It’s no secret that more and more small and midsize businesses are turning to cloud computing services to help run their operations. According to a recent cloud computing forecast roundup by Forbes, businesses will spend $38 billion in the IaaS (information as a service) industry in 2016. Forecasters expect that figure to balloon to $173 billion in the next ten years.

Cloud computing has its benefits: it allows for greater flexibility among workers, who can more easily access their files and collaborate in real time. At the same time, though, the cloud isn’t perfect, and in some cases, business leaders prefer to have some parts of their operations kept locally. This is where hybrid cloud solutions can help.

The hybrid cloud is a fairly simple concept – it’s the combination of two or more computing environments that could be local or in the cloud, publicly or privately. More simply, it’s the middle ground between local IT infrastructure and the cloud. It’s important to note the distinction between “public” and “private” clouds. Public clouds services, such as those offered by Microsoft and Google, provide computing resources that are shared among customers – similar to renting out an apartment. On the other hand, a private cloud service operates solely for one customer – like owning a house.

Because local storage and various cloud services each have their advantages, businesses prefer to use them for different things. A hybrid cloud solution, therefore, allows them to make the best of each available service. There’s no need to rely completely on local servers, a public cloud service, or a private cloud. Rather, businesses can choose to separate their operations among these different solutions according to what works best for their work.

While each business will have a different reason for utilizing hybrid solutions, there a few common uses.

Hosting Files and Applications with Differing Demands

Hybrid cloud solutions give businesses more freedom to choose how they run their digital operations, such as hosting files and applications. Local infrastructure and cloud computing (both public and private) differ in terms of security, speed, and capacity, so a hybrid cloud offers users the ability to allocate digital resources depending on these qualities.

In terms of security, all three types of services–local, public cloud, and private cloud–are adequately safe with the right precautions. Still, some businesses prefer the added layer of security of local infrastructure and private cloud services, which remain completely under their control. With a hybrid cloud setup, a business can keep highly sensitive data on a private cloud while using a public cloud for things that need less security, such as running a web app.

In these days of abundant broadband internet access, one could assume that speed is no longer an issue. However, for bandwidth-intensive processes, every bit counts, and internet service providers (ISPs) sometimes fail to meet high demands. Running these processes locally allows for better latency than with an Internet connection, which means more efficient performance. A company might not require low latency of other, less intensive processes, so those get stored in the cloud.

While local infrastructure in some cases provides more security and greater speed, a company can struggle to meet capacity demands. For example, a small to midsize business might run a web app off of their on-site servers, but if the app is very popular, the servers might not be powerful enough to handle the demand. This results in crashes – obviously, bad for business. Instead, SMBs can choose to let the cloud handle capacity issues, while they focus on more important issues.

For some businesses, security may be the greatest issue. For others, speed and capacity are important. In most cases, though, a company needs its infrastructure to be flexible, with a bit of everything, which is what the hybrid cloud provides.

Scaling Business

Things like security, speed, and capacity are important for established businesses, but they are qualities that are of greater value for companies that are quickly expanding. Scaling a business is never easy, and the last thing anyone wants is to have their operations hindered by IT infrastructure that doesn’t fit the company’s growing needs. And, for young businesses especially, setting up a private cloud or installing additional on-site infrastructure can be too time-intensive and costly.

Scaling companies use the hybrid cloud configuration to continue growing with agility and at a price point that works for them. Plus, by choosing to push some of their demands to an off-site location, these businesses are no longer responsible for upkeep on their application servers.  With the flexibility that cloud storage offers, those large files that require low latency are still available on-site. For workers, this more reliable architecture means less time staring at loading screens and more time focusing on growing the business.

One other way that a hybrid cloud helps with scalability is that it requires less commitment. For example, private cloud services often require their customers to sign a contract, which might not be feasible for a company only looking for short-time use. For this company, working in a public cloud space–which charges by the hour and requires no long-term agreement–could be the better option. The hybrid cloud configuration allows such a company to use the public cloud as a type of temporary testing grounds while keeping important data safe in more permanent storage.

Dealing with Traffic Overload

A business doesn’t need to be scaling for it to use a hybrid cloud setup as a stopgap. In fact, companies use temporary cloud services to meet the demands of a number of different scenarios.

Hybrid clouds are useful to businesses, such as those in retail industries that deal with busy seasons. For most of the year, the companies will deal with steady demand, only to see huge spikes in things like web traffic around holidays. Because there’s only a need for short-term capacity, the business can use a public cloud to support the increase in traffic while reserving on-site or private cloud networks for sensitive information like customer data.

Seasonal upticks in demand might be normal for some, but it can blindside others. That’s why, in some cases, a business can benefit from something called cloud bursting, in which a public cloud takes on the overflow in demand from an on-site server or private cloud, sometimes in a completely automated fashion. While cloud bursting isn’t appropriate for every business (depending on how it’s set up, it could violate compliance regulations), many companies see the benefit of extending their in-house servers to the cloud on a short-term basis.

Naturally, every business will have its own needs and its own way of sorting out its IT infrastructure. Overall, the hybrid cloud model exists to meet the various needs of its users, and it provides a greater flexibility than either on-premise or cloud-only solutions. After all, in any business, who doesn’t want more options?

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