To Cloud or Not to Cloud? That is the question!
Commonly, public cloud computing is what people have in mind when they discuss cloud computing. However, a cloud strategy may include use of private clouds as a system of choice. We also need to consider that cloud computing is not always necessary. For some companies, localized networks can fill needs of the business adequately. More commonly, a hybrid system of cloud and local computing (public and/or private) proves the optimum solution.
Hybrid Cloud Computing Options
Before we discuss the benefits of using a hybrid cloud computing system, let’s first ensure a common understanding of the meaning of hybrid cloud computing. We provide this section to serve this objective.
The table below provides a structured view of some hybrid cloud computing options, some of which this article references in different sections. You should be aware of these general range of options when searching for a cloud provider and/or developing a cloud strategy.
Table Use and Interpretation Guidelines:
- The cloud computing options presented fall into two categories, namely Infrastructure and Applications.
- Each category includes multiple variants, namely public, private and local.
- Hybrid cloud options consist of different combinations of variants.
Configuration Option #1
This configuration represents the traditional localized ‘pre-cloud’ computing network. It consists of a network of local server(s) and various connected devices such as workstations, desktops, and other peripherals (e.g. printers, etc.). Applications are installed on in-house network servers and/or individual computers connected to the network.
Configuration Options #2 and #2a
These options also uses the traditional computing network, but with the addition of public cloud infrastructure (#2) plus use of public cloud-based applications (#2a). This configuration allows companies to manage a transition to cloud computing in a measured fashion. They can run operations normally from their legacy network while testing limited elements of their system on the public cloud. As the business learns and tunes the system, they gain confidence. From there, they can slowly transition greater portions to the cloud as needed to optimize operations and economics.
Configuration Options #3 and #3a
These options resemble options #2 and #2a, except that the cloud infrastructure and applications run on a privatized cloud servers. Businesses sometimes opt for private cloud infrastructure to preserve confidentiality while minimizing local IT staffing resources, and limiting investment in purchased software. They use cloud hosted services to achieve these objectives.
Configuration Option #4
This option includes all of the variants considered, including NOC, public and private hosted infrastructure, and public and private applications.
Configuration Options #5 and #6
Options #5 and #6 represent 100% cloud hosted services, both infrastructure and applications. Businesses often utilize IT MSPs to manage cloud hosted services. This cloud strategy separates selection of the best cloud provider from selection of IT system management.
Note: Some cloud service providers use the term ‘Private Cloud’ in the context of managed cloud-like service in which the cloud service provider maintains the infrastructure behind the clients’ firewall. This usage of the term ‘cloud’ conflicts with the definition of cloud computing which includes internet connectivity to offsite hosted data centers and/or hosted applications.
The table of configuration options provides numerous variants. This list is not inclusive of every possible option. Selection of the best option for your company may seem a daunting task but can be manageable if you enlist the services of a professional IT company. We hope this article will provide you with some basic discussion topics to raise with an IT MSP as you seek the best solution for your business.
Below we list several benefits of hybrid cloud computing options.
1. Optimize Onsite Infrastructure
Various hybrid cloud computing configurations can help a company optimize the amount of hardware and software maintained onsite. For example, configuration options #2 and #2a allow a company to store the most sensitive data onsite, but otherwise use hosted servers and cloud-based applications. This arrangement can limit capital investment and operating expenses for onsite infrastructure. Additionally, these options reduce the resources required to maintain infrastructure and applications maintenance, compared to a traditional NOC.
2. Promote Innovation
Operating with offsite hosted private infrastructure allows experimenting with system changes without a permanent infrastructure investment. Configuration options #3 and #3a can provide this economic risk reduction benefit.
These configuration options allow your business streams to continue uninterrupted while you run test trials on new software, delivery systems, etc. This situation promotes innovation because it reduces the risk of business stream interruption, which can derail plans for the development of new solutions.
Hybrid cloud computing offers the benefits of scalability, in addition to the benefit of improved innovation as discussed above.
A hybrid cloud configuration offers the ability to scale up or down without investing in additional permanent infrastructure. You can pay on demand when you want to test a new product, or simply to accommodate a temporary increase in computing load for any reason. For example, you may temporarily need additional bandwidth to execute a data-intensive project. Upon project completion, you can terminate the lease of these temporary resources. This benefit not only reduces capital expenditures, it also limits competition for the bandwidth required by your normal operations.
A business can realize this same pay on demand benefit to allow adjustments for changes to market conditions, for example, meeting demand for a large volume irregular sale. In fact, some cloud providers offer assignment and release of resources, whether bandwidth or storage space, automatically adjusted based on usage.
From a tactical standpoint, for example, you could move from configuration option #2a to #4, then back to #2a upon projection completion or decline of temporary demand.
4. Better Security and Disaster Recovery
You may have heard that cloud computing bears a higher security risk profile than traditional in-house networks. Cloud computing may indeed reveal more potential entry points for hackers to attack. However, businesses can successfully manage cloud security risks with proper security protocols, security software, and system architecture. In some ways, cloud computing offers increased security protection and promotes more efficient disaster recovery.
Private cloud infrastructure provides a means for offsite storage of business-critical data and information. This allows separation of critical backup data and information from the primary servers (whether onsite NOC, behind the firewall ‘private cloud’, or public cloud). Additionally, a private cloud can house critical applications, to keep a business operating during primary system shutdowns. Such hybrid cloud configurations promote efficient disaster recovery and near continuous operations when a cyber-attack disables the primary system. Cloud configurations #3, #3a and #4 offer these benefits.
5. Cost Management
The customizable nature of hybrid computing solutions promotes cost-efficient operation. In general, private cloud use costs more than public cloud use. Thus restricting the use of the private cloud to mission-critical data and applications limits costs of private cloud. This solution simultaneously offers the security and continuous operating benefits offered by private cloud configurations where specifically needed.
Perhaps you can see potential benefits from investing in a hybrid cloud solution for your company, or upgrading the hybrid system you currently use. As you can see from the range of considerations, selection of the best hybrid cloud computing configuration for your company requires intimate knowledge of technology and a strategic assessment of your business needs. A qualified IT MSP can help you understand the potential benefits and best configuration options for your business.