A growing number of organisations are moving their IT operations to the cloud, but there are still businesses that are hesitant and prefer to stick to on-premises cloud server solutions. One middle-ground option that has become increasingly popular is ‘hybrid cloud’.

As the name suggests, hybrid cloud benefits from a mixture of third-party public cloud servers and on-premises private cloud servers. So, what is hybrid cloud, and how can it help your business?

What is private cloud?

Before we properly define hybrid cloud, which is a mixed computing environment made up of both public and private cloud services, we first need to understand what is meant by public clouds and private clouds.

A private cloud is a virtualised IT infrastructure owned and operated within an organisation’s data centre or within a third-party hosting provider’s data centre. As the name suggests, these cloud computing environments are totally private to one organisation, which means that this business has exclusive access to and control over the resources in their private cloud, including servers, storage, networks, cloud backup services, and more.

Advantages of private cloud

There are many reasons why businesses opt for private cloud computing, including:

1. Security

One of the biggest advantages of private clouds is their security, since no other organisations will be able to access your private cloud infrastructure. You can also secure your private cloud further with security measures such as data encryption, backup systems and a VPN.

2. Latency

Having data hosted in the room next door comes with latency benefits. It means data is readily available, and doesn’t have to travel over an internet connection.

3. Customisation

Private cloud users benefit from full root access. This means that you have full control over your IT infrastructure, allowing you to install the best software for your business, control upgrades and updates, and grant access controls to the right employees.

4. Compliance

Since private clouds are only accessible by one organisation, they can be much better suited for companies that need to comply with strict data protection regulations like GDPR. This can include businesses in the finance and healthcare sectors.

Disadvantages of private cloud

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider, including:

1. Cost

The main disadvantage for most businesses is usually the cost of private cloud. Typically, private cloud services are more expensive because they’re dedicated to your organisation, whereas public cloud services are shared between multiple customers, allowing the cost of running the cloud servers to be shared too.

2. Management

The downside of full root access is that you’ll need more technical knowledge to use your private cloud to its full potential. Plus, you may be more likely to make catastrophic and irreversible changes to the infrastructure if you don’t know what you’re doing.

3. Maintenance

Private cloud maintenance is usually handled by the customer unless they’ve opted for managed cloud services. This means you’ll be in charge of day-to-day maintenance and updates, which can be time-consuming if you don’t have a dedicated team.

What is public cloud?

Cloud service providers (like Fasthosts) effectively rent server space in their data centres – this is the public cloud. With public cloud, users from around the world can access computing resources over the internet, including storage, applications, servers and more.

Unlike with private cloud, public clouds are shared by multiple customers. Because there are multiple tenants being hosted in the same data centre, an economy of scale makes the public cloud a more cost-effective solution for businesses. Some public clouds are free up to a certain amount of storage space, whereas others use an on-demand or pay-as-you-go pricing model.

Advantages of public cloud

Like with private cloud, there are many advantages to using public cloud services. Let’s go through the main ones below:

1. Cost

As we’ve alluded to, one of the key benefits of public cloud computing is its affordability compared to private cloud computing. Shared server space means your costs are significantly reduced, and you only have to pay for what you actually use.

2. Scalability

Public cloud offers more scalability, as businesses can choose to increase or decrease their server resources as needed. This scalability is also offered with private cloud, but the shared nature of public cloud means that infrastructure costs are shared between customers and underlying resources are allocated dynamically according to your current usage.

3. Lack of maintenance

Your public cloud provider will look after the maintenance of the servers, giving you one less thing to worry about. This makes public cloud a great choice for small businesses that don’t have dedicated teams.

4. Data backup

Although both public and private clouds offer cloud backup functionality, data backups are extremely easy with public cloud because this environment automatically mirrors your data. This makes it much easier and quicker to back up your data securely.

Disadvantages of public cloud

Of course, we also have to consider the disadvantages associated with public cloud. These can include:

1. Security risks

Since you’re sharing space with other customers, public cloud can naturally raise more concerns about security and data privacy. Cloud providers implement robust security measures to combat these risks, but public cloud can still be inherently less secure than other storage methods.

2. Limited control

Another potential downside is that you get less control over your IT infrastructure, since you aren’t granted full root access on shared servers. This means less maintenance and management on your end, but the trade-off is that you can’t fully customise the cloud environment to suit your specific needs.

3. Vendor lock-in

Although you aren’t locked into a monthly payment plan, you may find it hard to migrate to a different cloud provider if you rely on the current provider’s structures and add-ons.

4. Fluctuating costs

Public cloud is usually cheaper than private cloud, but this may not be true if you start exceeding monthly usage limits. Plus, with a pay-as-you-go model, your costs can fluctuate every month, making it harder for you to set budgets.

What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud architecture combines all the good things about the public and private clouds and forms a kind of ‘super-cloud’. The connectivity between the two gives the security and latency benefits of the private cloud and the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud in one single infrastructure environment.

For a hybrid cloud integration to work properly, there has to be connectivity between the public and private clouds. This connection needs to be implemented with end-to-end network security and encryption. It's often very complex to set up, and as such a management platform is necessary to assist with deployment.

