What is a Hybrid Cloud?

Posted on by Jake Fellows | Updated:
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Wondering what a hybrid cloud is, the benefits of using one, and use cases for achieving optimum flexibility, scalability, and cost savings?

With the rapid pace of cloud adoption in the business sector, it’s never been more critical to understand how the cloud operates. Making sure your organization is getting the most it can out of the cloud may well be the most significant lever for growth in your toolbox. However, the myriad choices not just in your chosen cloud provider but also cloud configuration sometimes leave even the most seasoned CTOs and CIOs grasping to understand what’s best for their needs.

Thankfully, hybrid cloud deployments are relatively straightforward and easy to understand. In this post, we will examine what makes for a hybrid cloud, the benefits and drawbacks of this version of the cloud, and some use cases to provide a clear understanding of these cloud environments.

What is a Hybrid Cloud?

A hybrid cloud is a cloud deployment that utilizes both a private cloud and a public cloud as part of the same infrastructure. Software is used to ensure each service within the clouds communicates effectively and efficiently, helping orchestrate and manage both cloud instances.

By its very nature, a hybrid cloud is flexible and should deliver the best performance, security, and cost optimization possible for a business’s workloads. A hybrid cloud can include on-premise or traditional hosting infrastructure as part of its configuration and hybrid setup.

What is a Hybrid Cloud Setup?

A hybrid cloud setup is a system where some of the computing resources are provided by a public cloud provider, and some are provided by a private cloud provider. This allows organizations to take advantage of the benefits of both types of clouds. For example, they can use the public cloud for burst capacity or applications that are not latency-sensitive. Conversely, they can use the private cloud for applications that require high performance or security.

There are several ways to implement a hybrid cloud setup. The most common is to use a VPN to connect the two clouds. This allows the organization to maintain control over its data and applications while taking advantage of the public cloud provider's resources. Another option is to use a hybrid cloud management platform, allowing the organization to manage its private and public clouds from a single interface.

Utilizing both public and private clouds typically happens when a business has specific requirements that can’t be addressed by using one or the other. For example, sometimes data in the financial space must be stored, by law, in a private cloud while a key application needs the public cloud's scalability. Different use cases demand different cloud infrastructure, which is where hybrid clouds often come into service.

Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud

The benefits of hybrid cloud are flexibility, burstable bandwidth and power, security, and cost optimization.

Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to using a hybrid cloud. By combining public cloud, private cloud, and traditional infrastructure together, IT departments and engineers gain significant flexibility compared to utilizing only one type of infrastructure. The private cloud and traditional infrastructure allow organizations to manage and secure the critical components of their technology stack while also benefiting from public cloud technology's scalability and high-performance of public cloud technology.

Deployments are also significantly impacted as businesses can leverage the burstable bandwidth and power of the public cloud in a matter of minutes. Without this capability, it would be left to the IT department to procure and spin-up new servers as needed. With the public cloud, a third party can handle such a task and provide ongoing maintenance and management.

Additionally, these types of clouds provide security that isn’t available when using only the public cloud. Within the private cloud portion of a hybrid cloud, organizations can be confident that no outside users can access privileged information or data.

Finally, cost optimization is a huge benefit when it comes to deploying both public and private clouds. Because public clouds are consumed in a pay-as-you-use business model, costs are more in line with actual usage. If only using a private cloud or traditional infrastructure, companies may be paying for idle resources not in use with the anticipation of needing them.

Limitations of a Hybrid Cloud

For all the power and flexibility found in a hybrid cloud, a few significant issues can potentially arise.

First, for all the anticipated future cost savings, deploying a private cloud can get expensive. Having two or more types of infrastructure that must be configured and deployed in a way that allows them to work together is far more complicated than having a single type of environment to manage.

Next, while security in a hybrid cloud can be a significant benefit, it can also prove to be a pitfall if not properly monitored. Even with data encrypted in a private cloud, it will likely be accessed and utilized by the public cloud component at some point. Ensuring that the data is safe and secure not only when it makes it to the public cloud but also while it is being transmitted can be a challenge for some organizations.

Finally, future-proofing your public and private clouds for ongoing compatibility between all components can be a chore. Because you’ll have very little control over exactly how the public cloud component of your infrastructure is deployed and managed, you’ll have to work to make sure all integrations and interactions function properly. Even the slightest changes by a cloud provider can cause disruption, just as subtle changes within your private cloud can make it incompatible with your public cloud instances.

Hybrid Cloud Use Cases

The most common use cases of a hybrid cloud are when data needs to be heavily protected (private cloud component) within a site or when an application needs the burstable bandwidth and scalability offered by the public cloud. The medical and financial sectors fall into this category quite often as private patient data or sensitive financial information must be stored differently than other forms of data.

Hybrid cloud environments also come in handy when running workloads privately but backing them up to the cloud. Using public cloud storage is more cost-effective in most cases. Plus, having backups stored outside of your own private infrastructure ensures that you have a reliable restore point safely stored elsewhere in the event of a disaster.

A hybrid cloud can also come in handy when resources and endpoints are distributed over a wide area in large company hosting. Consider logistics organizations or Internet of Things companies that have a large number of devices collecting and receiving data. Leveraging the wider distribution of the public cloud to facilitate the transmission of data is more cost-effective. It will result in superior performance, rather than tasking all of those devices with staying connected to a private cloud.

