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What is hybrid cloud storage?

it engineer in server room with a laptop
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hybrid cloud storage is a way of storing business data using both your local servers and cloud-based storage. It lets you combine your on-premises information with data you’ve uploaded to a public or private cloud, and gives you greater flexibility for your data retention and management needs. 

We’ll cover what hybrid cloud storage is, how it works, and the best cloud storage (opens in new tab) options for businesses (opens in new tab)

What does hybrid cloud storage do?

Hybrid cloud storage is based on flexibility. It gives businesses that have already invested in local storage more options (opens in new tab) to meet their growing data needs. The main features of a hybrid cloud approach are: 

  • Businesses can easily and securely move data between their local servers and the cloud, freeing up space and processing power for on-premise servers
  • Businesses can run processor-, memory-, or data-intensive tasks locally, speeding up and improving the quality of outputs
  • Businesses can backup data to the cloud, giving them access to off-premise copies if they need to recover information
  • Businesses can make use of extra capacity from hybrid cloud storage during peak season, or periods of intense data processing
  • Businesses can run special services on cloud data that might not be available on their local servers

How can business teams use hybrid cloud storage? 

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Hybrid cloud storage has use and utility beyond just IT and engineering (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hybrid cloud storage is great for your IT and engineering teams, but it also has uses beyond that.

Budget and cost control teams

Buying local, on-premise servers and storage is expensive. The hardware, operating systems, and support networks require significant up-front costs, and it will take a while to see a return on investment. Hybrid cloud storage can be used on an as-needed basis, with dynamic pricing, allowing for easier cost control.

Business continuity and disaster recovery teams

It’s always wise to back up your business, customer, and other data in multiple places. With hybrid cloud storage, you can back up data locally and online, uploading full, snapshot, and iterative backups to your cloud servers. That way, if disaster strikes, you’ll have up-to-date copies to get your business on its feet, fast.

Program and project management teams

Hybrid cloud environments are a great way to prototype and test project deliverables. Your project managers and engineers can spin up hybrid cloud storage servers for designing, prototyping, building, and testing products, services, and improvements. Once they’ve proven those concepts in an online environment, they can transition critical processes to your on-premise servers.

Operational processing teams

If you’re in a data-intensive business, your operational and engineering teams are likely to be running resource-intensive batching and other processes on your information. These teams can easily shift data to and from hybrid cloud storage, so it’s in the optimum place for data processing. This will help you avoid capacity and processing limitations, so you can meet business information needs.

IT and development teams

Your IT and development teams can monitor data that’s not required for frequent operations and processing, then move it to your hybrid cloud storage. This allows them to stay on top of your local, on-premise data needs. Developers can ensure that improvements, fixes, and code works across all of your data environments.

What are the features and benefits of hybrid cloud storage?

it professional in a server room

There are multiple benefits of balancing your data storage between local and cloud storage platforms (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Rightsizing hybrid cloud storage services to business needs

There are plenty of hybrid cloud storage solutions out there, and you can choose from multiple solutions based on your business needs. For enterprises and medium to larger businesses, fully-fledged public cloud services like Amazon Web Services (opens in new tab), Microsoft Azure (opens in new tab), Google Cloud (opens in new tab), or HP Private Cloud are a great choice. If you’re a small to medium business, then services like Box (opens in new tab), Dropbox (opens in new tab), SpiderOak (opens in new tab), IDrive (opens in new tab), or Egnyte (opens in new tab) are very affordable and flexible data storage options.

Easily moving data between your local servers and cloud-based environments

Hybrid cloud storage is designed to be fast and simple. You can easily set access rights and permissions for users, environments, and systems. Your users can access and move data through familiar interfaces, and understand where it is at all times. You can ensure that your data is in the optimum environment for access, processing, and integration.

Counting on strong encryption and data security

The best hybrid cloud storage providers have end-to-end encryption to protect sensitive data. This means your information is secure both in transit and at rest (opens in new tab). You can store encrypted data in the cloud, transfer it to your local servers, and decrypt it for ultra-fast processing. You don’t need to compromise on security, speed, or processing power.

Reducing your up-front costs for IT infrastructure

Buying on-premise servers and IT infrastructure is expensive. You’ll need to purchase the servers themselves, cabling services, networks, switches, operating systems, cooling, and much more. A hybrid cloud reduces those costs—you can shift extra data into a cloud environment, giving your local hardware much more capacity and power. Most hybrid cloud storage is based on capacity pricing or subscription costs per user, meaning you only need to pay more when your data needs or workforce increases.

Adapting to changes in data demand and usage

Hybrid storage is ideal if your business experiences data peaks and troughs through the year. You can increase your hybrid cloud capacity during busy times, so you can still get all of your local processing completed quickly. During quiet times, you can keep less-accessed data locally to reduce your hybrid cloud costs. This means you’re not buying expensive hardware just to account for short-term increases in demand and capacity.

