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Our 5-minute guide to hybrid cloud storage

What are the benefits and challenges of hybrid cloud storage?

Hybrid cloud storage

Hybrid cloud storage is a combination of internal and public cloud storage to meet the organisation's needs. It is of critical interest to companies who, for motives of compliance or security, wish to maintain most or all their data on-premises, while making use of the advantages of the public cloud.

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This strategy means that businesses can take advantage of the scalability, dependability, and cost savings of public cloud storage, whilst also utilising the additional security and full control of private cloud storage.

With an estimated 68% of businesses either having deployed a hybrid cloud storage model or preparing to within the next year, it's clear that companies can see the rewards of the technology and are finding ways to address fundamental concerns around security and expense.

Benefits

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 taking 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.

Challenges

The adoption of hybrid cloud storage adds a new set of concerns that never existed for storage environments that prevailed behind the corporate firewall. Almost half of European organisations agreed or strongly agreed that it is more complex to manage privacy and data protection regulations in a cloud environment than on-premises networks, so it is no surprise that the prospect of extending a storage environment outside the relative safety of the company datacentre via the internet involves additional risks.

Data security can often appear at odds with the accelerated development expectations in the age of the cloud, but it doesn't have to be if there's a hybrid cloud framework in place that can automate data security policies while continuing to enable the on-demand capabilities of hybrid cloud storage.

Cost management is another essential concern, as a hybrid cloud environment presents a whole new set of pricing variables based on storage capacity, performance, location, movement, and availability options - not to mention that it is challenging to track storage usage across multiple cloud platforms.

There are several other challenges such as performance, legacy application support and system management which at present have no straightforward answers, but many of these will be settled with future improvements in hybrid cloud storage management technology.

Recommendations

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. 

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