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Hybrid Clouds

Private clouds. Public clouds. Hybrid clouds. All these terms get a little confusing. In a nutshell, a hybrid cloud is a mixture of applications, storage, computing and digital services combined and running in a single environment that is made up of public cloud services and private cloud services.

How do Hybrid Clouds Work?

Businesses want to be able to scale their workloads to meet the demands of their business on a day to day basis. They need data store flexibility and a diversified portfolio of data deployment options. To accomplish this, they deploy data workloads in their private, sometimes on-premise, environments or public clouds. They move the data workloads between these environments as their requirements for data increase or decrease, or if their costs of maintaining the data stores increase or decrease. Hybrid cloud workloads tend to include the network, the hosting, and the web service features of desired applications.

What’s the Difference Between Hybrid Cloud and Multi-cloud?

Many times the terms hybrid cloud and multi-cloud are used in the same manner. However, there are some significant differences between the two models. As discussed above, a hybrid cloud includes on-premise, private cloud, and public cloud resources. Multi-cloud models are made up of more than two public cloud services, but do not include on-premise infrastructure.

What are the Benefits of Hybrid Clouds?

Ultimately it comes down to where what types of data are stored. Most organizations feel more comfortable hosting their sensitive data and workflows in on-premise databases. These sit behind a corporate firewall and access to them is more easily controlled, and protecting the data is more straightforward. Businesses tend to outsource the store of less sensitive data to public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Public Cloud. Ultimately organizations get the benefits of both worlds, on-premise with better security, and cloud with lower cost and greater scalability.

There are many more benefits for businesses to store their data following the hybrid cloud model. These include:

Flexibility, Resiliency and Scalability

Businesses manage different types of data. For example, this data can be protected by privacy regulations, it can be unstructured or structured. The amount of data businesses collect and must manage increases from year to year, so information technology teams (IT) must keep a close eye on their resources and how they might be able to most effectively and efficiently manage their data. A hybrid cloud model allows IT teams to use more traditional on-premise technologies, as well as cloud technologies without having to commit to a specific volume of data storage use. Businesses can work with their private cloud providers to scale the amount of data they consume when they need more, or if they delete dormant data, need less.

Hybrid cloud environments are much more flexible than a physical in-house data center. In order to store more data in an in-house data center, the IT team has to install, monitor, manage and maintain more servers. This is of course not the same with an outsourced cloud services provider. If data demands drop, spike, or exceed capacity, with an outsourced public cloud, the business is always covered.

Close Management and Return on Investment

Building, monitoring, maintaining, and managing in-house data center infrastructure is time consuming and expensive. The capital expenditure and fixed costs to run your own data center are tremendous. Public clouds are a scalable resource. Finance teams can account for them as operational expenses, rather than capital expenditure and fixed expenses. Businesses who deploy hybrid cloud environments can pick and choose where data is stored, based on the most cost effective manner.

Compliance and Privacy

There are quite a few privacy regulations that businesses need to comply with. These include GDPR, CCPA, PCI, and many more. Businesses must follow these rules to not incur fines. Businesses also need to ensure that data is protected at all costs. So certain types of data must be stored in specific locations. However, in order to make data collection and processing easy, to reduce latency, sometimes data needs to be collected in one location and then shifted for long-term storage in different locations. In hybrid cloud environments, for example, organizations can collect customer data and can store it in public clouds initially, and then shift it to more secure locations such as on-premise servers or private cloud environments. Companies that do this are less susceptible to data breaches and failing to meet compliance regulations.

What Types of Use Cases Are Covered by Hybrid Cloud Models?

Before deploying hybrid cloud environments to host data, organizations must enumerate what they are trying to achieve. They must understand their needs and their use cases. Common use cases for hybrid cloud environments include:

Digital Transformation and Data Processing

Many organizations want to move to hybrid cloud environments so that they can modernize their IT infrastructure, decrease data latency, and cost management goals. Digital transformation is not an easy task and most companies will never be able to fully move to the cloud. Legacy applications still need to run and regulatory compliance must be met. By deploying hybrid cloud models, companies can continue to run their on-premise applications and data storage models, but can also take advantage of cloud data storage, workload management and data processing benefits.

Application Development and Continuous Testing

In order for businesses, in particular those who develop software, to compete in the Internet era, they need to be able to build, test, and enhance applications as fast as possible. Time to market is a critical metric for software development teams to track. Applications are built faster in cloud environments. It is also cheaper to manage, host and test these applications in cloud environments, since there is no need to set up on-premise environments for them. It is difficult for software developers to gauge and plan how many computing resources they will need for a given application, so having flexibility and scalability is key to the success of their software development efforts.

Disaster Recovery and Workload Adjustment

In order for organizations to succeed in today’s digital environment, they must have disaster recovery plans in place and be able to adjust their workloads. If an organization only hosts their data in an on-premise environment and that data center shuts down, the entire organization cannot access mission critical data. This can cost the business a fortune in lost productivity and revenue. Hybrid cloud environments allow organizations to duplicate their on-premise workloads in the cloud. They can also create data backup policies and procedures so that it is difficult to lose any data. Organizations can select multiple cloud data service locations in order to have continuous operations, even if one of the data centers that the cloud provider maintains fails.

What are the Challenges with Hybrid Cloud Environments?

Hybrid cloud environments are not fool proof. There are some challenges that organizations need to be aware of before they implement a hybrid cloud environment. These include:

Handling of Data and Team Capabilities

Organizations need to be prepared to build internal best practices and guidelines for the proper placement of data, as well as the way the data may flow through the environment. Hybrid clouds make it relatively easy to store data, but just like on-premise environments, you have to keep a close eye on where the data sits, who can access it, and what can be done with it. Businesses need to make sure they are storing the right data in the right environment. They also need to make sure the data stores are manageable and the appropriate identity and access management controls are in place so that only the right people at the right time can access the right type of data.

Hybrid cloud environments can increase the cost of data storage as well as the amount of security and compliance work that needs to be completed by the team. Businesses need to make sure that they have in-house talent on the IT team that has the technical expertise required to host, maintain, and secure data in the cloud. There is quite a learning curve here which if not met, can lead to human error and data loss.

Compliance, Data Security and Access Management

As previously mentioned, businesses need to comply with regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and PCI. To comply with these regulations strict access management policies need to be put in place. Hybrid cloud environments demand that user authentication and authorization is closely controlled and monitored.Organizations must keep a close eye on what data is stored where, how the data flows through the environment, who has access to the data, and how the data is being used. Alerts need to be set up for anomalous data behaviors and access, to proactively find and reduce the impact of data breaches.

Maintenance and Compatibility

When organizations deploy a hybrid cloud environment they sometimes misjudge the amount of maintenance required. It’s not necessarily just maintaining the public cloud or private cloud environment specifically. To properly use a hybrid cloud organizations need to have complementary software in place. These include Data Security Posture Management solutions, Identity and Access Management technologies, Helpdesk systems, Ticketing systems, and more. All these technologies need to work together, compatible, for a successful and secure hybrid cloud environment. To get ahead of maintenance and compatibility challenges IT teams need to plan out data storage, security tools, complementary applications and train their teams well in advance of hybrid cloud adoption.

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