Hybrid Cloud Pros and Cons

Here is a quick guide to hybrid cloud pros and cons for anyone who might be considering implementing a hybrid cloud in 2020.

A brief guide to hybrid clouds

Hybrid clouds mix together elements of private clouds and public clouds.  For completeness, a private cloud is simply a cloud which is used by one tenant.  It may be hosted on-premises or it may be hosted offsite by a third-party provider, but it is only used by one, specific client.  A public cloud, by contrast, is shared by unrelated clients, which means that unless you are actually a cloud service yourself, it will always be hosted externally.  Well-known public cloud services include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Hybrid cloud pros and cons tend to be two sides of the same coin.

The pros of hybrid clouds all tend to revolve around the fact that they basically offer companies the opportunity to “have their cake and eat it” by combining the security of a private cloud with the flexibility (and opportunities for significant cost savings) of public clouds.  The cons of hybrid clouds all tend to revolve around the fact that they can be much more complex to implement than straightforward private clouds or public clouds.  Let’s look at what this means in practice.

Flexibility versus complexity

These days some companies may be effectively forced to use private clouds to keep regulators happy and even those which are not may choose to “play safe” and go down this route anyway.  Private clouds can offer many advantages over traditional IT infrastructure, but, at the current time, it is highly unlikely to be as cost-effective as public clouds, so companies might prefer to split their data and apps across two systems, using the private cloud for anything sensitive and public clouds for anything non-sensitive.

This sounds easy on paper, but in reality implementing a hybrid cloud can be a whole lot more complex than “just” implementing a private cloud or a public cloud.  To begin with, you can’t “simply” do one, single lift-and-shift migration, perhaps to a containerized cloud infrastructure and then start reworking your apps in the cloud.  As a minimum you’re going to need to undertake two distinct migrations (one for the private cloud and one for the public cloud) plus think about how the two systems are going to interface with each other.

Get this right and you can have the best of both worlds.  Get it wrong, however, and you could find yourself wasting so much time and money on hassle you could have avoided that you might well end up wishing that you’d just paid up for a full private cloud.

Cost control versus lack of cost transparency

Even though private clouds can work out more economical than traditional IT infrastructure (and offer extra benefits), they still need to be provisioned in a similar way.  If you’re planning on running your own on-premises private cloud, then you’re essentially going to be facing the same sort of resourcing issues as you did before you moved to the cloud.  If you use an external provider then you may have more scope for flexibility, but there are probably going to be some limits, for example a commitment to a minimum processing volume over a certain period of time.

Public clouds, by contrast are all about flexibility and can offer great opportunities for cost optimization so that you only pay for what you need.

The problem may come when you start mixing the two, especially if you need to move data between the public cloud and the private cloud and start incurring charges for the traffic.  You then have to try to figure out what is legitimate usage (and what, if anything, you can do to reduce costs) and what is just people being people and doing what is convenient rather than what is most cost-effective. 

If you go for a hybrid multicloud architecture, then life could become even more complicated as different cloud services can apply different prices and pricing structures to what is essentially the same service, plus you have the potential for even more traffic moving between the different cloud platforms.

Disaster recovery versus security concerns

Public clouds and externally-hosted private clouds have in-built resilience to them.  It is, quite literally, your cloud vendor’s job to do whatever it takes to keep services running and they will build their business around that fact.  For example, they will set up their facilities in buildings and areas which offer maximum security and stability, rather than maximum convenience for staff and customers.

At the same time, handing over any data to an external party basically means that your security is only as good as theirs.  Now, for some SMBs this may not be an issue, especially since SMBs at the smaller end of the scale may not have the means to implement effective security on their own.  For others, however, it could be a major concern which would need to be addressed very seriously.

multi cloud cost management