Within the world of IT, everyone agrees upon few things. If there is one area where you will find almost unanimous agreement, though, it’s this: The cloud is here, and it’s here to stay. In one recent article in Forbes, Jay Snyder of EMC predicted that within the next five years, more than half of all workload deployments will be within cloud environments. Even more interesting is the fact that Snyder and other experts predict that most cloud deployments will be on hybrid clouds — that is, split between public and private clouds.
Why the Hybrid Cloud Is Best for Most BusinessesA private cloud is one that is designed and built for the specific use of an individual organization. It might be hosted and managed internally or externally at a data center. Private clouds offer the highest level of security and customization, but they also have the drawback of being labor intensive and expensive to develop and configure. Public clouds, on the other hand, are clouds that operate on a network that is open for anyone to use. Architecturally speaking, public clouds aren’t any different from private clouds, but the organizations have little to no control over the structure of the cloud or who else is using the service.

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Because both public and private clouds have their advantages, it’s no surprise that hybrid hosting is the most attractive option to most business.

The 3 S’s of Hybrid Clouds

The advantages of hybrid clouds can be summed up in three words: Security, Scalability and Service.

Security. Cyber security is a significant concern for any organization these days, and many companies have hesitated to move to cloud environments due to concerns about security. Certain industries, such as health care, have strict guidelines regarding the protection of personal information. For example, companies that store protected health information must know the exact physical location of the servers that contain the information. With many public cloud services, those locations can change, or the servers may be located outside of the U.S., where the security and data protection laws are different. With a hybrid cloud model, though, companies can opt to use their private servers to manage sensitive or protected information, while using the public cloud for less sensitive or critical functions. This allows organizations to realize the benefits of the cloud while meeting all of the required standards and keeping costs in check.

Scalability. If there is one constant in business, it is change. Organizational needs and structures are constantly in a state of flux, growing, scaling back, adapting and restructuring. With a hybrid cloud model, businesses can more effectively adjust their IT infrastructure to meet their current needs. Instead of investing in additional hardware or reconfiguring the existing network, the hybrid cloud model allows companies to transition non-critical functions from the private cloud to a public cloud, freeing up space for revenue generating functions on company-owned servers.

Service. While operating in a completely private, custom space has its advantages, it also places a heavier burden on IT staff to manage and maintain the network. Instead of focusing attention on revenue generating or growth focused projects, staff spends time “putting out fires” and preventing outages. The hybrid cloud does not remove the need for maintenance entirely, but it does shift some of the burden to public cloud providers. The organization can access certain vital functions and services as needed, without having to accept the costs, both financial and timewise, of maintenance and development.

Considerations Before Going Hybrid

The hybrid cloud model has many advantages, and appears to be the best solution for most companies, but there are still some important considerations to explore before making the shift. For example:

  • Licensing issues.Operating certain software or applications on a virtual server, either public or private, may enhance productivity, but organizations need to confirm that the developer license covers such arrangements. In some cases, software licenses prohibit multiple users as such, and a violation could result in stiff fines.
  • Data integration. Using different private and cloud platforms can lead to significant data integration issues, as the programmers may use different development interfaces. You need to ensure that your public and private clouds can “talk” to each other and that data transfers happen smoothly.
  • Service level agreements. Understanding who is responsible for what, and how outages, downtime or other issues will be handled is an important aspect of managing the hybrid cloud. SLAs must be clear to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
  • Security. Even though most organizations use public clouds for less sensitive data, security is still an important consideration.

Even with all of the issues to consider, the hybrid cloud model is the data management model of the future. It provides the most value and functionality, and allows your company to do more faster, more efficiently and more affordably.