A public cloud refers to a service that offers applications and IT functions to a general customer base with very few opportunities for individualization. However, higher education officials often define a public cloud as one that is hosted off premises by a third-party provider, but is protected in the sense that it is governed by a negotiated contract and includes customized pricing, service and security levels, as well as a strategy for data return should the arrangement end.
A private cloud is created for and used expressly by an individual college or university.
A hybrid cloud within higher education typically comes in two flavors. The first is a cloud run by a consortium or a higher education–focused provider for use only by a group of academic institutions. The second is an arrangement in which the underlying infrastructure, or all or part of the application, is hosted offsite by a public cloud provider, but more sensitive components (and sometimes the application itself) are maintained within a private cloud by the higher education institution.