Hybrid Cloud: a ‘best of both worlds’ solution?

For companies who want the benefits of the cloud but want or need to keep their data in-house, the hybrid cloud may be the answer. CompanyNet’s Katherine Hamilton looks at this ‘third way’.

Photo: Lonely Cloud by Kate Haskell, used under Creative Commons

We all want the best solution for our business when it comes to upgrading technology, and recently there’s been some talk about the hybrid cloud as a ‘best of both worlds’ solution. Indeed, it’s becoming obvious that the future of enterprise IT is heading in the hybrid direction, with a mix of on- and off-premise services being preferred to an all or nothing approach.

In fact 45% of companies rely on a least one Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application already and a third use some form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Theoretically the promise of hybrid cloud is that it will draw upon both the economy of scale and efficiency associated with a Public Cloud without exposing data to outside vulnerabilities by storing it locally. It sounds perfect but the question is does a hybrid cloud really offer a best of both worlds solution?

What is hybrid cloud?

In a blog post, Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst of Forrester Research, defined hybrid cloud as “a cloud service connected to any other corporate resource.” He further notes that your business already has a hybrid cloud if it have anything in its data centre that is connected to a SaaS application. This means that many companies will already be using a hybrid environment for certain business processes. For example, you can monitor and manage leads and contacts as part of a sales system like Dynamics CRM whilst using an email system that is hosted on premise.

In our last blog in this series we talked about the difference between public and private clouds, a hybrid cloud is a combination of both of these options to form a more specific solution. The goal of a hybrid cloud is to combine services and data from a variety of cloud models to create a unified, automated, and well-managed computing environment. In other words, with hybrid cloud you don’t have to take an all or nothing approach to data storage.

Why hybrid?

Hybrid cloud is appealing to many SMEs who want the security of managing their own data coupled with anytime, anywhere access to information, minus the cost involved with owning and running their own data centre. Security is important to all companies whether in the Private or Public sector; no-one wants proprietary or classified information to be stored in a public environment, which is why it’s logical that some data remains on premise. But at the same time, there is a lot of data that can be stored on the cloud, minimising the need for hardware – which needs to be bought and maintained.

This is a model that is being trialled, even at the highest levels in British Government; the UK Houses of Parliament announced last year they would be adopting a cloud offering, Office 365 in fact. The model the Houses of Parliament adopted has become increasingly popular, with only data that was always destined for the public domain being delivered through the cloud. It wasn’t data that needed extra security or privacy, this still remains securely stored elsewhere. It was the ability to store terabytes worth of data that really drove the adoption of cloud technology in that project and in the millions of other projects like it.

Additionally, hybrid solutions can make working remotely, as well as on the move, much easier to manage. Microsoft has positioned themselves uniquely to deliver IaaS, Saas as well as PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) on a cloud based solution. This means your company can use Office 365’s online functionality to access documents on the go, or login to an online version of SharePoint to access information remotely. The good news is, this technology is only going to become more fine-tuned in the future.

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