Hybrid cloud strategies are on the rise. A 2019 report by Flexera found that enterprises with a hybrid strategy (combining public and private clouds) grew to 58% in 2019 from 51% in 2018.
But what exactly is a hybrid cloud infrastructure, and is it right for your organization?
Below we’ll cover the hybrid cloud basics and outline the key advantages for making the switch to a hybrid model.
What is a hybrid cloud?
A hybrid cloud environment incorporates workload portability, orchestration, and management across two or more computing environments—typically, a mixture of a private (on-premise) cloud and a public (off-premise) cloud.
Traditionally, public clouds ran off-premises and private clouds ran on-premises. However, cloud environments have grown increasingly complex, and this is not always the case.
Some public cloud services run on their client’s on-premise data centers, and some organizations now build private clouds on vendor-owned, off-premises data centers.
In any case, the foundation of a hybrid cloud model is the combination of private and public cloud infrastructures that allow workloads to move between the two interconnected environments. This mobility between cloud environments gives organizations greater flexibility and agility in their data deployment options.
Every hybrid cloud environment is different because the exact architecture will depend on the needs and goals of the organization.
Hybrid cloud benefits
Hybrid cloud computing offers numerous benefits and advantages to enterprise organizations.
Better support for a remote workforce
According to a survey by Sysgroup, the top reason for cloud adoption was access to data anytime from anywhere. Desktop virtualization is a key advantage for companies with a distributed and increasingly global and remote workforce.
A hybrid cloud option gives organizations the flexibility to support their remote and distributed employees with on-demand access to data that isn’t tied to one central location.
In other words, organizations with a hybrid cloud infrastructure can have their cake and eat it too. They can move any core or sensitive data to their private on-premise servers while making key applications and services available on the public cloud (and accessible from any location with the right logins).
As people increasingly work out of the office and on the move (sometimes across time zones and borders), providing flexible and accessible computing environments will be critical for attracting top talent and optimizing productivity and efficiency across the organization.
Cost is a key factor for many organizations considering migrating to the cloud. A hybrid cloud is a great option for companies that want more security and control of their data but need a cost-effective way to scale their operations to meet spikes in demand (as well as long-term growth).
The hybrid cloud option means organizations can house their core, business-critical, and sensitive data on their private, on-premise servers while offloading less sensitive data and applications to the public cloud.
When demand spikes, organizations with a hybrid cloud option can avoid huge capital expenditures to expand their infrastructure and instead pay only for the cloud resources they use. If the demand levels out, the costs drop back down too.
Improved scalability and control
A hybrid cloud environment gives businesses greater control over their data. As business needs evolve and the demand for IT services fluctuates, organizations can scale their workloads accordingly.
Plus, the cloud allows for increased automation so that you can adjust your cloud settings to respond automatically to changes in demand, optimizing performance and efficiency.
Increased agility and innovation
The ability to respond automatically to changes in demand is a key factor for innovation and competition. Today, speed to market can make or break a company’s competitive edge.
A hybrid cloud model helps organizations increase their speed to market by optimizing IT performance and providing the agility needed to meet changing business demands.
Because companies with a hybrid cloud aren’t limited to their private on-premise infrastructure, they can easily expand their workload on the cloud and more quickly test, prototype, and launch new products.
Hybrid cloud models improve business continuity and reduce potential downtime and resulting costs. Business continuity basically means that in the event of a failure or disaster, business operations are able to continue as usual with minimal downtime or interruption.
A hybrid cloud is a key part of a business continuity solution because it helps organizations backup key data (by replicating business-critical data to the cloud) and ensures scalability in the event of a massive spike in demand.
As computing demands fluctuate, the business isn’t at risk of overburdening their private servers (which could cause slow services or downtime). The cloud will scale to absorb the demand.
Improved security and risk management
Hybrid cloud computing gives businesses crucial control over their data and improved security by reducing the potential exposure of data.
Enterprises can choose where to house their data and workloads based on compliance, policy, or security requirements. The hybrid environment also lets security teams standardize redundant cloud storage, which is an important aspect of disaster recovery and data insurance.
A hybrid cloud’s centralized management also makes it easier to implement strong technical security measures such as encryption, automation, access control, orchestration, and endpoint security so you can manage risk effectively.
Cons of moving to the hybrid cloud
While there are many advantages to a hybrid cloud model, it may not be the right fit for every organization. There are several disadvantages that may outweigh the pros depending on your business’s priorities, budget, and expertise.
One of the advantages of a hybrid cloud model is its flexibility and level of control and customization. However, with those benefits comes additional hardware costs.
With a hybrid cloud, organizations still have to maintain and invest in on-premise hardware to handle their private cloud computing needs. While the public cloud operations may ultimately offset the hardware costs, it will ultimately depend on the organization and its computing needs and allocation of cloud resources.
As you assess your options, you’ll have to weigh the benefits of flexibility and control against the potential extra costs associated with maintaining your own computing infrastructure.
Need to manage multiple vendors and platforms
Operating a hybrid cloud means you will have to keep track of multiple vendors and platforms and manage them between two computing environments.
This is, of course, doable. You will simply need to have clear workflows and processes and a solid team of managers and administrators to coordinate vendors and services and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Lack of visibility
It’s no secret that cloud environments are complex. Divide your computing environments across two or more clouds and you have an even more complicated operation. This can make it difficult to establish a clear picture of your overall cloud environment, including all the systems, processes, applications, platforms, and requirements you have to manage.
Without a clear understanding of your current architecture and operations, you can miss critical issues and opportunities and potentially fall on the wrong side of compliance regulations.
To avoid this, you will need to invest in a solid third-party platform designed to provide that bird’s-eye view of your entire cloud infrastructure.
Is a hybrid cloud right for you?
Ultimately, you must weigh the pros and cons of a hybrid solution against the needs and priorities of your organization, but a hybrid cloud model is a great option for enterprise organizations looking for the best of both computing worlds.
A hybrid model lets you maintain control of your most sensitive data while giving you the flexibility to scale your operations automatically and securely without breaking the bank.
When you're ready to take advantage of these benefits, read our best practices for managing a hybrid cloud environment.