Private vs public cloud security: Your go-to guide

Posted on by Chika Ibeneme | Updated:
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If you’re considering cloud resources for your company’s hosting setup, you’re faced with the choice of public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. But what is “the cloud” when it comes to web hosting?

Cloud hosting is an approach to web hosting that leverages cloud computing. It differs from traditional hosting in various ways. 

In traditional hosting, a single physical server is dedicated to one customer or shared among customers. In cloud hosting, a network of servers (physical and/or virtual) is deployed to provide hosting services.

Larger companies may use a multi-cloud setup. This means that multiple cloud services are combined for different tasks.    

The best cloud model for you depends on your resources and business needs. One major factor to consider is your security requirements. 

If you’re thinking about increasing your web hosting budget to ensure better website security, you’re not alone. 

According to a 2023 Accenture study, 97% of organizations have noted an increase in cyber threats since the start of the Russia–Ukraine war. And cybersecurity revenue is expected to reach $183.10 billion in 2024, up from $150.16 billion in 2022.

A private cloud can provide optimal security measures under the right circumstances, but it may not be the best fit for businesses with limited resources.    

To help you choose the right option for your business, we’ll take a closer look at the security of private vs public cloud hosting. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Key points

  • The public cloud is composed of pay-per-usage cloud computing services offered publicly over the Internet, while private cloud is when a single business entity or end-user has sole access to the hardware and software resources designated in a specific cloud computing environment.
  • Advantages of public cloud include cost, responsibility, resource requirements, flexibility, and reliability, but there are drawbacks in terms of compliance, security, control, and vendor lock-in.
  • Advantages of private cloud include isolation, customizability, full access, and compliance. Disadvantages include greater security responsibilities, higher operating expenses, and lower scalability.
  • Deciding between private and public cloud requires looking at the pros and cons of both and determining what aspects of cloud hosting are most important to your business.
  • Public cloud would be a good for a company that wants the performance and scalability of cloud hosting but doesn’t have the resources necessary for private cloud hosting. A business with high regulatory compliance requirements and robust security needs should consider private cloud.

What is public cloud hosting? 

In a public cloud, individuals and companies share distributed server resources. Examples of public cloud providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).   

If you use Gmail or Google Drive, your data is stored in the Google Cloud. This means it’s stored in multiple connected servers that are shared by many tenants. 

In general, public cloud hosting is the easiest to scale of all types of cloud hosting. Also, it’s generally an on-demand service, so you only pay for the computing resources you use.    

What is private cloud hosting?

Private cloud hosting.

In private cloud hosting, an entire set of cloud resources is dedicated to a single organization. These server resources can be hosted on-premises or by a third-party cloud service provider. 

Organizations with heightened physical security concerns may prefer on-premises infrastructure, but this is generally more expensive than private cloud services hosted off-site.     

An example of a private cloud environment is Liquid Web’s VMware-powered Private Cloud. The VM here stands for virtual machines, which are created through an approach called virtualization. This ensures isolation between different clients.     

Public cloud security: Advantages and disadvantages 

Public cloud services have many security advantages for companies who value scalability and aren’t ready to devote resources to private cloud infrastructure, such as:

  • Cost.
  • Responsibility.
  • Resource requirements.
  • Flexibility.
  • Reliability. 

On the flip side, public cloud hosting has certain drawbacks in terms of: 

  • Compliance. 
  • Security.
  • Control.
  • Vendor lock-in.


Lower Cost: Public cloud hosting is more cost-effective than private cloud hosting. That’s because many tenants share public cloud infrastructure, and each tenant only pays for the resources they use. 

Shared Responsibility: Under the shared responsibility model, your cloud service provider takes care of certain security aspects, such as the core cloud infrastructure. 

Businesses without a large IT team may not be ready to take on the full responsibility of private hosting, and a public cloud deployment can help them implement a cloud architecture without worrying about all security considerations. 

Public cloud providers often provide tools and services to mitigate security risks and give tenants peace of mind. That said, in public cloud environments, you’ll still need to apply best practices for cloud security

Reduced Resource Requirements: With public cloud security, you don’t need a massive in-house team dedicated to upholding security standards. 

Many public cloud providers have dedicated IT teams and threat detection systems monitoring their IT infrastructure around the clock.   

Flexibility: Public cloud hosting is highly flexible and scalable by design, which is great for growing businesses. In terms of flexibility, public cloud hosting outperforms traditional methods of hosting, such as shared and dedicated hosting, without the higher cost of a private cloud setup. 

This means that you can scale up resources during busy periods (e.g., seasonal sales) and scale down when demand is low. 

Reliability: Because of how public cloud resources are distributed (e.g., across various data centers), there’s a low risk of downtime. If one server fails, public cloud workloads are moved around to ensure continuity of service.  

You can also reduce the likelihood of downtime by going with a hybrid cloud setup, which uses both a public cloud and a private cloud. 


Compliance Issues: If you’re in a highly regulated environment, data security is vital. Certain regulatory bodies (e.g., in finance or healthcare) may insist on a private server environment. 

If you have customers in the European Union (EU), you’ll need to ensure you abide by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While it’s possible to have GDPR compliance with a public cloud setup, it’s much easier if you opt for private cloud hosting. 

Not Watertight: As per the shared responsibility model, you still must take on your share of the burden of keeping user data safe. This could mean ensuring you don’t accidentally share passwords with bad actors.

And although the most popular public cloud providers generally do their best to protect your data, they are prime targets for security attacks. 