How much does hybrid cloud storage cost? 

You can find a full cost and service comparison in our guides to the best cloud storage (opens in new tab), and the best cloud storage for business (opens in new tab). Prices do vary depending on how much data you’re storing and the level of fine-tuning and add-on services that you need. Here’s a quick breakdown.

  • Egnyte (opens in new tab): From $10 per employee a month, end-to-end encryption
  • Box (opens in new tab): From $5 per employee a month, AES 256-bit encryption
  • Dropbox Business (opens in new tab): From $12.50 per employee a month, in transit and at rest encryption
  • SpiderOak (opens in new tab): From $6 per user a month, end-to-end encryption
  • Tresorit (opens in new tab): From $14.20 per user a month, end-to-end encryption

Features do vary between hybrid cloud storage providers, so we recommend shortlisting the ones that come closest to meeting your business needs. You can start a free trial to test out cloud storage vendors to refine your needs and their services. 

Frequently asked questions about hybrid cloud storage 

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There are a wide range of benefits to hybrid cloud storage, though this depends on your business and infrastructure (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Is hybrid cloud storage the best solution for my business?

That depends. If you’ve built your IT infrastructure and services completely on a public or private cloud system, and you do all of your data management and processing in the cloud, then you won’t get any benefits from hybrid storage. But, if you rely on local servers and data storage, then a hybrid cloud gives you lots of flexibility (opens in new tab) to move data around, add capacity, and speed up your processing.

Are there any downsides to hybrid cloud storage?

Assuming you have fast internet access and strong data protection and management policies, there aren’t really any downsides to cloud storage itself. You will want to be aware of the upfront and operational costs of your on-premise IT infrastructure and hardware. 

Local servers, and the support systems and facilities around them can be a significant capital investment. If you’re building or redesigning your IT architecture, it might be better to go with a cloud-only approach rather than local infrastructure supplemented by hybrid cloud storage.

Can hybrid cloud storage meet my specific business needs?

In most cases, yes. Hybrid cloud storage is built to adapt to multiple use cases and scenarios. There are some circumstances where cloud storage may not be ideal. For example, if you’re working with incredibly sensitive information, then you may want to keep all of that data locally rather than uploading it to a hybrid cloud environment.

That’s not because those environments are unsecured, but rather that it could be easy for a user to forget to implement security in a robust and complete fashion. Additionally, if you need ultra-fast processing across enormous amounts of local data, then you’ll need very robust policies for ensuring information is where it’s needed for optimal processing.

Can hybrid cloud storage integrate with other systems and allow for data sharing?

Yes, many cloud storage vendors provide deep integration across multiple technologies, frameworks, and systems. This allows you to collect and manage data from different parts of your business, and store it all in a consistent and logical way. You can also set fine-tuned, advanced rules for data sharing. This allows you to securely share information with third parties.

Should I use a hybrid cloud storage solution for backing up data?

A hybrid cloud can be great for quickly backing up and recovering data for business continuity and high availability purposes. If you want to back up larger amounts of data for longer periods, then there are more cost-effective options than a low-latency hybrid cloud.

What are the main takeaways for hybrid cloud storage services?

  • Hybrid cloud storage solutions give your business lots of flexibility for storing and managing large amounts of data
  • This type of storage is only useful if you already have locally installed, on-premise hardware: if you don’t, then you’re probably better off with an entirely cloud-based architecture
  • Hybrid cloud storage is encrypted and secure, so you can be confident your data is protected
  • There are plenty of options when it comes to hybrid storage vendors, so you can easily find one at the right price point offering the services you need
  • Hybrid cloud storage is ideal for peak season or fast processing needs: you can move surplus data to the cloud, freeing up local servers for the hard work
  • Project management and IT teams can make use of hybrid cloud storage to prototype products, improve services, and carry out other activities before committing local server resources
  • Hybrid cloud storage lets you match your costs to the additional data storage you need

 Further reading on cloud storage

Learn more about the providers discussed above in our comprehensive reviews of Box for Business (opens in new tab) and Dropbox Business (opens in new tab). We've also compiled a range of guides outlining our picks for the best secure cloud storage (opens in new tab); the best cloud storage for photos (opens in new tab); the best apps to share files (opens in new tab); the best free cloud storage (opens in new tab); the best encrypted cloud storage (opens in new tab); the best cloud backup services (opens in new tab); and the best photo storage apps (opens in new tab).

Paul is a professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology. He loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easy to understand. He can quote 'The Princess Bride' in its entirety and believes the secret to good writing is Earl Grey tea.