For many, the cloud is a place where private documents, music, pictures, or videos can be stored and exchanged online. Understanding the different technological aspects of these services, however, proves to be a cloudy venture for many. Did you know, for example, that, in addition to many other things, online stores and websites can also be hosted in the cloud?
It stopped being a futuristic dream some time ago: the storage of many IT components in a cloud. In both private use and in the business sector there is an increasing shift toward the storage of data and information technology on remote internet servers. Whether it’s for storage of vacation photos or business applications, more and more users are deciding in favor of cloud solutions.
This is not the case for everyone, however—and for good reason. Many businesses work with sensitive data and would rather not store it on cloud servers, although in general there definitely is an interest in new options. Another sentiment that many businesses harbor is that they have already gotten along just fine without a cloud and have managed to set up a professional, well-maintained datacenter. Why should they replace it now?
Fortunately, they don’t have to at all. This solution is called hybrid—a mixture of cloud and on-site solutions. With this model you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
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What is a Hybrid Cloud?
The term hybrid could usually describe a combination of a traditional on-site datacenter or an external private cloud and a public cloud. The data and applications are in part located with the company on site and in part on the servers of a special provider. However, this doesn’t mean just working with two different systems, where data is migrated from one solution to another and would have to invest additional labor.
Ideally, a hybrid cloud connects the systems with each other symbiotically and seamlessly. Which IT areas are to be located where is left to the discretion of each company. In this way it is conceivable, for example, that all relevant data for data protection remains on-site and the remaining data is only located on the cloud servers. Others maintain full storage themselves and only outsource the computing. Or the other way around: the computing power is supplied on-site, while the data is located in cloud storage so that it can be accessed from anywhere.
With hybrid cloud, even on-site datacenters, or on-site solutions, are understood to be private clouds. This is why it is limiting to describe hybrid clouds as a hybrid between a private and a public cloud.
Technical Implementation: How Does a Hybrid Cloud Work?
In order to be able to implement a hybrid cloud, it isn’t enough to simply book a public cloud and at the same time use your own datacenter. Both systems must work with each other seamlessly. To achieve this, however, there is not one lone solution, but rather several different options. Ultimately, however, all individual connections types boil down to the use of a management software or API—or a combination of both. So the actual implementation always depends on what specifically is supposed to be outsourced into the cloud and who it belongs to. This is because the different providers for the most part also offer different solutions.
The scope plays a role as well. Especially with low requirements, an interface is often sufficient: for example, if a company uses office applications in the cloud, but still stores data locally. In more complex cases, however, hybrid cloud management software can be helpful. If comprehensive system solutions are to function smoothly, load balancers can be an extremely useful component for cloud management. Through an efficient and automated load distribution, the unrestricted availability of servers and data can then be guaranteed.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hybrid Cloud
At first glance, the hybrid cloud seems to combine the best of both worlds. Yet like every kind of technology, this concept also has disadvantages. Whether or not these manifest themselves depends in each case on independent events.
|Flexibly scalable||Additional effort|
|Saves resources||Security can only be guaranteed through clear regulations|
|Security for sensitive data and critical applications|
The advantage of a private cloud – especially if it is implemented in the form of a local datacenter – is that the company has control over everything that is important. It is responsible for data security and the provision of services, and can respond quickly when necessary. Everything that is critical for a company’s success can remain in its own access area.
A public cloud, in contrast, has the advantage of being scalable to a company’s needs. Most providers of this type of cloud solution enable their customers to quickly and simply add or remove resources. That way, they only ever pay as much as they actually need to. This also works with hybrid cloud solutions: for all the areas that a company cannot exclusively keep on its own premises, it is possible to flexibly scale up or down via the cloud solution. The company also saves maintenance costs by working with a service provider: this third party also assumes the cost of hardware and software.
This is solely with respect to public clouds. It doesn’t mean that everyone can readily access the data that is stored there. The data is sometimes indeed on the same physical servers as that of other users. It is, however, protected from unauthorized access.
Even if software can make managing a hybrid cloud easier, the administrative overhead is even greater than it is for the two alternatives. As part of this effort, it must also be clearly defined which business divisions should be stored in which parts. Only when a specific plan exists can the problems associated with operating a hybrid be avoided in the long term. It is important to communicate this plan to all parties involved and establish an effective privileges system.
This takes us to the hybrid cloud’s second disadvantage: the comparatively lower level of security. The hybrid cannot be as safe as a self-contained on-site solution. In order to guarantee the best possible data protection nevertheless, a clear system must also be established with respect to security. If there’s a risk that sensitive data will end up in the wrong sector, no data security can be guaranteed. This is why it is necessary to develop and establish strategies that prevent or minimize the incorrect use of the hybrid cloud.
Furthermore, each company must thoroughly consider whether it even needs a hybrid cloud. If a company already has its own datacenter, which is likely to be sufficient for the next few years, then outsourcing via hybrid cloud is not necessary and is only associated with additional overhead. On the other hand, a company that can entrust its data to a reliable hosting provider with high data protection standards doesn’t also need a datacenter of its own or its own private cloud as it is well served with a public cloud.
Hybrid Cloud vs. Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud: What are the Differences?
In the hybrid cloud, a private cloud and a public cloud are combined into one entity. The public cloud is what people usually mean when they referring to the cloud. On large server clusters a user (or an entire business) receives a specific area, but not a self-contained physical server. This means that in a public cloud, two companies can use the same storage module and share its space.
In a private cloud, in contrast, other users have no access to the hardware. Private clouds can be booked with external providers as well. The servers in this case are not on a company’s premises, but in a remote server cluster. In this way, the user enjoys advantages that are also provided by public clouds, but with more data security. An on-site datacenter that a company operates itself can also be set up as a private cloud. For this purpose, the server can be configured in such a way that it can also be used by employees who are located at a different location.
The Hybrid Cloud is a combination of both solutions. With this model, a company uses the private cloud for specific work aspects and outsources everything else to a public cloud.