Hybrid Configurations

A hybrid cloud setup can be a great way to get the best of both worlds – the reliability and security of private cloud infrastructure with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of a public cloud.

There are a few different ways you can set up a hybrid cloud. Some of the more common examples include:

  • Private cloud with public cloud backup: This is where you have your primary applications and data hosted on a private cloud, but you also have a secondary copy in the public cloud that can be used for disaster recovery or scale-out purposes.
  • Public cloud with private cloud backup: This is the reverse of the previous option and can be useful if you want to keep your costs down but still have a reliable backup option.
  • Hybrid cloud with shared storage: This is where you have some data and applications stored on a private cloud and some on a public cloud, but all of the data is accessible from both environments. This can be useful if you need to scale out your infrastructure quickly or want to take advantage of different features from both types of clouds.
  • Hybrid cloud with dedicated storage: This is similar to the previous option, but each type of data is stored on its own dedicated storage system, which can be either on-premises or in the public cloud. This can be useful if you must keep your data separate for security or compliance reasons.

Setting Up a Hybrid Cloud Environment (HCE)

How To Implement a Hybrid Cloud Setup

There are several steps that businesses need to take to implement a hybrid cloud setup:

  1. Assess your computing needs: The first step is to assess your business's computing needs to determine which workloads are suitable for the public cloud and which should remain on the private cloud.
  2. Choose a hybrid cloud management platform: If you decide to use a hybrid cloud management platform, you will need to choose one that is compatible with both your private and public clouds.
  3. Set up your VPN: If you are using a VPN to connect your two clouds, you will need to set it up and ensure it’s working correctly.
  4. Configure your security settings: You will need to configure the security settings for your private and public clouds to ensure that all your data and applications are properly protected.
  5. Test your setup: Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you should test your hybrid cloud setup to ensure it’s working correctly.

Your Current Infrastructure as Part of an HCE

Many businesses already have an existing infrastructure that can be used in a hybrid cloud environment. To use this infrastructure, businesses need first to assess their computing needs and then configure their security settings. Once this is done, they can test their setup to ensure it’s working correctly.

New Investments as Part of an HCE

In order to take advantage of a hybrid cloud environment, businesses need to make some new investments. These investments may include purchasing a hybrid cloud management platform, setting up a VPN, and configuring the security settings for their clouds. In addition, businesses may need to purchase new hardware or software to use the public cloud. However, these new investments can be offset by the savings that companies gain from using a hybrid cloud.

Design of a Hybrid Cloud Environment

When designing a hybrid cloud environment, businesses need to consider various factors, including their computing needs, the compatibility of their clouds, and the security settings for their environment. In addition, companies need to plan carefully in order to ensure that their setup is working correctly.

When assessing their computing needs, businesses need to determine which workloads are suitable for the public cloud and which should remain on the private cloud. This assessment will help companies to decide which type of hybrid cloud setup is right for them.

Deployment of a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Once a business has assessed its computing needs and decided on a hybrid cloud setup, they need to deploy it. This involves setting up the required infrastructure and configuring the security settings. In addition, businesses need to test their setup to ensure that it’s working correctly.

The deployment of a hybrid cloud environment can be complex and requires careful planning. However, the benefits of a hybrid cloud setup can be significant for businesses.

Maintaining a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Once a hybrid cloud environment is up and running, businesses need to maintain it. This includes ensuring that the security settings are up to date, monitoring the performance of the hybrid cloud, and troubleshooting any issues that may arise.

Best Practices for Managing a Hybrid Cloud Environment

There are a few best practices businesses should keep in mind when managing a hybrid cloud environment:

Use a Designated Cloud Management Platform

A cloud management platform can help to simplify the management of a hybrid cloud environment. Businesses can improve their efficiency and reduce the complexity of managing a hybrid cloud by using a platform specifically designed for clouds.

Define Your Cloud Strategy

Before setting up a hybrid cloud, your business should carefully define its overall cloud strategy. This includes identifying the types of data that will be stored on each kind of cloud and the business's specific needs.

Automate Where Possible

Automation can help reduce the manual work required to manage a hybrid cloud environment. By automating tasks such as provisioning and monitoring, businesses can improve their efficiency and reduce the chances of human error.

Is a Hybrid Cloud Right for you?

Choosing what infrastructure is best for your organization is a decision with lasting consequences. The current pace of digital transformation means that decisions made today about your cloud deployments will have far-reaching consequences for years. Whether you choose to incorporate managed cloud dedicated servers from Liquid Web or choose a public cloud provider like AWS, you must examine the benefits and drawbacks as they apply to your specific business.

Our team at Liquid Web has been a leader in the managed hosting and infrastructure sector for two decades. From VPS and dedicated hosting in the cloud to private cloud server hosting, our engineers and cloud architects can expertly work to design, deploy, and manage the right infrastructure for your business. Contact us to learn more about how Liquid Web’s cloud solutions can work for you.

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About the Author

Jake Fellows

Jake Fellows is the Sophisticated Hosting Product Manager for Liquid Web's Managed Hosting products and services. He has over 10 years experience involving several fields of the technology industry, including hosting, healthcare, and IT-system architecture. On his time off, he can be found in front of some form of screen enjoying movies, video games, or researching into one of his many technical side projects.

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