10 FAQs about Hybrid Cloud

When you’re trying to decide what types of cloud services you need, it helps to understand the differences between the various types of cloud infrastructure. Take a look at these FAQs about the hybrid cloud.

1. What Is a Hybrid Infrastructure?

A hybrid cloud infrastructure is a cloud computing architecture that combines public cloud services, private cloud or third-party services, and on-premises services. The resulting IT environment provides a greater degree of flexibility to businesses because of their ability to switch between public and private clouds. That switching back and forth is determined in part by the computing needs of the business at any given moment and in part by cost-effectiveness.

The delineation between public and private clouds has become muddied in recent years. Private clouds were originally defined as on-premises infrastructure, but they now often employ off-site data centers owned by vendors rather than by the company using the services. And public cloud providers now sometimes use clients’ on-premises data centers to provide their cloud services. With this mingling, it’s perhaps inevitable that the hybrid cloud would arise.

In the hybrid cloud environment, data and applications are shared across the public and private cloud. Typically, businesses taking advantage of hybrid cloud computer start on a private cloud, flowing seamlessly to the public cloud when their work overflows the private cloud’s ability to handle it. This way, companies can use the public cloud’s computing power when needed, which still keeping their private data protected by an on-premises firewall.

2. What Are Examples of a Hybrid Cloud?

Certain industries tend to gravitate toward the hybrid cloud because of the massive space requirements of their computing. Among these are finance, health care, law, and retail.

The finance industry requires the highest levels of security, making the public cloud less than appealing. However, the space needed to handle trade orders and analytics can be prohibitive for private cloud infrastructure. The financial automation platform BlackLine opted for the hybrid cloud when its rapid growth caused it to outstrip its on-premises infrastructure. By switching some of its cloud infrastructure to a Verizon facility, the company was able to take advantage of the network speed it needed while still protecting its IP and data.

The noted motorcycle firm Ducati also recently switched to a hybrid cloud infrastructure to provide greater computing speed to its engineering and design departments. The switch to the hybrid cloud allowed Ducati to take advantage of a modernized data center without having to sink costs into on-premises infrastructure. The Ducati shift to the hybrid cloud allowed the firm to consolidate its data center, implement new disaster recovery protocols, and expand its research capabilities.

3. How Does a Hybrid Cloud Work?

There’s no single defined structure for hybrid cloud architecture, which can combine public cloud services with private cloud infrastructure in a variety of ways. All hybrid clouds, though, share some elements in common.

When a business chooses the hybrid cloud, it shares its data across both the public and private cloud infrastructure. The IT needed to keep all this data in sync can be quite complex, requiring hybrid cloud management tools that work between the various cloud infrastructures via either private networks or the internet.

Without reliable connectivity, the hybrid cloud can’t function. Those network connections allow the alignment of data across clouds, so that they function together rather than in parallel. Most hybrid clouds use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt the traffic between the various clouds and the on-premises infrastructure that a business is using. Many also rely on wide area networks (WAN) working in conjunction with the VPN to provide connections that are more reliable and safer than those on the internet. In addition, application programming interfaces (APIs) connect applications and databases across clouds.

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4. What Is the Difference Between a Hybrid Cloud and Multicloud?

Technically, every hybrid cloud is a type of multicloud. However, the word “multicloud” is used to refer to the use of multiple public cloud environments to provide services. This contrasts with hybrid clouds, which always involve some combination of public and private clouds. Businesses often opt for multicloud use to avoid being tied to a single cloud service provider. In particular, those industries that deal with sensitive data, including the health care and finance industries, are likely to opt for a multicloud solution rather than relying on any single public cloud, for security reasons.

Because multiclouds use multiple infrastructures and environments, they can support multiple cloud storage options and can deliver Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). By spreading out applications across multiple clouds, companies can also develop the kind of redundancy that allows resilience in online usage.

The choice of a multicloud rather than a private cloud will affect the applications, security choices, and other tools you opt for. When using a multicloud, your business’s IT team is likely to choose tools that operate equally well across the major public clouds. A multicloud solution lets enterprises choose the right cloud solution for various departments, since a software engineering department, for instance, is likely to have significantly different storage and application needs than the sales department.

Where hybrid clouds allow the different components to work together seamlessly, multiclouds silo data in separate clouds. This siloing allows a far greater emphasis on data security, since the greatest risk to data privacy and security occurs during the transfer of data between clouds. Business that have no specific need to share apps or data across clouds often find the multicloud solution to be the right one for their needs. In fact, Gartner has predicted a 70% adoption of a multicloud strategy by U.S. businesses.

