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A Single-Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud Strategy: Which Is Best for Your Business?

This article was updated on December 24, 2023

Traditional wisdom tells us not to put all our eggs — or data— in one basket. Until recently, data security experts might have advised differently. In the early days of cloud computing, a single-cloud strategy typically meant better security and data integration, while a multi-cloud strategy usually offered more functionality and flexibility. But things have changed as cloud technology evolves. Today, picking the right strategy for your business is more complicated than choosing privacy over possibilities, and most businesses have their heads in more than one cloud.

Illustration showing both one single cloud and beside it several clouds grouped together

In 2022, 89% of organizations are taking a multi-cloud approach, using apps and platforms from different cloud providers for different workloads, according to Flexera's latest State of the Cloud Report. The other 11% rely on a single public provider for all their cloud needs.

Your business is probably already leveraging cloud services. Like most forward-thinking leaders, you may be planning to migrate more workloads in the near future. According to Flexera, business leaders expect to increase cloud spending by an average of 29% over the next year.

As your company continues leaning into digital transformation, it's more important than ever to determine which cloud strategy works best for your business.

What Is a Single-Cloud Strategy?

In a single-cloud environment, you rely on one provider to power all your cloud-based services and software. All other computing needs are met with on-premises servers.

Your single-cloud provider might be a multi-tenant public cloud, in which you share resources and servers with other users, but your data is separate and private. Or it might be a hosted private cloud, in which a single third-party vendor maintains virtual servers and applications for you and only you. Your organization doesn't share resources or costs.

You have a single-cloud strategy if you employ only one of the following:

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS): a cloud-based application, such as email or customer relationship management (CRM)

  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): a development framework that combines different apps into one platform, such as Vonage Business Communications or Google Workspace

  • Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): a cloud-based environment that lets you combine a variety of apps from the vendor as well as custom apps, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure

What Are Some Single-Cloud Benefits?

Multi-cloud is by far the most popular strategy, but not every business has jumped on the bandwagon. Single-cloud might still make sense for your business if you're looking for these traits:

  • Simplicity. If your business is small or has very simple workflows, one cloud provider might be able to meet all your needs.

  • Accountability. If you have a problem with your cloud services, you know exactly who to call. They can't play the blame game and tell you to call another vendor. It's their problem, and you both know it.

Compliance. If your business operates in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare or banking, you need to control your own data or work with vendors who understand all the relevant regulations and can support your data reporting requirements. Many cloud providers have designed their systems to comply with different industry regulations, but the fewer vendors handling your data, the fewer data privacy risks.

Illustration of people sitting on clouds and using laptops while floating over buildings
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What Is a Multi-Cloud Strategy?

In a multi-cloud environment, you use a variety of cloud services from different SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS providers to meet the needs of your business. These services might be provided via more than one private cloud or multiple public clouds. However, most businesses (80%) now have a hybrid cloud environment, according to Flexera's report, meaning they use both public and private clouds.

Your entire workforce might use some of these cloud services — communication tools, CRM, and productivity apps — while other cloud services help specific teams or departments with specific tasks, such as sales enablement, accounting, and project management. Meanwhile, IT might use other cloud solutions to build an infrastructure that can help manage all the other solutions and the corporate-owned devices that access them.

What Are Some Multi-Cloud Benefits?

As your business grows and moves further down the path to digital transformation, you'll need to migrate more workloads to the cloud to meet all your teams' cloud services needs. That means you'll probably need more than one cloud. A multi-cloud strategy offers these benefits:

  • Flexibility. You can mix and match — and often integrate — different solutions to meet different workload needs. You're not locked into one provider and limited to the functionality they offer.

  • Integrations. Using different software no longer means keeping your data in silos. Many cloud-based solutions can be integrated with other cloud services to streamline data (so different apps have the same information) and optimize workflows (by letting employees access functionality from different applications with one login).

  • Reliability. Behind every cloud is a physical data center that is vulnerable to natural disasters and human errors. Using more than one cloud helps with disaster recovery and minimizes downtime.

  • Scalability. As your business grows, so do your computing needs. With a multi-cloud strategy, you can add new functionality to your tech stack and add or remove users with ease.

  • Vendor lock-in. A multi-cloud strategy reduces dependency on any single vendor and gives you more power when it comes to negotiating pay-per-use pricing and volume discounts.

Cost management. Your IT department can choose the best vendor, product, and service for every workload and strategically allocate workloads to meet processing demands for the lowest cost.

What's the Difference: Single-Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud?

Here's a side-by-side comparison:

One-cloud service providers

Multiple-cloud service providers

One-size-fits-all technology limited to provider offerings

Mix-and-match technology for greater functionality

Serves a single purpose

Serves different purposes with different solutions

One vendor to hold accountable

Multiple vendors who might pass the buck

One bill to pay

Multiple bills to pay

Tighter control over data security/compliance

More vendors to entrust with sensitive data

Less data redundancy, more vulnerable to disaster

More redundancy, better disaster recovery

Dependent on a single provider, vulnerable to vendor lock-in

Less dependence, more control

Which Cloud Approach Is Best for Your Business?

The best cloud approach depends on your particular business and its needs — now and in the future. If all you need at present is a cloud phone system or a decent CRM and you feel comfortable storing all your data on premises, then a single-cloud provider might be sufficient. If you want to migrate more workloads in the future, switching to multi-cloud is as simple as signing up for a new cloud service.

If your business needs are complex, you'll likely need multiple cloud providers to get all the functionality you want in your tech stack. But a word of warning: With all that flexibility comes complexity — more vendor relationships to manage, more agreements to sign and checks to write, and more integrations for IT to manage.

Single Stack Approach: The Best of Both Worlds

A multi-cloud strategy is almost inevitable for a growing company, but you can simplify your IT and work with fewer vendors if you choose providers with robust tech stacks.

Take communications, for example. You could have a unified communications solution for internal collaboration, a contact center solution for sales teams or customer service reps, and a wide variety of communications APIs (application programming interfaces) for everything from SMS to video conferencing to chatbots. Or you could choose Vonage Business Communications, which offers all this functionality and more from a single-cloud provider.

Vonage customer Rik Johnson, the head of intelligent contact solutions for Curious Thing, put it this way: "Without Vonage, we wouldn't be able to connect with huge volumes of people at scale while maintaining a really personalized interaction. The combination of the Curious Thing engine and the near-limitless capability of Vonage APIs together helps us solve a variety of problems for our customers."

Bottom line

We're living in a multi-cloud world, but that doesn't mean you need to choose a different provider for every task or capability. Whenever possible, you can choose multiple cloud providers that each have robust offerings. This way you boost your tech stack while streamlining your list of providers and reducing costs. Your IT and finance department will thank you.

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