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Welcome to our blog series, “The Fundamentals.” Most, but not all of you who regularly read our blogs are technical experts, and we publish the majority of posts for you. We are starting this series to engage business users—or your non-technical relatives—who have limited familiarity with but are still interested in technical topics.

Cloud-based solutions have become the norm for companies across the globe. More specifically, a recent Forrester study indicates 88% of organizations are adopting a hybrid IT approach, and 89% acknowledge that adoption includes a dedicated hybrid cloud strategy. How are IT infrastructure and ops teams managing data, applications, and infrastructure across the complexity of a hybrid cloud environment? For many, a quick look at a hybrid cloud example or two holds the answer.

First, what is hybrid cloud computing? Why are more and more organizations making the switch? And how might a hybrid cloud solution look within your company? Let’s find out.

What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud solutions combine public cloud hosting from an IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) provider—like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP)—with an internal private cloud. These public and private clouds each have their own separate data centers, housed in different geographic locations. The two interact via a robust encrypted connection that enables applications, data, and other information to move between each system.

For a good, quick introduction, watch this video explaining the differences between public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud:

How hybrid cloud works

It’s important to note that a hybrid cloud does not refer to a single cloud with public and private features; rather, a hybrid cloud solution joins two individual cloud systems together. Some companies adopt this solution as one way to store, process, and interact with protected, extremely sensitive, or regulated data on a private cloud while continuing to leverage functionalities and resources from a public cloud service.

A few years ago, hybrid cloud solutions were really the only way that companies were using the cloud, and it was an effective stepping stone to cloud adoption. With more and more companies today moving to the cloud, a hybrid cloud model remains a popular option. According to a recent survey by RightScale, 91% of organizations are using public cloud solutions in some way, and 69% of them are using a hybrid cloud approach.

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Hybrid cloud vs. multi-cloud

After this explanation, you may be (understandably) wondering, what’s the difference between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud?

To put it simply, hybrid cloud blends two or more different types of clouds, which could be a mixture of public and private services. But multi-cloud blends different clouds of the same type. As one expert put it, hybrid cloud is like blending apples and oranges, while multi-cloud is more like blending two different kinds of apples—say Red Delicious and Gala.

Hybrid cloud benefits

Hybrid cloud solutions deliver the best of both worlds, resulting in a number of unique benefits:

  • Instead of entrusting all aspects of your IT infrastructure to a third-party provider, companies retain full control over select data.
  • One of the most significant private cloud network barriers to entry is the upfront investment required to build, maintain, and eventually extend the network. With hybrid cloud architectures, businesses can take advantage of the expansive power of public cloud services to quickly provision additional computing resources as needed.
  • Some industries have specific geographic compliance requirements that specify where data must be stored, while others insist data be stored locally or regionally (as is the case with some EU compliance regulations), while still others may require data to be geographically distributed for backup, redundancy, and disaster-recovery reasons. A hybrid cloud model makes it easier to be in compliance with such requirements.

Examples of hybrid cloud use

Whatever industry you operate in or business model you subscribe to, your organization will likely benefit from the many compelling advantages that hybrid cloud solutions offer. Here are four examples of hybrid cloud use cases to get you thinking:

1. On-premises security meets cloud flexibility in the financial services industry

Organizations operating in the financial services industry have a lot to gain from a hybrid approach. For example, you can use the private cloud to process trade orders and store sensitive client and company information. The public cloud could then be used for hosting less important or less sensitive business applications, giving you the adaptability you need. While I personally believe that public clouds have the ability to provide the same level of security as private clouds (and I’ve written on this topic previously), it is clear that many in the financial services sector do not or cannot rely on the public cloud for critical data and transactions.

2. Critical scalability for e-commerce websites’ biggest days

For e-commerce businesses, processing sales data can be resource-intensive. What’s more, unpredictable workloads are not uncommon—sales typically spike during holiday shopping periods such as Black Friday and other peak times. It’s during these “moments of truth” when the scalability offered by a hybrid cloud model is most critical.

3. Reduce latency by getting closer to the end user

Many companies benefit from a public cloud network as it affords their service better coverage and performance for users across a vast geographical area. By deploying an application across several distinct locations, the end user enjoys reduced latency—wherever they are in the world.

4. Data storage and processing compliance for healthcare providers

For those operating in the healthcare industry, adhering to strict data regulations and compliances is crucial. Private cloud solutions offer the level of security required, while a connected public cloud ensures healthcare facilities, insurance providers, and other interested parties can access the potentially lifesaving information they need, when they need it.

Hybrid cloud best practices

Implementing hybrid cloud best practices can help optimize performance, security, and overall efficiency. Here are some key best practices for managing a hybrid cloud environment.

1. Define clear objectives

Clearly define your business objectives and reasons for adopting a hybrid cloud model. Understand which workloads are best suited for on-premises infrastructure and which can benefit from cloud services.

2. Consistent management

Use unified management tools to ensure consistency in managing both on-premises and cloud resources. This helps streamline operations and reduces the complexity of managing a hybrid environment.

3. Security and compliance

Implement robust security measures across both on-premises and cloud environments. This includes encryption, identity and access management, network security, and compliance with industry regulations. Regularly audit and update security policies.

4. Data integration and interoperability

Ensure seamless integration and interoperability between on-premises and cloud environments. Use standardized APIs and protocols to facilitate data transfer and communication between systems.

5. Scalability and elasticity

Leverage the scalability and elasticity of cloud services to handle varying workloads. Design your architecture to scale resources up or down based on demand, optimizing costs and performance.

6. Hybrid cloud networking

Establish a reliable and high-performance network connection between on-premises and cloud resources. Use VPNs, Direct Connect, or ExpressRoute for secure and low-latency connectivity.

7. Backup and disaster recovery

Implement a robust backup and disaster recovery strategy that covers both on-premises and cloud data. Regularly test and update the recovery plan to ensure data integrity and minimize downtime in case of an incident.

8. Cost management

Monitor and optimize costs associated with on-premises and cloud resources. Leverage tools provided by cloud service providers to track usage, identify cost-saving opportunities, and allocate resources efficiently.

9. Training and skill development

Invest in training and skill development for your IT team to ensure they have the expertise to manage both on-premises and cloud environments. This helps troubleshoot, optimize performance, and stay updated with new technologies.

10. Performance monitoring and optimization

Implement monitoring tools to track the performance of applications and infrastructure across the hybrid environment. Regularly analyze data to identify bottlenecks and optimize performance.

11. Vendor management

If you're working with multiple cloud service providers, effectively manage vendor relationships. Understand the terms of service, support options, and pricing models to make informed decisions and maximize the value of your investments.

12. Continuous evaluation and adjustment

Regularly evaluate your hybrid cloud setup's performance, security, and cost-effectiveness. Adjust your strategy and architecture to align with evolving business requirements and technological advancements.

Is hybrid cloud suitable for all businesses?

Hybrid cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. A hybrid cloud deployment model that works for one business may not be suitable for another, even if operating in the same industry.

Your approach to hybrid cloud can affect your requirements for monitoring the performance of applications and infrastructure.