Not long ago when people talked about the cloud, they were referring to some type of public cloud service. Today, the cloud can be represented in different ways – public, private, and even hybrid clouds.

Because the cloud can take on various forms, the type of cloud selected by a business for a particular use carries different tactical and strategic implications for CIOs.

Certainly one of the topic considerations when assessing whether to utilize a public, private, or hybrid cloud are the security ramifications. With private clouds, CIOs and their IT organizations control the physical servers, including access to those servers. CIOs know precisely where the data lives, the roles and responsibilities of personnel who are granted physical access to data and apps, and the enterprise isn’t vulnerable to public cloud outages or disruptions.

Still, there can be security benefits to hosting data in a public cloud. These include typically having data and apps stored in highly-secured facilities, often with multiple layers of protection. Clients of public cloud providers also often gain security expertise from their vendors. Plus, data isn’t at risk from discontented employees while cyber thieves probably don’t know where the data resides.

Certainly security is a major part of deciding between the uses of a public vs. private or hybrid cloud environment. But it’s not the only consideration. Cost, management, and resources are also critical factors.

For instance, one of the benefits of tapping into a public cloud for Big Data analytics is the ability to tap into massive volumes of structured and unstructured data sets that can strengthen decision-making and execution. A growing number of companies are also leveraging the cost benefits and scalability of using public clouds for testing and development.

Meanwhile, a hybrid cloud can allow a company to use a public cloud setting for less sensitive applications while enabling the enterprise to quickly scale for processing that can’t be easily achieved using its own servers.

As the different approaches to the cloud have evolved, so too has CIOs’ understanding of what the cloud means to them and to their IT organizations. Most CIOs recognize the cloud as complementary, not threatening. It’s creating new opportunities for businesses to lower costs while improving their scalability and agility. CIOs who are able to embrace rather than resist these changes position themselves to help their organizations reap the full benefits of the cloud while helping to mitigate the inherent risks.

Cloud computing is still in its relative infancy with many permutations that lie ahead. What do you see as other critical factors that should be weighed when comparing public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud models? Please join the discussion and share your insights with the HMG Strategy CIO Community.