Hybrid Cloud: What Is It? Do You Need It? And How Do You Do It?
In 2021, you’ll be well aware that it’s all about the cloud. That’s why we’ve chosen to highlight hybrid cloud solutions for small business as a close-up spotlight feature.
Hybrid cloud solutions for small business – What is it? Do you need it? And how do you “do” hybrid cloud? We’ll take a look at each of these in turn, but first, some stats around current cloud implementation:
In 2019’s RightScale State Of The Cloud Report it found that:
- 91% of respondents used public cloud
- 72% used private clouds
- 84% used multiple clouds
- 58% used a hybrid strategy for combining their public and private clouds
What is a hybrid cloud?
While hybrid cloud has been described in many different ways, it’s easiest and best to say that it is a combination of two or more separate infrastructures: on-premise or private cloud, plus public cloud. The combination may even include multiple different instances of each, or all three.
You may think that if you have servers on-site plus use cloud storage as well that you already have a hybrid cloud. However, this could quite possibly be a misnomer.
Instead, it’s when you have “a centralized identity infrastructure across multiple environments; Persistent, secure, high-speed connectivity between the enterprise and the cloud; Integrated networking that securely extends the corporate network; and unified monitoring and resource” – via CTP.
Let’s break down these components.
This is the hardware, software, and other infrastructure (such as networking) that is housed physically, and managed internally (usually with your own systems administrators and other support staff), within your organisation.
This is offsite, cloud-provider owned and hosted hardware, software, and infrastructure – with providers such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. You generally manage the configuration yourself (except for the hardware) through the cloud platform.
There are usually two choices here:
- You may have shared resources with other people; such as your own virtual server housed alongside 3 other companies’ virtual servers on the cloud provider’s physical server.
- You may have cloud infrastructure that is purely your own; such as your own virtual servers running on a cloud provider’s physical server, without any other businesses present. In this instance, you can be assured of full isolation.
This is when you own or rent resources in a data centre offsite, usually through a local provider. You generally need to manage these resources yourself as well.
What about managed services?
Managed Services is the term used to describe when you have another business take care of the administration of your IT configuration, whether it’s on-premise, private or public cloud, or hybrid cloud.
Instead of having systems admins, etc., as part of your own team, this function is outsourced.
While on-premise infrastructure configuration usually requires an on-site team (but not always), cloud implementations are designed to be configured remotely – which means you can outsource this function if you wish.
Hybrid cloud is about blending two or more environments (including one or more public cloud implementations) so that resources seem seamless. For example, instead of doing one task on your on-premise machines, and a different task on a public cloud, you could be running the same task across both.
How does it work?
If you want to combine on-premise or private infrastructure and public cloud, there are various tools on the market to which can help you do so:
- AWS Outposts – which allows you to run AWS infrastructure and services on your own equipment
- Azure Arc – similarly, allows you to run Azure infrastructure and services
- Google Cloud Platform Anthos – ditto, for Google Cloud Platform
- VMWare Cloud Foundation – for managing and orchestrating virtual machines and containers, across the cloud and on-premise/private cloud
- And more…
What are the benefits of Hybrid Cloud?
Your on-premise infrastructure is fixed. If you need more resources, you can try further slicing them up by using virtualisation, or purchasing more physical equipment. Private cloud is a little more scalable, so long as you have arranged this with your data centre. However, when you have near-infinite public cloud resources at your disposal, you can simply scale as needed, with a few clicks – or better yet, with automated scaling.
Grow with the cloud
When you go for a hybrid cloud implementation, you can be assured that you are keeping up with the latest advances in public cloud technology. This includes taking advantage of innovative cloud services such as Azure’s App Service – which allows you to build and scale your own web apps on a fully managed platform.
Less physical asset management
Asset management is a tedious task within any organisation. When you use more cloud resources, you can take less time managing assets, including purchasing, maintenance, end-of-life decisions, etc. This goes for both private and public cloud.
Cloud infrastructure is built for security. When we see data leaks from the cloud, it’s generally due to misconfiguration by the user (i.e. your systems administrator). By choosing geographical zones for your cloud services to be housed, you can tick compliance boxes. Security, compliance, and governance are baked into public cloud products, including to specifications like HIPAA/HITECH, the GDPR, and NIST 800-171.
What do you need to consider when planning/designing your Hybrid environment?
What are your main goals for moving to a hybrid cloud solution?
To plot your move to a hybrid cloud solution, you need to know your reasons behind it, not just because someone from the board said ‘we need the cloud.’
Instead, determine whether your hybrid cloud migration is for:
- Expanding your existing infrastructure
- Moving away from housing your own infrastructure altogether (or minimising it)
- Taking advantage of particular public cloud services
- Using an easier platform to manage virtualisation and containerisation
- Decentralising your infrastructure, particularly if you are multi-site
What are the layers of a solution that need to be considered; compute, storage, integration, frameworks, software, etc.?
Once you’ve defined your goals for your hybrid cloud solution, you’ll be lead to the answers for which layers are needed.
The risks of hybrid cloud and how to reduce them or mitigate them
There are a few risks to consider when venturing into the hybrid cloud space.
Not understanding your problem space (not defining your needs for hybrid cloud properly)
Again, if you don’t know why you want (or need) hybrid cloud solutions for small business, then rolling one out for the sake of it isn’t going to optimize business. Involve all stakeholders in the assessment of what hybrid cloud implementation is needed. You may also like to hire an outside analyst to investigate your best options.
Choosing a hybrid cloud implementation simply because you already use some of their services
Tempted to go with AWS for your whole public cloud and AWS Outposts for your hybrid implementation because you use their services for backups already and like it? That’s not a good enough reason. As before, your needs will dictate which solution is the best for your organisation. It may even involve multiple hybrid cloud products and interactions between them.
Misconfiguration of public cloud settings
This is a definite risk when taking advantage of any public cloud service. Double-checking and triple-checking settings for correct configuration will help avoid any potential data leaks.
What to consider when outsourcing to a partner for hybrid implementation
When looking to an outsider provider for assistance in your hybrid cloud implementation, you should consider the following:
Experience in hybrid cloud rollout
Is the service provider experienced in this type of implementation? How many times have they done it before? Are they dedicated to finding the ideal solution, or do they only have a cookie-cutter implementation they use for all clients?
The right service provider will give you all the information that you need to know in terms that you will understand. They will be available to walk you through suggested implementations, explain effectively when there may be a hiccup along the way, and most importantly, listen to your needs and concerns.
It’s always easiest to go local when outsourcing. Even though another provider may have a cheaper service, with local knowledge comes a smoother experience. A local provider will know the geographical layout of cloud providers’ services relevant exactly to your region, and will be able to inform you when new exciting products pop up, too.
Try us out
We’re experts in hybrid cloud solutions for small business and love to help in your hybrid cloud implementation. A1 Technologies has the experience, local knowledge across our Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane offices, and friendly team ready to take on your new project. Our hybrid cloud consultants can assist you through the entire process: from hybrid cloud needs assessment, cloud provider and services selection, through to rollout, training, and then IT managed services – if you wish for us to take care of the hybrid cloud admin for you. Get in touch today for a no obligation, free initial consultation.
Acknowledgement to Freepik and katemangostar for their great images.
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