Understanding the pros and cons of hybrid cloud infrastructure starts by understanding what it actually means both in theory and in practice.

Hybrid cloud infrastructure contains elements of private and public clouds

The theory is simple enough.  A hybrid cloud has some cloud infrastructure which is for the exclusive use of a single tenant (a private cloud) and some infrastructure which is shared between multiple tenants according to how the provider manages it (a public cloud). 

Private and public clouds each have their own advantages and disadvantages

Private clouds have the edge on security and may be quicker.  Public clouds can be more flexible and more economical.  If you implement your hybrid cloud infrastructure well you can have the benefit of both private and public clouds, there are, however, some potential downsides.

A hybrid cloud environment is invariably more complex than both private and public clouds

If you’re running private and public clouds then, by definition, you’re running two computing environments.  You may well find yourself running more than that.  For example, if you need to keep some non-cloud infrastructure, at least for the time being, then that’s a third computing environment.  If you want to use different public cloud services, perhaps for back-up, or for different purposes, then that’s another computing environment.

Private clouds can be challenging and/or expensive to implement

There are basically two ways you can implement a private cloud, one is to do it yourself (or contract a firm to do it for you) and the other is to use a third-party vendor.

If you choose to run your private cloud yourself, then you will shoulder all the up-front expense of the initial cloud implementation and have all the responsibility for making it both secure and reliable.  You will have no third-party vendor to call for support if you have issues so you are either going to have to recruit and retain your own in-house expertise or hire consultants.  You are also going to need to manage capacity while keeping within budget. 

If you choose to go with a third-party vendor then you can save yourself all of the up-front expenses and ongoing responsibility, however a private cloud will still cost more than a public cloud and you’re still going to have to play your role in managing both environments.

The first question to ask, therefore, is whether or not you actually need a private cloud at all or whether you would be fine with a public cloud.  If you do come to the conclusion that you need a private cloud, perhaps for security reasons, then the second question to ask is whether or not it’s really worth the extra hassle of implementing a public cloud as well.  In other words, how much is that extra flexibility (and potentially economy) really going to benefit your organization?

The answer to this question will probably depend partly on your size at the moment, partly on the extent to which your capacity fluctuates throughout your business cycle and partly on your plans for growth, however, if it doesn’t look like you’ll get all that much use out of public cloud services any time in the near future, then you might find it easier all round just to stay with a private cloud for the time being and expand to a hybrid cloud later if it becomes necessary and/or desirable.

A hybrid cloud infrastructure can have a lot of security risks

First of all, you’re going to need to make absolutely sure you can host data in the cloud at all and if you can, you’re going to need to make absolutely sure you comply with any restrictions.  For example, can you use a public cloud or do you need to use a private cloud and in either case are there geographic restrictions on where your data can be held (and to where it can be transmitted)?  Get data in the wrong place and you can be looking at major issues with regulators even if nothing untoward has happened to it.

Then you’re going to need to make absolutely sure that you’re implementing security correctly in all your computing environments.

In short

Hybrid cloud environments can allow companies to have the best of both worlds by offering the speed and security of private clouds together with the scalability and economy of public clouds, but this only has value if you actually need all of these factors in the first place.  If you’re a small SMB on a tight budget then sticking with public cloud services is likely to be the most sensible option, unless you really need maximum security and/or speed in which case, just paying for a private cloud may be more sensible than trying to implement a hybrid cloud and getting it wrong.  If, however, you are a larger SMB and are really wanting to make the most of everything private and public clouds have to offer, then hybrid cloud infrastructure could be an excellent choice.