Why use hybrid cloud?

A private cloud environment is often utilised in industries where confidentiality is important, such as in the finance and healthcare industries. Businesses in these sectors like the security of having their own physical space for their servers, but also need the reassurance that they can burst into the public cloud if traffic and demand require it. Often, they’ll run classified and confidential systems on the private cloud, and use the public cloud for less business-critical applications.

Hybrid cloud benefits from a more efficient use of network investment. It allows businesses to build smaller networks to cater for average demands, but it can be pushed out to the public cloud if the workload exceeds the resources of their private cloud.

Hybrid cloud architecture is also often used by ecommerce businesses who experience significant seasonal spikes around the holidays. With hybrid cloud integration, they can run everything in a private cloud, but still have access to the additional resources when traffic spikes. A similar model is used for big data processing. A company can collect and store data on their private cloud, but run the resource-heavy analysis and queries using scalable resources from the public cloud.

This scalability means that companies don’t have to spend large amounts of money just to cover seasonal requirements. Instead, they can just scale up and scale down to suit demand and maximise their efficiencies.

Advantages of hybrid cloud

From the explanation above, you probably already have a good idea of what the advantages of hybrid cloud are, but let’s quickly highlight the main ones to remember:

1. Flexibility

Perhaps the main advantage of hybrid cloud is the fact that you get the flexibility to choose where your workloads are deployed. By storing sensitive data in secure private clouds and storing non-sensitive data in scalable and accessible public clouds, you can optimise your data handling and workflows to suit your business’s needs.

2. Scalability

Although all cloud environments are inherently scalable and flexible, hybrid cloud takes this to a new level. Businesses can build smaller, bespoke networks on private clouds to handle average demand periods, and when demand increases, public clouds can be leveraged immediately to access the extra resources and storage needed.

3. Control

The ability to move workloads across cloud environments according to changing requirements gives you much more control over your data and IT infrastructure. You’ll also get the best of both worlds when it comes to the balance between control and saving time – your cloud provider will handle maintenance and updates on your public cloud for you, while your IT team will be able to customise and configure your private cloud environment to match your business’s needs.

4. Agility 

This level of customisation and control ensures that your business is agile enough to handle the changing needs of your customers, even during peak demand periods. Due to the connection between your public cloud and private cloud, you can create an overarching system that rapidly optimises resource deployment on the fly.

5. Reduced latency

Speaking of speed, a hybrid cloud environment can optimise the speed of deployment as it’s specifically designed around your business’s needs, unlike a purely public cloud environment. Latency will be reduced in the private cloud environment as data doesn’t need to travel over an internet connection, and at the same time, you’ll benefit from the rapid scalability of public cloud environments as extra resources are allocated dynamically when your resource usage increases.

6. Potential cost savings

Although hybrid clouds can be complicated to set up (and may require a larger initial investment), you can potentially benefit from cost savings down the line if you manage your resources effectively. For example, if you invest in the right amount of resources in your public and private cloud environments, you can figure out how to configure these environments in the most cost-effective way for your business. Plus, since hybrid cloud is extremely scalable, you can always handle changes efficiently as your business evolves.

Disadvantages of hybrid cloud

While hybrid cloud is an excellent solution for many businesses, there are a few potential downsides you need to consider before implementing a hybrid infrastructure.

1. Implementation

Configuring a hybrid cloud can be quite complex, so it may not be ideal for very small businesses that don’t have IT personnel to help. When setting up your hybrid cloud, you’ll need to know what resources, software and other solutions you’ll require so that you can allocate them to the different cloud models. This can be difficult if you don’t have a clear idea of what you need.

2. Cost

While you can make cost savings through efficient resource management later on, the initial investment for hybrid cloud can be quite expensive. Plus, if you don’t know how to manage your resources efficiently, you may end up exceeding your monthly usage on your public cloud or paying for add-ons that are already covered by your private cloud.

3. Security

Again, the issue with using public clouds is that you could be opening yourself up to potential security threats due to the shared nature of this space. Therefore, you need to be careful about what data you choose to store in your public cloud environment.

Hybrid cloud use cases

If you choose to implement a hybrid cloud infrastructure, how can this be used to benefit your business? Here are some scenarios where hybrid cloud can be very beneficial for your day-to-day operations:

  • You have frequently changing workloads. For example, your business experiences sharp spikes in web traffic at certain times of the year.
  • You have short-term projects where you would benefit from allocating extra resources to a public cloud environment temporarily.
  • You need to process big data and handle big data analytics. The extra processing power could be supplied by public cloud, while sensitive data can be kept in a secure private cloud.
  • You want to organise your workloads according to sensitive and non-sensitive data.
  • Your business is evolving rapidly and you need a flexible, scalable and agile IT infrastructure to handle this.
  • You want to benefit from the security and low latency of private cloud while also benefiting from the scalability and cost-effectiveness of public cloud.

According to Zippia, 87% of businesses have a hybrid cloud strategy, and it’s easy to see why. Our expert advisors are always on hand to offer more information on choosing your cloud server. Looking for more good reads? For all the latest, head over to our blog.