5. What Is the Difference Between a Hybrid Cloud and a Private Cloud?

The hybrid cloud makes use of private clouds — so it’s important to know the difference between them. A private cloud refers to the cloud services that are proprietary to a single organization. Only that business has access to the private cloud, which is protected by a firewall and other security measures to ensure the desired privacy.

In most cases, organizations host private clouds on their own services, though sometimes they use a third-party provider. In either case, though, the software and hardware are both dedicated solely to the use of the organization involved. Private clouds are often used by government agencies, financial services organizations, health care providers, and other organizations with an extreme need for privacy and control over their IT. In large part, these organizations gravitate toward the private cloud because of the greater ease of compliance with strict regulations.

Because the organizations involved must provide all the hardware, software, network, and management of the private cloud, this option can be quite expensive. Companies willing to pay the high costs for a private cloud do so to gain a few key advantages. Private clouds not only satisfy the need for extreme privacy, they also provide a high degree of scalability and flexibility to meet the organization’s needs as it grows, and they also are highly efficient, since they can be designed to meet those specific needs.

The major differences between the private and hybrid clouds are as follows:

  • The private cloud typically relies on servers on the company’s premises; the hybrid cloud pairs these private servers with servers from the public cloud.
  • Any organization with a private cloud must manage both the infrastructure and the services itself; with a hybrid cloud, the cloud services provider handles the public cloud side of services and infrastructure.
  • No one can use private cloud services but the organization that owns the private cloud; with a hybrid cloud, anyone using the public cloud can use the services available there.
  • The private cloud stores only the data of the organization involved; the data stored in the hybrid cloud exists in an environment shared with other tenants of the cloud.

6. Why Is the Hybrid Cloud Important?

The hybrid cloud is important because of the IT flexibility it provides to organizations, combined with the significant cost savings over the private cloud (which, of course, provides even greater flexibility but at a far higher cost).

With a hybrid cloud, an organization can enjoy the security, management, and integration of the public cloud, but with the added privacy and control of the private cloud where needed. This allows scalability, since your business can add external cloud services where needed to augment already existing in-house resources, choosing which services to outsource to public cloud services providers. The hybrid cloud thus becomes an extension of in-house data centers and services, but with a more affordable pay-per-use cost structure.

The hybrid cloud allows cost savings in another way. Building a private cloud environment requires a great deal of capital investment — investment which isn’t generating ROI when all those resources sit fallow in between projects. That investment extends into your personnel. Even if you choose to add temporary personnel to build your teams as you begin large projects, the costs of continual recruiting and hiring temporary staff add up quickly.

In addition, the hybrid cloud lets your IT team handle all your cloud services through a single portal. When your tech professional aren’t dealing with the inefficiency of cloud sprawl, they can focus their talents and time on the operations that matter most to your organization. They’re also able to respond more quickly and flexibly to augment your business’s tech needs when growth or new projects demand it.

7. Why Is the Hybrid Cloud an Attractive Solution?

The hybrid cloud is attractive to many businesses for several reasons:

  • The hybrid cloud is highly versatile. The use of the hybrid cloud provides organizations with the opportunity to scale up to the public cloud to meet immediate IT demands while still retaining control of security and systems behind a private cloud firewall.
  • The hybrid cloud allows control at a level not available with the public cloud. Because organizations can customize their private cloud portion of the hybrid cloud, they aren’t subject to the whims and capabilities of the public cloud. Your internal IT team can control critical operations and protect vital data without worrying about changes in the terms and conditions of your cloud services provider.
  • The hybrid cloud helps you control costs. While using a hybrid cloud is generally more expensive than relying solely on the public cloud, it comes with significantly lower costs than implementation of a purely private cloud. It also helps you avoid the high costs often associated with data migration between public cloud providers, since you can retain your most vital data and applications within the private cloud.
  • The hybrid cloud lets highly regulated industries satisfy government regulation. Whether an organization is subject to HIPAA, the EU Data Protection Directive, or strict government regulations governing finance or banking, the hybrid cloud facilitates compliance. Highly regulated businesses can keep data tightly secured in a private data center, as required, while using the public cloud for operations that aren’t subject to regulations.
  • The hybrid cloud facilitates delivery of content globally. For the best customer experience, content is best delivered from locations nearest to the end user. The use of the public cloud enables that, letting organizations keep their customers and mobile employees happy while still enjoying the privacy and security of the private cloud.

