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Getting real with your hybrid cloud strategy

IT resolution for 2021: Getting real with your hybrid cloud strategy
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

Most organizations have started to leverage cloud computing technologies in the past few years and I’ve seen some of them with good, sophisticated strategies in place - but a lot of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) still have hesitations around cloud adoption. What that means is they are reluctantly moving ahead without a complete strategy. Others still look down at their feet not moving but ShadowIT adoption means they’re really on an escalator. Regardless of where your organization falls on the adoption spectrum, it’s important to understand the immense value that a cloud adoption strategy will deliver for your organization.

The board, your executive team and many other departments could likely benefit from some internal conversations around how the cloud is helping to helping to drive a new era of innovation-fueled growth, business productivity and app-centric customer experiences. Every day there are cloud tactical decisions being made, but the proactive strategies are what might be missing.

Like a good new year resolution, this article just might help educate and even inspire your SMB.

SMB Innovating in 2021

The SMBs that got through 2020, from an IT perspective, were the ones willing to flex the most and the fastest. A cloud strategy that was sound enough to be flexed was a constant I observed in countless organizations across the globe to survive during the terrible year that was 2020. It’s no surprise that Gartner predicted the public cloud market would grow by over 6% to $257.9 billion in 2020, and by even more going forward - to top $364 billion by 2022. More than 3%, let alone double that, is significant in a large market.

Most organizations I interact with have a hybrid cloud model as their preferred choice. Their business case for doing so is a mix of recognizing the reality of their business and having a risk and ops model that gets the best of all worlds.

Why hybrid cloud?

What is hybrid cloud? At a fundamental level it is a combination of private cloud with one or more public cloud services. This allows organizations to get the best of both worlds: on-premises network infrastructure inside a private cloud for certain sensitive workloads, and the flexibility, scalability and cost benefits of public cloud for everything else.

Think of it as a way to combine the best cloud services and functionality from multiple cloud computing vendors. In fact, 85% of organizations are said to be using multiple clouds in their business today, with 76% using between two and 15 hybrid clouds, according to IBM. Nearly all (98%) are forecast to be using multiple hybrid clouds within three years.

What are the benefits?

Whether you’re fully cloud native, in the middle of your migration process or just beginning the move, there are a number of benefits that come from implementing a solid hybrid cloud approach. These include: Support for the distributed workforce:

Over 60% of Americans say they have worked from home during the pandemic, and many more wish to continue doing so once COVID-19 recedes. But these same workers need on-demand access to enterprise resources and compute power to stay productive. A hybrid cloud model offers them exactly that - anytime, anywhere access to business-critical applications and services. We also saw disruptions to public cloud we hadn’t seen before that meant a cloud-only service was the only choice and it wasn’t up.

Keeping costs under control:

Whole markets are concerned with managing cloud utilization and billing. Migrating to the cloud can seem intimidating and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, hybrid cloud environments can actually lower long-term costs for SMBs. That’s because scalability is easier, allowing organizations to grow and turn a profit faster than they could with on-site storage. It works both ways too, meaning that if demand for their services spikes, organizations can scale-up without needing to make large investments in IT infrastructure. But if demand falls again, they can scale down and reduce costs. Especially with multiple public clouds, cost and utilization management for a lot of SMBs is an issue, especially for those who have already invested in on-premises infrastructure and want to get the most out of those investments.

Ramping up IT efficiency:

As above, hybrid cloud environments enable organizations to automatically adjust to changes in demand, driving enhanced efficiency in how IT assets are used. Modern orchestration tools can also move workloads around to the lowest cost environments. Finally, hybrid cloud supports edge computing, which places compute, storage and network resources as close as possible to end users and devices. Thus, it can make IT infrastructure more efficient through lower latency.

Scalability drives flexibility:

By employing a hybrid cloud set-up which blends private and public cloud options, it’s easier to run complex and resource-intensive applications. Public cloud environments allow for the dynamic allocation of IT resources based on demand—a faster and more cost-efficient alternative to running them in-house. Alternatively, some data may be best kept in house for governance/security/compliance reasons. SMBs in some geographies struggle with staying compliant with the most affordable public cloud options, and will utilize private cloud to ensure that compliance based on the location of data is met.

The security aspect:

What would a cloud article be without a chat about cybersecurity? Although nearly half of IT decision makers still regard it as a potential barrier to cloud adoption, the truth is hybrid cloud offers several options for making the transfer and storage of data more secure.

  • Sensitive data can be stored in private cloud environments on-premises where they may be more secure. Here you control physical access to servers and can ensure traffic flows via private network links rather than the public internet.
  • Data can be encrypted to ensure security when it is transferred from private to public cloud environments.
  • Public cloud providers offer built-in redundancy for automatic data back-up and guaranteed availability and uptime, even in the event of a catastrophic incident.
  • The complexity of public cloud security configuration, especially when employing multiple clouds, is a lot to struggle with for SMB IT staff.

However, organizations must remember that in the public cloud, security is a shared responsibility. Familiarize yourself with the extent of cloud provider-supplied measures before migrating workloads, to ensure you have the right level of protection in place.

Most SMBs are hybrid cloud, but few have a strategy that reflects that. Embrace your IT reality and have a strategy that guides your reality.

  • Greg Young, Vice President of Cybersecurity at Trend Micro.