Weighing the pros and cons of a hybrid cloud model

The hybrid cloud model holds a number of benefits and risks. Read about which ones may be the most valuable, as well as the most concerning, to your company.

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What you’ll learn in this tip: Switching to a hybrid cloud model can be beneficial for many organizations, with lower costs, off-site storage and data management taken care of outside the company. At the same time, hybrid clouds bring a number of risks to the table, including security concerns and latency issues. In this tip, learn how to do a true analysis of any hybrid cloud storage solution.

Tevye, the main character in Fiddler on the Roof, constantly vacillated between “on the one hand... but on the other hand...” when trying to make a decision. Considering the most common storage implementations of cloud services come in the form of hybrid cloud projects, data storage managers may find themselves in a similar quandary. It’s not always easy to tell whether a hybrid offering is the best of both worlds or simply too good to be true. Here are some pros and cons to consider when examining hybrid cloud storage offerings.

Hybrid cloud model pros:

Lower cost. For organizations with large amounts of inactive data, it may be cheaper to store data at a third-party facility on high-capacity drives or compressed drives. A hybrid cloud appliance, along with tiering software, can keep more active, mission-critical data near the processing units and move inactive data to the cloud.

Data location. Active data can be moved from a low-cost cloud repository to access points located closer to the ultimate consumer. This can offer the ideal balance between low-cost storage and high-speed access. Media files are a great example of this data location change. Again, tiering software is a key enabler.

Off-site storage. Most cloud providers can offer secure data centers. In many cases, this offers significant advantages over an office tower setting, which is typical of many corporate data centers. Off-site storage can be a platform for business continuance or data archiving to minimize any chance of data loss.

Data management. As part of their service, cloud providers offer a range of data services, such as replication, backup and service-level guarantees. This relieves the IT staff from performing such duties so they can focus on higher-value activities.

Pay as you go. Seasonal or cyclical organizations may need high amounts of compute resources in bursts. Using a hybrid cloud provider can give access to these resources on short notice. Pay only for what's used, when it’s used and for how long it’s used.

Hybrid cloud model cons:

Security. Encryption and other technologies can minimize the risk of data theft or nefarious snooping. There’s no doubt, however, that moving data outside of the data center opens another avenue to potential intrusion.

Complexity. Adding hybrid cloud appliances or software complicates the infrastructure. Although many vendors are pitching a reduction in management and IT costs, it’s true that you're also managing a third-party relationship.

Latency issues. There’s a reason so many vendors and solutions are targeted at eliminating cloud storage latency issues -- it continues to be a challenge. The good news is that this is exactly where many hybrid cloud offerings are trying to make their mark, with appliances that make cloud storage appear like local, data center storage. Yes, there are options for addressing it, but latency remains a key concern in any cloud strategy.

Supplier failure. Most major storage vendors now have a cloud offering or partnership, but those that survived the dot-com bubble burst know what it’s like to have technology companies suddenly close up shop. Having your data trapped in a padlocked building brings new meaning to the term "disaster recovery."

Cost management. The good news about cloud is that new systems can be spun-up almost instantly. The bad news is that this can trigger unforeseen and uncontrolled cost events. Without firm controls, this is the equivalent of a blank check. This starts with transaction charges, the price of moving data in and out of the cloud. Sometimes these aren’t well understood during the SLA process.

After considering all the factors above, the final decision comes down to weighing your options and deciding what makes the most sense for your company.

BIO: Phil Goodwin is a storage consultant and freelance writer.

This was first published in October 2011

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