For example, in July 2023, a threat actor exploited a Microsoft security bug, exposing the data of some U.S. government officials.  

What’s more, you share the public cloud with many other tenants, so if they suffer a security attack, your company could also be exposed.  

In 2021, data compromises affected 298 million people in the United States, and that number increased to 422 million in 2022. 

If you’re concerned about security attacks, your web host can help you in implementing protective measures. For example, Liquid Web offers Server Secure protection for managed Windows and Linux servers.  

Control and Visibility: A third-party public cloud service provider won’t give you full access to its cloud infrastructure or the ability to customize the security environment. This is one drawback of giving the public cloud provider partial responsibility for security.  

If you have complex security requirements, public cloud hosting may not fulfill them all.  

Vendor Lock-in: When you come to rely on the proprietary security offerings of a public cloud provider, it could be challenging to implement a private cloud migration.

That said, some web hosts may offer you assistance in switching providers. For example, Liquid Web offers several migration options based on your previous hosting setup.   

Private cloud security: Advantages and disadvantages

ALT: Advantages and disadvantages of private cloud security.

In terms of cloud computing, private infrastructure is the top choice for companies with bigger hosting budgets. 

If you have the funds available, you can gain various advantages, such as:

  • Isolation.
  • Customizability.
  • Full access.
  • Compliance. 

To reap these benefits, you can expect to encounter certain drawbacks, including:

  • Greater security responsibilities.
  • Higher operating expenses.
  • Lower scalability. 


Private cloud security features from Liquid Web.

Isolated Environment: Single-tenant isolation brings you all the benefits of public cloud computing but with an extra layer of security. Because you aren’t sharing with other tenants, you don’t need to worry about the security breaches of public cloud neighbors.    

Customizable Security Solutions: If you run a complex app or website, you can apply customized security settings to protect your digital assets. Because a public cloud provider serves many customers, it can’t fully tailor its infrastructure to satisfy your company’s security requirements. 

Full Access and Visibility: With private cloud hosting, you get full access to the data you need. For example, Liquid Web’s VMware Private Cloud has various access levels depending on the server setup.  

Regulatory Compliance: If managed correctly, a private cloud can help ensure compliance with various standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 

Liquid Web’s HIPAA-compliant hosting features.

For companies handling sensitive health data, Liquid Web offers various fully managed HIPAA-compliant hosting options. Liquid Web also complies with PCI DSS and GDPR. 


Greater Security Responsibility: In general, you’ll have more responsibility for security if you have a private cloud solution. For example, you might need to install your own firewall. 

However, VMware Private Cloud hosting with Liquid Web includes a firewall and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection as standard. 

What’s more, this private cloud offering is fully managed, so you can spend more time growing your business while security experts monitor the virtual data center, which includes the VMs, hardware, and cloud platform.  

Substantial Resource Needs: Private cloud hosting is more expensive than public cloud hosting, for good reason. In addition to the higher cost outlay per month, you might need some staff devoted to managing the security of your private cloud setup. 

If you don’t have sufficient staff with the appropriate knowledge of private cloud hosting and its security, you might need a managed private cloud solution, which Liquid Web provides.

Otherwise, you might not fully reap the security benefits that a private network offers. 

Lower Scalability: Often, private cloud hosting is less scalable than on-demand public hosting. In many cases, you have a fixed amount of resources that you pay for whether you use them or not. For businesses with large variations in demand throughout the year, this option may not be cost-effective. 

However, some providers, like Liquid Web, offer resource-based pricing and easy scalability (e.g., horizontal scaling with load balancing). 

Private cloud vs public cloud security 

Public cloud hosting is a great option for small and medium-sized businesses who want the high performance of the cloud and are happy to entrust providers with maintaining server security. But for businesses with mission-critical workloads who handle sensitive customer data, the higher cost of a bespoke private cloud solution could be worth it.  

Still on the fence about which cloud model to use for your website or web application? Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the benefits and drawbacks of private vs public cloud security to help you decide: 

Public cloud security: Use case 

An eCommerce startup wants an upgrade from shared hosting, but a traditional dedicated server isn’t suitable for providing high site speeds to international website visitors.  

The startup wants the performance and scalability of cloud hosting but doesn’t have the resources necessary for private cloud hosting.  

Private cloud security: Use case 

VMware Private Cloud is a great option for SaaS, ERP, and application hosting.

A health and fitness app that handles sensitive health data wants to move from on-premises dedicated server hosting to cloud hosting. The owner wants a completely isolated cloud architecture. All data must be fully backed up in the cloud for disaster recovery purposes. 

The app needs full regulatory compliance, high server performance, and robust security settings to maintain customer trust and increase downloads. 

Final thoughts: Public cloud vs private cloud security 

If you’re still struggling to decide between public and private cloud hosting, make a list of priorities and see if specific hosting solutions fit the bill. 

If you want to start out with public cloud hosting, make sure the hosting provider is trustworthy and that vendor lock-in won’t be an issue.

But if your company can absorb the additional expense of private cloud hosting, you’ll gain additional peace of mind from an isolated infrastructure. 

Liquid Web’s managed VMware offerings take the complexity out of private hosting while giving you scalability and resource-based pricing. To find out about the best option for you, get in touch with our support staff.

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About the Author

Chika Ibeneme

Chika Ibeneme is a Community Support Agent at The Events Calendar. He received his BA in Computer Science in 2017 from Northern Caribbean University and has over 5 years of technical experience assisting customers and clients. You can find him working on various WordPress and Shopify projects.

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