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Hybrid cloud: How to maintain harmony in the marriage of public and private cloud

(Image credit: Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock)

The cloud migration is well underway as companies are increasingly drawn to the cost effectiveness and efficiency of storing and processing their data in the cloud. But going from on-premise to public cloud is not done in a single leap – and often, a solely public cloud environment won’t do the trick. A hybrid cloud has therefore become the smart solution to help companies structure an IT solution as safely and effectively as possible. Today, many organisations take advantage of some mix of on-prem data, a public cloud solution like Azure, and private cloud elements. In fact, according to Gartner, 90 per cent or more of organisations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management capabilities by 2020. This arrangement offers many benefits but also presents complexities, which if not accounted for, could mitigate the very benefits that cloud solutions are designed to achieve.

If you have multiple clouds such as Microsoft Azure and or Amazon AWS for your unstructured data and also a private cloud solution for your most sensitive and confidential files, you know how difficult it can be to get proper data flow throughout your organisation. Integration can be one of the main challenges of hybrid clouds. Because most private clouds use a VMware hypervisor and AWS and Microsoft each have their own, it is still a challenge to move data between different clouds. To avoid the cloud silo trap, organisations need to be prepared to use multiple tools because there is likely no single, universal solution to do it all. 

To manage a hybrid cloud solution well, companies must ensure internal visibility and communication. Organisations need to align all their efforts as different departments may not even know what cloud they are using. For this reason, it is important for companies to take a well-integrated approach that involves all stakeholders and solutions.

Another key challenge can be cost management. Hybrid cloud offers a great opportunity to reduce your IT costs, but there is also the risk of losing control of your spend. On paper, the public cloud solutions that require no CAPEX and offer low rates sound attractive, but costs add up in every minute of compute used and every byte for storage. So it is important to get your arms around your company’s full cloud scope and data requirements across all divisions and locations. From here and ongoing, it is important to mitigate sprawl and watch for uncaptured spend, such as on employee accounts. Data portability is also an issue to manage closely because of costs to export your data out of a public cloud. These fees can end up locking you in to the public cloud as moving out can become too costly. It is easy to see how the costs of your total hybrid solution can quickly escalate beyond your initial expectations.

Best practices: The five cloud C’s

CIOs using a blend of Azure or AWS and private clouds are tackling these issues on a daily basis. Establishing and following best practices can help deliver a smoother experience and a more successful outcome can be achieved. Following are five cloud C’s to get you started.

1.            Create a Clear Plan

CIOs’ roles have become significantly more strategic as data has been recognised as an increasingly important asset, presenting great opportunities and risks to the organisation. Because of this, decisions on where and how to manage that data need to be understood and embraced by the company’s top executive team. Create a clear plan for cloud migration and deployment and share it with management and key stakeholders with regular updates so there are no surprises. Your migration strategy should include your scaling model, backup plan and disaster recovery. Mapping out a detailed plan will help you to engage your colleagues and manage the strategy going forward.

2.            Communicate Across the Organisation

Hybrid cloud can isolate your data. In order to avoid silos and get the most from your cloud solutions, ensure that all cloud managers and teams are in sync so that issues can be addressed and opportunities can be explored. This will help to find ways to maximise data flow throughout the organisation and ensure accuracy, security and compliance needs are being met. Set up regular update meetings and encourage all to think outside their silos.

3.            Calculate the Costs & Set a Budget

It’s extremely important to know the costs of your total hybrid cloud solution. Once determined, you can set a monthly budget and receive alerts when you are approaching your limit. With Microsoft Azure, you can set up customised alerts to better manage your spend. You can also take advantage of a managed cloud provider, who can monitor your cloud environment and let you know when you are getting close to your budget limit or provide specific tools that deliver detailed analysis of your environment on a daily basis. These actions can keep you on track so that you do not lose control of spend.

4.            Comply with Confidence

Regulated industries like healthcare and finance, require data to be compliant with industry-specific regulations no matter where it is – in the cloud or on premise. Map out which compliance standards you must adhere to and the controls you need to meet the requirements. Public cloud providers have dozens of compliance offerings specific to the needs of industries like health, government, finance, education, manufacturing and media. To combine those with complementary private clouds, ensure that your service provider has experience marrying the two and can effectively fulfil your audit needs.

5.            Control & Secure your Data

Control and security of your data go hand in hand with compliance. By creating a mix of public and private clouds, it can become much more challenging to gain visibility into the total environment. And putting your data in the cloud doesn’t automatically make it secure. So, it is no surprise that control becomes an issue and security is at risk of being compromised. Have a clear, current map of your full environment; build a plan to maintain control, visibility and security with centralised management solutions and network protections; and, regularly test your environment to ensure your controls are working. Keeping your most valuable asset secure is paramount to the success of your entire company. 

Putting the pieces together

As you navigate the hybrid cloud world, you’ll undoubtably discover the advantages of blending public and private cloud: the in-house control you need for certain data and applications, along with the scalability of full public cloud for others. Taking the time to view the holistic solution for the business and following best practices will help you to make the most of this environment – and at the same time, get much farther ahead in terms of budget, security, compliance and optimisation.

Brad Cheedle, Chief Executive Officer, Otava

Brad Cheedle is Chief Executive Officer at Otava, a global cloud solutions provider helping customers build and manage the unique, high-performing IT environments they need for secure, compliant technology ecosystems.