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Our 5-minute guide to hybrid cloud storage

What are the benefits and challenges of hybrid cloud storage?

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Hybrid cloud storage is a method of managing cloud storage by mixing both local, internal storage and that of the public cloud. This is an extremely beneficial way for organisations to maximise their data storage, and to maintain control for compliance and security purposes.

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Some of the many capabilities that hybrid cloud storage can offer include scalability, agility, and the cost benefit of not having to maintain expensive on-premise data centres. Additionally, businesses can take advantage of the security that private cloud storage offers, deciding where they can store their data depending on compliance or regulatory requirements.

According to Faction’s Multi-Cloud Trends Report, The Latest Trends of 2022, 82% of large companies have adopted a hybrid cloud infrastructure, with organisations using on average 2.6 public and 2.7 private clouds.

Moving into 2023, focus will be less on the adoption of hybrid cloud technologies, but more on the expansion and innovation of existing environments to ensure cost efficiencies and security, highlighting the preference of businesses to maintain this technology.

The benefits of hybrid cloud storage

Improved data sharing, mobility and elasticity are the fundamental benefits for hybrid cloud storage environments. By leveraging accelerated networking and cloud gateway caching technologies, organisations are now able to expand the flexibility of their cloud deployments.

To plan an optimal hybrid storage program, I&O groups must have full information about their current storage, so taking steps towards a hybrid cloud model can kickstart having improved visibility into the storage environment as an internal process.

Moreover, the ability to decide between public cloud and on-site storage guarantees a level of confidence for businesses that may need to be careful about where, and how, certain parts of their data corpus is stored. Organisations in heavily-regulated industries, such as banking or healthcare, for example, will need to make sure that sensitive information remains stored in-house, and a hybrid cloud environment enables them to do this while still using the public cloud for the rest of their data.

A shared storage cloud deployment will also let customers apply familiar enterprise storage feature sets such as volume sharing, optimisation, and application integration to their cloud workloads. The cost of such developments is high as they entail storage systems, physical rack space and networking costs, but for burst and seasonal workloads, organisations should see a significant cost saving since they'll be taking advantage of the elasticity of cloud services. 

Risk-averse enterprises can justify the cost of the deployment by emphasising the ability to leverage familiar data protection and storage management capabilities while learning how to optimise workloads in cloud environments. Also, switching cloud providers is likely in the future, so consider colocation networks to make the switch easier.

A good hybrid cloud storage environment should offer the versatility to use resources both on-premises and off, based on a framework capable of policy-based management and intelligent oversight, regardless of physical location. This framework can then automate data lifecycle management, minimise unnecessary duplication and provide long-term visibility into data.

The problems with hybrid cloud storage

Even with the many benefits hybrid cloud storage provides, there comes a new set of challenges that organisations haven’t had to face previously, with their data securely stored on-prem.

Security remains one of the greater concerns, particularly when the security controls of the private cloud can’t extend to the public cloud, leaving room for unmitigated threats. Having a way to automate data security policies could overcome this, as long as they could still enable the on-demand capabilities of hybrid cloud storage.

The 2022 Thales Cloud Security Study revealed that 53% of those surveyed found it more difficult to manage data privacy and protection in the cloud vs. on-premises, so it’s understandable that businesses feel the need for a greater, more robust cyber security policy, and would be adverse to storing all of their data in the cloud.

Hybrid cloud systems could also be more costly. As well as the additional training it requires for staff, and the security measures to enable employee access, the transfer of data across platforms can incur additional costs - not to mention that it is challenging to track storage usage across multiple cloud platforms.

There are several other challenges too, including whether hybrid cloud is suitable for all workflows and legacy systems, but in spite of these issues, use of cloud storage and hybrid cloud storage is growing rapidly.

How to get the most out of hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud symbolises what can be the most effective method for incorporating the highly flexible capabilities and cost reduction afforded by cloud technology, while at the same time maintaining the security and internal control capabilities offered by on-premises infrastructure. That doesn't make concerns around adoption invalid, but few obstacles are insurmountable to businesses who want to use the benefits of a hybrid solution.

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It's important to remember that cloud adoption doesn't have to be a binary choice. Cloud storage resources should be considered simply as another tool in the toolbox, and one that should be used based on the appropriate combination of business application suitability, security, and management issues - as well as cost savings.

Storage technologists should approach hybrid cloud storage as an opportunity to explore capabilities and services that most IT environments could never afford to implement on-premises.

There are also opportunities for storage vendors and cloud storage providers to help customers address security, cost and implementation concerns around hybrid cloud storage, as the benefits of the technology become more widely accepted.

This article was first published on 14/10/2019, and has since been updated.

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