The cloud is everywhere these days. If you’re listening to music on Pandora or Spotify, you’re accessing the cloud. Streaming movies from Netflix or Hulu? Cloud again. Services like Google Drive and Dropbox have set the standard for the services that the cloud can provide in the consumer space. The business world has been moving to the cloud in droves but there are some major differences in strategies and services. While there are clear advantages of leveraging cloud technologies and services like efficiency, redundancy, and operational cost savings; it is not always the best decision to scrap your infrastructure and move everything into the cloud. On the contrary, there are multiple strategies for implementations and one of the most flexible and advantageous for companies is the hybrid cloud.
Basically a hybrid cloud setup consists of local hardware that is managed by internal staff with certain features and functions that are provided by cloud services and providers. A common scenario is a company that has their local infrastructure with a minimum of hard storage directly connected to servers and desktops and then paying for bulk storage services from companies like Amazon and Google. This method can save the business money and downtime as they have little to do to manage and maintain their storage needs. They can simply ask for more and pay by the terabyte.
Other advantages are realized in the reliability and costs associated with new technology. Hosted cloud companies can invest in, and often lead the development of, the latest and greatest technological advances in their particular space. This means that you get the cutting edge without the price tag and headache of implementation. It also means that you no longer have to worry about (sticking with the storage example) data deduplication, replication, RAID striping, or even plugging in another SATA cable.
The benefits of managing parts of your own infrastructure are the same as they have always been. You have control of the parts your business deems to sensitive to leave to another service provider or too critical to not have direct control of. This may mean storing your user data on tape in a dark corner of your data center with a single fiber connection, or managing which users can connect to what servers internally. It makes sense to take a step back and look at what parts of your infrastructure need a more hands on approach and what would be more efficient paid for and managed off-site as a service.
Maybe it makes sense from an access and mobility point of view to use a hosted customer relationship management (CRM) solution because your sales team is scattered to the winds tracking down that next hot lead. The same company might want to run their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system on a custom super computer with hooks into every data collection point in the organization.
Another permutation of the hybrid cloud is running public cloud services for clients, customers, consultants, and constituents to access and concurrently running private cloud services for use only by internal staff. This approach allows for further partitioning and optimizing the different networks to best serve their users while maintaining security for both the customers and internal information. This strategy can work very well for specialized use-cases like having a public eCommerce site that can store customer transactional data behind the private cloud where it is safer.
Hybrid clouds also provide a way to offload some of a company’s applications to cloud computing to take advantage of the scalability without the capital expenditure. Newer technologies can even dynamically shift applications and access on a case by case basis, further blurring the lines between public and private cloud infrastructure. Systems like these have a lot of the advantages of internal hardware, security, and management while leveraging the advantages of scalability, flexibility, and ease of maintenance seen in cloud implementations. Basically you get to blend the best of managed and the best of hosted infrastructures tailored to provide the greatest impact on your business.
The point of this article is that I think a lot of the industry has been going to cloud and looking to move to the cloud and enable cloud technologies but it’s not an all or nothing decision. While the advantages and features of the cloud are numerous and growing; it’s important to realize that you shouldn’t go cloud or go home just to do it. You should carefully evaluate what makes sense and understand that you can have the best of both worlds.