Going Hybrid: Best of Both Worlds in Cloud Computing

With all the chatter about accessing data and applications anytime, anywhere it’s little wonder that cloud computing has generated so much interest. Indeed, the proliferation of mobile devices, high-speed connections and data-intensive applications have challenged many organizations to continuously meet the demand for more computing power. And that’s why operating “in the cloud” makes real business sense for midsized companies.

Cloud computing, the thinking goes, allows companies to improve efficiency and do more with less – benefits that are attractive to budget-conscious companies with limited IT staff and resources. It has been positioned as a new way to operate – from accessing applications to storing massive volumes of data – allowing organizations to use only the hardware capacity they need, without paying for idle computing resources. And not only does the cloud model provide cost savings, but it also keeps a company’s infrastructure up to date while offloading responsibility for its maintenance.

The cloud computing model enables access to IT resources without re-engineering the entire infrastructure – or, in some cases, without having an infrastructure at all. But like any new technology implementation, determining the right path to cloud adoption is dependent on an individual company’s specific needs and constraints.

There are three different flavors of cloud to choose from: private, public and hybrid. A private cloud which holds computing capacity solely on a virtual private network can be expensive for budget-minded companies. But some concerns about the suitability of public clouds for highly sensitive data are valid. Luckily, adopting cloud computing is not an all or nothing decision and the hybrid model can offer the best of both worlds.

Understanding the hybrid cloud model

For end users, cloud computing often means browser-based interfaces that allow IT to be ordered and accessed almost immediately. However, using browsers to access IT can substantially change security plans and considerations. With a public cloud companies are securing the end users—how they access the network and what they do once they’re on. But when a private cloud environment is created inside a firewall, it can provide users with the same rapid access to IT as the public model, but with less exposure to Internet security risks.

A hybrid cloud model blends elements of both the private and the public cloud. In the simplest terms, the hybrid model is primarily a private cloud that allows an organization to tap into a public cloud when and where it makes sense. By and large, all models of cloud provide security measures to keep data and applications secure. However, in contrast to a purely public cloud model, the hybrid cloud can provide a higher level of security for sensitive data and instances where companies are affected by industry or financial regulations.

This crossbreed of cloud computing has its share of admirers in the midmarket. The cloud model allows companies to adjust the amount of computing power used based on their individual fluctuation in actual usage. So for companies that have a lot of variation in their computing needs, a hybrid model makes them much more nimble by using a public cloud for times where more computing capacity is needed. Generally, adding public space to a company’s cloud model is a much easier proposition than growing its private cloud to meet mounting needs. In this way, a hybrid model is more cost effective in providing world-class computing power that is available anytime, anywhere without as big a budget commitment as a private cloud.

This is not to say that a hybrid model is right for everyone. To determine whether the hybrid cloud is a good fit, companies should take a hard look at their internal needs including individual usage requirements, budgetary considerations, and the sensitive nature of data that will be stored in the cloud environment, as well as any applicable industry or financial regulations.

Mixing and matching to meet security needs

The nature of a hybrid model requires that companies determine which data or applications reside on the private cloud and which can reside on a public cloud. Companies need to assess how much risk they are willing to tolerate with their data and applications.

Regardless of which flavor of cloud a company chooses, it’s important to remember that the same factors apply to ensuring security whether it is cloud-based or within a traditional IT infrastructure. The key difference in the cloud model is that it includes external elements, and those elements will be managed by the cloud service provider. This means that companies need to understand the environment beyond their own data center and consider how it impacts their organization from a security standpoint.

Companies should also consider the level of customer support desired from the cloud provider. The many benefits of moving to the cloud can only be realized if the operation and access is seamless. Companies need appropriate monitoring, governance and security tools to expedite the process of accessing key applications securely, anytime and anywhere. The good news is that specialization in IT delivery often makes cloud providers better suited to delivering and securing applications, allowing midsized companies to enjoy comprehensive data protection in addition to faster and less-expensive IT provisioning.

“A hybrid cloud model blends elements of both the private and the public cloud.”

Cloud computing on a smarter planet

As companies face flat budgets and high demands for services they’re thinking differently about the IT infrastructure they will need to respond to market forces and the pace of business and society. Companies of all sizes are moving toward more adaptive capabilities like cloud computing to deliver new services with agility and speed, while driving down costs. And for midsized businesses, the hybrid cloud model can provide cost-effective computing that balances security, reliability and flexibility.

As companies seek to drive continuous and sustainable operational improvements to lower costs and reduce complexity, cloud computing is an opportunity to reinvent IT in preparation for the next phase of growth and innovation.