Public cloud vs. private cloud security: what's the difference?

It's not about public cloud security vs. private cloud security. It's about understanding the differences and identifying your business's best cloud computing model.

In a rapidly evolving threat landscape, nothing is more important than security. As such, large and small enterprises must make a reasonable effort to develop a robust cloud strategy. 

There are significant differences between public cloud security and private cloud security. The following blog post explores both public and private cloud security to help better understand which type of cloud computing model is more secure.

What is a public cloud?

A public cloud is a service offered by third-party providers to multiple users or organizations (tenants) over the Internet. This popular cloud computing model operates on a shared infrastructure model with resources dynamically allocated among users.

What is a private cloud?

A private cloud is dedicated exclusively to one organization. Private clouds are hosted on-premises or with the help of a third-party provider (but remain under the complete control of the organization it serves).

What is cloud security?

Cloud security is about keeping online computing services safe. It helps keep data private and systems secure whenever it's accessible over the internet. The companies that offer these online services and the people or businesses that use them must work together to protect their cloud data.

This is true for everyone, whether it's just one person, a small company, or a big business.

We can divide cloud security into the following categories:

  • Data security and storage: Safeguarding stored assets and information from unintentional or intentional harm.
  • Identity Access Management (IAM): Establishing and overseeing the permissions and roles of distinct network users.
  • Disaster recovery planning and business continuity: Implementing safeguards for use in emergencies and organizing procedures to maintain business functions following any incidents or catastrophes.
  • Policy and governance: Setting rules to manage expenses and reduce potential security threats.
  • Adherence to regulations: Ensuring compliance with sector-specific standards and local, national, and global regulations.

What are the security risks of public cloud computing?

Protecting data in the cloud

Although most people believe that data protection within cloud environments falls on the cloud service provider and not the user, the reality is the opposite. Most cloud service providers are responsible for securing the cloud's infrastructure, not the customer's data or application usage.

Organizations must actively engage in their own data and storage security, ensuring the safety of their, and possibly their clients', information.

Insider threats

When it comes to IAM, controlling who has access to cloud-based data is critical. Security threats often originate from compromised internal accounts, including those of employees or associates.

Cloud compliance

Navigating compliance in a public cloud setup can be more complex than on-premises solutions, often requiring dedicated compliance teams or external services to ensure adherence to regulations.

Disaster recovery strategies

Effective disaster recovery and business continuity planning are paramount in public cloud security. An inadequate backup plan can lead to irreversible data loss or failure to safeguard applications and data in the cloud.

Confirming that cloud providers offer robust backup solutions and governance policies to mitigate these risks is imperative.

Potential service outages

Hardware issues, network errors, or even routine maintenance can lead to unexpected service interruptions in even the most resilient cloud environments.

Service misconfigurations

A misconfigured cloud service can open the door to various security threats, potentially leading to public exposure or data loss.

What are the security risks of private cloud computing?

Securing the overall cloud environment

While private clouds are often perceived as inherently more secure, the reality is a bit different. Public clouds frequently benefit from enhanced security due to their maintenance by specialized teams. Public cloud providers typically invest more resources into security and reliability to meet diverse customer expectations.

On-site security measures

The level of physical security (such as surveillance systems, fire suppression, and security personnel) that third-party data centers deploy is often more comprehensive than what individual organizations may have in place. Additionally, public cloud services often offer geographic redundancy, distributing data across multiple locations for added resilience.

Capacity planning challenges

The true essence of cloud computing lies in its elasticity and scalability. However, private clouds may face limitations here; increasing capacity often means additional hardware investment. Insufficient capacity can lead to performance bottlenecks, potentially slowing down or halting applications.

Maintenance and updates

Updating the latest software versions with a private cloud can be costly and labor-intensive. Organizations that delay these updates due to cost or complexity may face increased exposure to security vulnerabilities, affecting performance and uptime.

Private cloud security vs. public cloud security

Why are private clouds less secure?

Security implementation challenges

Many firms rely on basic defenses like firewalls and antivirus programs, presuming they will suffice. However, with employees accessing emails and the internet, the risk of inadvertently introducing malware or ransomware through devices like smartphones is high. Private clouds require strong security protocols integrated with data governance and robust backup and disaster recovery planning to function reliably.

Staying current with security updates

A significant concern for private clouds is whether organizations possess the necessary expertise to develop and maintain them. Having the latest tools doesn't guarantee top-notch security. Those opting for a private cloud must ensure partnership with seasoned experts. Regular patch management is another area where private clouds struggle, as dedicated teams must stay abreast of the latest security updates.

Failing to adopt the latest technologies

Determining whether a private cloud can keep pace with cutting-edge security measures is crucial. How well-protected is your private cloud, and how frequently can you afford to update its security features? Here, public clouds often outshine private ones due to their ability to spread the cost across many users, allowing for continuous security enhancements.

Why are public clouds more secure?

Leveraging economies of scale

Public clouds often boast more current security features than their private counterparts. Thanks to the shared financial input from a broad customer base, public clouds effectively "crowd-fund" upgrades, distributing the costs so each user bears only a fraction. This shared cost model is particularly advantageous for organizations that lack substantial budgets for security upgrades and ongoing software patching.

Proven robustness

Public clouds have become more secure partly because they are frequent targets of cyber-attacks. The exposure to continuous threats means they must evolve rapidly to stay ahead. Therefore, cloud companies have developed robust defenses due to their extensive experience countering attempted breaches.

Access to top security professionals

Public cloud providers attract and retain some of the best security professionals in the industry, benefiting from their expertise at scale. Consequently, when you choose a public cloud service, you gain immediate access to top security professionals at a fraction of the cost of employing a similar team in-house. This collective access to top-tier talent provides a significant security advantage for public cloud users.


Deciding between a public or private cloud solution hinges on your specific needs. The ideal approach is to weigh the pros and cons of each cloud type against what your business requires. This assessment should include not just security aspects but also compliance and financial factors.

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