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Once viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, cloud computing has become ubiquitous. Whether you’re uploading a fresh photo to Instagram or slogging through an Excel spreadsheet with Office 365, the cloud is an intrinsic part of our personal and professional lives.

At its most basic level, the cloud is remote computing powered by the internet. Essentially, a connection to the internet allows us to access the files and applications we need and the processing power we want.

In a 2015 study by Xero, 23.5 percent of small business owners were running at least one-quarter of their business in the cloud; just 18 months later, that figure had increased to 71 percent. A majority of business owners now rely on the cloud to run their companies, but that begs additional questions: What type of cloud are they using? And why are they using that cloud system?

There are many types of cloud systems businesses can adopt, but you’re most likely to hear about hybrid clouds and multiclouds. While hybrid clouds and multiclouds are vastly different models, there’s so much confusion surrounding these terms that people use them interchangeably. Both systems exist in the cloud, but that’s where the similarities end.

The simplest explanation is that a multicloud solution is more of a general cloud-management strategy while a hybrid cloud is a specific underlying technology. Still not clear? Let’s take a closer look at those options and discuss how they might work for businesses.

Hybrid Clouds: The Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid cloud solutions combine a public cloud infrastructure and private, on-premise hardware such as your own servers. Hybrid clouds are an industry favorite because they allow users to take advantage of the cost-effective third-party support of public clouds while enjoying the security and performance guarantees of private clouds.

In a hybrid cloud solution, some of your applications run through the cloud while others remain on your in-house servers. Those applications are presented via a unified interface such as a hosted desktop, providing a consistent and seamless end-user experience.

The hosted desktop of a hybrid cloud solution gives businesses flexibility in how they work with, access, and store data. For example, say regulatory requirements dictate that some of your applications remain on-premise. You can run these applications on your own servers while pushing processes with less stringent requirements or larger workloads into the cloud. One of the biggest benefits of the hybrid approach is that it allows you to test a cloud system in a limited way before fully committing, allowing you to verify that a hybrid cloud will be both cost-effective and scalable before taking the leap.

For all the advantages, implementing a hybrid cloud solution isn’t free. You’ll need to pay an upfront cost to hire a cloud service provider, prepare your data for the hybrid solution, and determine where specific information and apps will be stored. That analysis, combined with the time required for implementation and testing, means that it can take a decent amount of time to realize economies of scale and recoup upfront costs — even if those costs are far less than if you handled everything completely on-premise.

If you’re looking to ease into a cloud environment with a limited amount of data and basic applications like email, a hybrid cloud is a good bet. It’s also ideal for businesses that have complex data security requirements — cloud providers will have a high level of expertise in this area. Providers can set up a hybrid cloud system that keeps sensitive data on-premise and routes transactions to secure cloud servers that respect and report on necessary regulations, giving you peace of mind that you’re within compliance.

Multicloud: A Flexible Mashup

A multicloud model involves implementing various cloud services from different service providers. Say you wanted to use services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and IBM. Finding one provider that offers this particular combination might be difficult, but a multicloud approach allows you to tailor each individual solution to meet your precise business needs.

Multicloud solutions have their own advantages: They can free you from being tethered to a single vendor, and you can ensure your security requirements are met by picking and choosing individual providers for individual needs. Because you choose your own components, you can use any combination of platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), or software as a service (SaaS) tools to help your business grow and innovate.

So, what’s the catch? The downside to a multicloud approach is that it requires the help of technicians who can handle several different systems. If you have to hire one technician certified in Microsoft Azure and another who specializes in Amazon Web Services, you’re losing out on the efficiencies provided by the cloud.

If your current provider doesn’t support the services that your business needs or your existing infrastructure causes more problems than it solves, you might consider trying a multicloud solution. Because you can pick individual cloud services to meet your specific needs, the multicloud approach can help keep costs down — it’s a great option if you want the advantages of the cloud on a limited budget. Multicloud also allows you to choose where your computing resources originate; pick an area closer to your own location, and you’ll enjoy faster load times and more expedient customer service.

Both hybrid and multicloud solutions offer substantial benefits, but figuring out which type of implementation best complements your business can be a complicated and thorny matter. Juggling various factors such as cost, lead time, performance, and regulatory requirements can be an intensive process.

Because your business likely lacks the IT expertise of a large enterprise, it’s a good idea to consult with an expert in both cloud environments before you commit to any approach. For more insights about moving to the cloud, download my company’s free ebook called “7 Essential Facts About Moving to the Cloud.” With the right guidance, you can enjoy the business benefits of the cloud without any of the pitfalls.