Hybrid cloud solutions promise to improve reliability and boost security by providing flexibility (you're not completely beholden to on-premises equipment) and control over sensitive data. But for many small businesses, cloud computing seems like pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Many have limited IT staff and tight budgets. Those very qualities, however, may position a hybrid solution as one that actually offers tremendous efficiencies.
A hybrid cloud solution combines public cloud services and traditional, on-premises equipment, and it may also include private cloud services. All of the maintenance needed for the data in the cloud is handled by the cloud provider, so the lean-and-mean IT staff that characterizes most small businesses is free to concentrate on mission-critical tasks.
Hybrid cloud offers a combination of Capex and Opex models, providing businesses more flexibility in controlling costs. Operational expenses can be more appealing than capital ones, if your company has limited cash flow. Opex is also tax-deductible, so it may be more financially prudent for a company to implement a hybrid solution where cloud subscription costs are assigned to operating expenses. A pay-per-use model will mean managing subscriptions to ensure users do not misuse the services and that provisioned accounts are being utilized and not wasted.
Small companies that require dependable, high availability and instant data recovery are a good fit for hybrid cloud. Uptime reliability should be (and usually is) spelled out in any service level agreement (SLA) with a cloud vendor, and you get to offload all maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair headaches.
In the SLA, uptime is given as a percentage that gets as close as possible to "perfect," or virtually zero downtime, and it's known in common shorthand as 'nines.' Three nines of availability (99.9% uptime) actually means that you're accepting up to 8 hours, 45 minutes and 56 seconds of downtime annually, for example. Go up to 'four nines' and you're ensured no more than 52 and a half minutes of annual downtime. Redundancy, monitoring, and failover are crucial elements of a cloud solution, too.
Data recovery is another critical consideration for hybrid cloud. In the event of a catastrophic event or natural disaster, data losses can be reduced by backing up to the cloud as regularly as every 15 minutes. Hybrid cloud backup integrates local storage with cloud resources, to ensure critical information is protected in the event of a worst-case scenario.
In this hybrid environment, your local backup, such as a network-attached storage appliance, runs at a predetermined interval automatically. Those backups will sync to the cloud as a background task. A small business can then access data backed up in the cloud as well as a redundant backup locally. The convenience and ease of cloud backup and storage has reduced the cost of disaster recovery storage so significantly that it is now an affordable reality.
Hybrid cloud security involves not only the protection of infrastructure, but also the data and applications that comprise a business's operating environment. Hybrid clouds let SMBs decide where workloads and data belong, based on compliance, audit, policy, performance, or security requirements.
Encryption, automation, access control and endpoint protection are all available components of hybrid cloud security.
Hybrid cloud also offers an opportunity to reduce exposure by protecting sensitive information in a "private" cloud, which may be located on-premises or in a separate facility run by a third party. SMBs can then take advantage of cheaper, public cloud resources for data that doesn't present the same kinds of risk, or for long-term archiving.
These environments that make up the hybrid cloud may be segregated for security purposes but still managed centrally. With the right cloud orchestration, you can run critical workloads in a private cloud and less-sensitive workloads in the public cloud, minimizing data exposure and maximizing flexibility.
Hybrid cloud may not make sense for the smallest of small businesses, but if you have a robust on-premises IT environment, it may make sense to explore how hybrid approaches can automate your off-site backups, improve your security posture, take some pressure off overloaded IT staff, and move some capital expenses to an Opex model.