8. When Is the Hybrid Cloud Most Appropriate?

The use of the hybrid cloud is especially beneficial to organizations in certain industries or with specific IT requirements. Many companies with legacy private cloud infrastructure in place can expand their IT capabilities by expanding to the hybrid cloud. This expansion allows them to scale more easily without making major investments in more hardware and personnel, all while maintaining the security controls of their private cloud.

Businesses that experience spikes in their traffic on a regular basis can also find the hybrid cloud to be a smart choice. With the hybrid cloud, they can continue to provide the services their customers expect without the worries of a crash that disrupts business. This makes use of the hybrid cloud especially helpful for businesses that deal with cyclical or seasonal demand, since it lets them avoid the cost of ramping up hardware and personnel year-round.

New businesses may also benefit from the use of the hybrid cloud, since they’re able to scale quickly without a massive upfront investment in infrastructure. This saves not only money, but also time, since the company can bring services and products to market without any delays for the building out of IT infrastructure. It also allows new businesses to deal with the unpredictability involved with a startup, since the hybrid cloud’s flexibility makes it easier to make changes on the fly.

And of course, organizations in the finance and health care industries, as well as in other industries that must meet regulatory demands regarding data privacy, also can make good use of the hybrid cloud, since they can maintain sensitive data on their private servers while still taking advantage of the public cloud.

9. What Security Risks Are Involved With the Hybrid Cloud?

The transfer of data always comes with some security risks, and the hybrid cloud is not immune to those. These issues are especially keen for industries that must comply with government regulations regarding sensitive data. With the hybrid cloud, both the private and public cloud components must meet all compliance guidelines, complicating the compliance tasks for companies’ IT teams. Each of the components must be considered separately, and the hybrid cloud must also be evaluated as a singular environment to ensure compliance.

The hybrid cloud environment is also more complex for employees using it to understand. As a result, the human errors that can result in security breaches are potentially magnified. Most users of the hybrid cloud within an organization don’t really need to understand how the hybrid cloud works, but they do need training to prevent use of unsecured devices or other behaviors that compromise data and network security.

The constant transfer of data across cloud environments also poses a security risk in the hybrid cloud. Whenever an organization makes the data on its private cloud available to off-premises users, the data becomes vulnerable to cyberattacks and eavesdropping. That means steps should be taken to encrypt all data to make sure it’s not compromised during transfer.

Data breaches and leakage are also a possibility when data is shared between private and public cloud environments. These risks are magnified when employees within a business are able to access sensitive data on mobile devices, especially their own mobile devices. To protect against data breaches and leakage, IT departments must develop strict guidelines and protocols for data access and make sure that security is enabled on all devices in use.

10. What Is the Real Cost of the Hybrid Cloud?

While the hybrid cloud may be cost-effective for some companies, especially those with ample legacy private cloud infrastructure in place, it comes with hidden and unexpected costs. Making a smart decision about the use of the hybrid cloud depends on calculating its true cost by taking into consideration the following factors:

  • The costs of customization. Migrating applications from the private to the public cloud typically comes with customization requirements to allow that application to work with the hybrid cloud. In some cases, applications must be completely rewritten, and in all cases, they’re likely to need testing and reconfiguration.
  • The costs of support personnel. Some companies may save money if their IT operations require fewer personnel due to use of the hybrid cloud. In many cases, however, especially for smaller companies, operational support needs may increase.
  • The costs of data center infrastructure. Companies with existing private cloud infrastructure should crunch numbers carefully to determine whether moving to the hybrid cloud will reduce data center costs. The real costs here are not in the square footage needed to support servers, but in the costs of cooling, which may not alter much with the shift to the hybrid cloud.
  • Data transfer costs. Every transfer of data from on-premises servers to the public cloud involves some costs. These can add up fast if you’re transferring a large amount of data or if your cloud services provider charges networking fees to move data around within the public cloud.
  • Storage costs. If you choose to store data on the public cloud rather than on your own servers, you should count the costs ahead of time. This is especially important if you expect to ramp up your need for storage in the future.

The hybrid cloud is one of several choices you have when setting up your company’s IT infrastructure. Understanding the true costs and the best uses of the hybrid cloud, as well as the benefits of the multicloud, can help your organization make smart decisions when it comes to designing your IT architecture.

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