A hybrid cloud is a computing environment in which two different types of technology infrastructure (commonly referred to as public cloud and private cloud) work together to enable organizations to take advantage of the specific advantages of off-site and on-site computing.
Microsoft summarized the hybrid cloud in this way on its website: “When computing and processing demand fluctuates, hybrid cloud computing enables enterprises to seamlessly extend their local infrastructure to the public cloud to handle any overflow, without providing third-party data centralized access to the entire data. Organizations can gain the flexibility and computing power of the public cloud for basic and non sensitive computing tasks, while securely deploying business critical applications and data behind the organization’s firewall.”
The hybrid cloud is sometimes described as “the best cloud platform in all computing fields.” This is because it allows enterprises to customize their IT infrastructure based on their unique cost-benefit analysis of specific functions. These may include cost-effective high-speed processing (which may only be provided by cloud computing providers) and the desire to maintain certain mission critical data or applications internally. Therefore, even Internet connectivity issues will not slow down the normal operation of enterprises.
However, hybrid cloud is not without its potential disadvantages, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises that attempt to deploy such environments without trusted third-party companies (such as managed cloud and managed security experts). Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of hybrid cloud that enterprises should consider.
Advantages of hybrid cloud
Since enterprises can use public cloud services by paying on demand, organizations can use cloud computing environments to host resource intensive applications, and only use and pay for processing power when necessary, rather than trying to build an internal infrastructure that always carries the processing power. Public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) will also allow small businesses to automatically and immediately expand (or reduce) their computing needs on the public cloud, so SMEs can immediately increase capacity when needed.
In addition, in a hybrid cloud environment, enterprises can also find a more cost-effective way to backup, archive and protect enterprise data, rather than trying to build and manage local backup infrastructure (or some of them for redundancy). This is because public cloud providers can provide more cost-effective data backup services (as well as disaster recovery and business continuity services usually associated with them) in their remote secure data centers by taking advantage of the expertise of both sides.
The continuous risk faced by enterprises that rely entirely on cloud computing services is that their connection with cloud providers may fail for some reasons. It may be something simple, such as a problem with an enterprise’s own on-site router or a failure of their network service provider. If an enterprise cannot connect from its office to the rest of the world through the Internet, any business operation that relies on network connectivity will face downtime.
However, if the company uses a hybrid cloud environment, it may not rely 100% on this persistent Internet connection, so its normal operation is unlikely to be affected. For example, an enterprise may maintain copies of its mission critical applications and customer data on site, which means that even if communication is temporarily cut off, the enterprise can continue to process data and conduct normal business operations.
Another advantage of hybrid cloud is that it allows enterprises to access key applications and enterprise data through public cloud through smartphones, laptops and even home computers, so that employees can work efficiently at any time.
The continuous risk faced by enterprises’ operation relying on the Internet is the possibility of Internet interruption (even the severe slowdown of services in the region). When an enterprise is also using the public cloud to remotely access key applications and enterprise data with employees, these employees can now quickly transfer to Plan B through better Internet service areas, so that they can resume normal communication and business operations.
Disadvantages of hybrid cloud (and pitfalls to avoid)
Steep learning curve
Because they have limited IT resources and busy teams, most small and medium-sized companies have neither internal expertise to build an effective hybrid cloud environment nor time to learn these best practices on their own.
The decisions involved in implementing such complex infrastructure must be decomposed into operational tasks before the IT team can make actual progress on the hybrid cloud, which usually has a steep learning curve. If IT departments are forced to rush this process or do so without the help of third-party experts, they may create a suboptimal environment with low performance, high costs, and underutilized applications.
Security and compliance risks
Properly set up hybrid cloud environments provide the highest levels of data security and compliance for small and medium-sized enterprises. However, failure to implement security and compliance best practices may lead to the enterprise data environment being vulnerable to cyber criminals and more likely to be punished by data privacy regulations, whether HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, FERPA or any other strict regulations. And complex and changing laws governing how businesses protect personally identifiable customer information.
For example, enterprises need to know what level of physical security industry experts now think the data center has (remember, these best practices change periodically), and what level of encryption is used for data in transit and data at runtime.
When deploying hybrid cloud infrastructure, the importance of correctly obtaining these details is that SMEs should not try to develop these environments alone, but should use expert services, such as Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP).
Finally, deploying a hybrid cloud environment without the guidance of third-party experts may cause performance problems for the entire organization. This is because hybrid clouds involve integrating multiple different platforms, technologies, and vendors into a seamless, customized computing environment. Unless the enterprise knows exactly what it is doing, merging these different technology stacks between public and private clouds may cause compatibility problems.
This is another reason for best practices in deploying hybrid clouds, including the help of third-party experts with expertise in such implementation projects. After an enterprise introduces a complex new hybrid cloud facility, its private cloud cannot match its public cloud.
A wise next step: discuss with experts whether the hybrid cloud is suitable for your organization’s operation
Obviously, hybrid cloud can bring significant advantages to small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of cost savings, productivity and reliability, and even enhance security and compliance. However, all this assumes that the enterprise is implementing its hybrid cloud in the right way, which almost certainly requires external help.
If the enterprise team is considering implementing a hybrid cloud, it should do so. The next step should be to decompose this complex project into a series of operational tasks. The first task of an enterprise is to consult the expert team to understand its operation, budget, requirements, and current IT environment, and let them provide suggestions on whether the hybrid cloud is suitable for itself and how to best implement it.