much more difficult task.

But migrating to the cloud is a necessary task for any business that plans to remain competitive in upcoming years. The cloud is not going away. Its use is accelerating. In 2015, only 30% of corporate data was stored in the cloud. By 2021, this number hit 50%. Currently, 94% of businesses use some sort of cloud services.[1]

If you have heard about all the benefits of the cloud, are interested in what it can do for your business, but are unsure of the types of cloud solutions and cloud computing options, this article is for you.


What is cloud computing?

It has often been said that “the cloud is someone else’s computer,” and there is some truth in this statement. Cloud computing is the process of storing and accessing data and software through the internet as opposed to your computer’s hard disk. The term “cloud” is a metaphor for the internet.

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Dropbox provide access to servers, databases, software, and networks they host in their own data centers via the internet. Businesses frequently use the cloud to store, transfer, and update their corporate data.

The cloud can make it simpler for businesses to give their employees access to corporate resources from a range of locations and devices because users access their cloud services online. It can also be more cost-effective for businesses because the cloud computing provider manages all software and hardware installations and updates.


Main types of cloud computing

Cloud computing is a broad term that covers five main cloud computing options: public, private, hybrid, multi, and HPC. Selecting a cloud type or cloud service is an individual choice. No two clouds are the same, and no two cloud services are used to solve the same issue. However, by being aware of the differences, you can be better prepared to consider how each type of cloud computing and cloud service might be useful to your company.

2.1 Public clouds

Public clouds are collections of computing resources hosted in a public cloud provider’s data centers. Unlike traditional corporate data centers, these data centers are distributed across the globe to provide quick access to the resources from any location. They are also fully managed by the provider and offer a wide variety of resources, including networking, memory, processing power—CPU, and storage. Businesses can rent these resources to build their IT infrastructure.

Public cloud providers also provide managed services like database servers, security systems, and applications. These types of services are available to rent for companies who don’t want to manage the underlying resources and just want to use them. The most popular public cloud providers are Google Cloud Platform—GCP, Amazon Web Services—AWS, and Microsoft Azure. You can access public cloud resources through a web browser and command-line tools.

The fact that each of those vendors hosts, owns, and maintains the underlying hardware is a major advantage to the public cloud. Customers don’t have to purchase or maintain the hardware that makes up their IT solution. Instead, customers pay for resources as they use them. This is more cost-effective than owning those resources and paying for and managing all installations, maintenance, and upgrades.

Public cloud services are also scalable. If your web applications regularly get the same amount of usage, you will only pay for that usage, but if you suddenly get an upsurge in traffic, cloud software can detect this and add more resources as you need them.

Public cloud providers also guarantee a certain level of uptime and that they adhere to security standards such as GDPR, FIPS, HIPAA, and PCI. These guarantees are put in writing with Service Level Agreements—SLAs, which are financially backed.

2.2 Private clouds

Private clouds have the same functionality as public clouds, but instead of being provided by a third-party public cloud provider, the physical hardware is owned by the business and hosted in their data centers. What companies often do, though, is outsourcing the management of these resources to a third party.

Private clouds are similar to public clouds in that the resources are accessible remotely via the internet. The difference is that the business that uses these resources controls them, down to the hardware. And none of the resources are shared with other companies or entities.

One advantage to a private cloud is that a business is able to customize their cloud computing processes to their own workflow. Private clouds are also required for certain types of stringent security standards that call for resources to be kept within the control of the business.

2.3 Hybrid clouds

Hybrid clouds combine the features of both public and private clouds. A hybrid cloud’s public and private parts are connected by a virtual private network—VPN—or a dedicated private channel to control access to the business’s private network.

Every company that requires a private cloud for compliance reasons has some data and processes that don’t require this level of security and can host those resources with a public cloud provider where resources are virtually unlimited. Hybrid cloud solutions are also cost-effective for companies that want to extend their resources in the cloud instead of investing in more of their own hardware.

2.4 Multi-clouds

A multi-cloud system is when a company makes use of many outside cloud service providers. To enhance their cybersecurity systems or take advantage of unique features, some businesses opt to use a variety of cloud service providers.

Additionally, separate clouds for each of a company’s operations, departments, or branches can be maintained using a multi-cloud setup. A multi-cloud system can make it more difficult to transfer resources between clouds because all of your cloud resources and data run on distinct infrastructures.

2.5 High-performance computing—HPC—clouds

High-performance computer applications and hardware are the focus of HPC clouds. They provide supercomputers and graphics processing units that are used for machine learning and artificial intelligence tasks like weather predictions or modeling chemical compounds. HPC clouds give businesses access to high-performance resources at a fraction of the cost of buying the hardware.


What are the main types of cloud services?

There are currently four primary types of cloud computing services. Each cloud solution in this list expands on the one before it by offloading more of the management and maintenance work from a business’s IT staff to a third-party cloud provider. Cloud services are infrastructure, platforms, or software that are hosted by public or private clouds and are made available over the internet.

3.1 Infrastructure as a Service—IaaS

IaaS is a cloud service option where the provider uses an internet connection to handle a company’s infrastructure, including the real hardware, servers, network, virtualization, and data storage. The user rents the infrastructure and has access to it via an API or dashboard.

While the provider handles any hardware, networking, hard drives, data storage, and servers and is in charge of handling outages, repairs, and hardware issues, the user manages things like the operating system, apps, and middleware.

Examples of IaaS include AWS EC2 Instance, Google Cloud Compute Engine, and Azure Virtual Machine.

3.2 Platform as a Service—PaaS

PaaS refers to an external cloud service provider that provides and manages the hardware and application platform, but the user is in charge of the apps that run on top of the platform and the data such apps rely on.

PaaS provides users with a shared cloud platform for application development and management, an important part of DevOps, without having to construct and maintain the infrastructure that is involved in the process. It is a cloud service option that developers and programmers commonly use.

Examples of PaaS include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure Web Apps, and Google Cloud SQL.

3.3 Serverless computing

The type of cloud computing service, known as serverless, runs only when businesses use it. Traditionally, software and applications would be executed on a server that is always running even when it is not being used. With serverless, the functions an application uses run only when necessary, and users are only billed when those functions are run.

Serverless is another popular cloud service option for developers because they don’t have to manage the underlying server technology, just the application they are building.

Examples of serverless computing include AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions, and IBM OpenWhisk.

3.4 Software as a Service—SaaS

SaaS is a service that gives consumers access to a software application that the cloud service provider administers. SaaS apps are often web or mobile applications that consumers can access using a web browser.

Users can manage the cloud applications via a dashboard or API, while the cloud service provider handles updates, bug patches, and maintenance. SaaS also removes the requirement for a program to be locally installed on each user’s computer, opening up more options for collaboration.

Examples of SaaS include Microsoft Office365, Salesforce, Slack, DocuSign, MailChimp, and Dropbox.


  1. 25 Amazing Cloud Computing Stats, Zippia


About the Author

Stephan Miller - Guest Contributor

Stephan Miller - Guest Contributor

Stephan Miller is a freelance writer and software developer specializing in software and programming. He has written two books for Packt Publishing.

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