Congratulations on choosing the hybrid cloud. Are you ready to address the challenges that go with it?  

Many IT admins have valid concerns about handing production applications to a third party or the possibility of investing in expensive on-premises infrastructure.

This is why you choose a hybrid solution to begin with. Allowing you to build a flexible environment, it is the most widely used cloud deployment model.

There are many benefits you can capitalize on by combining public and private cloud. However, there are also some challenges you should be aware of.

Security and Compliance in Hybrid Cloud

Compliance and security of cloud storage

One of the most significant challenges you will face with a hybrid cloud deployment is meeting compliance and security requirements. Depending on your industry, you may find specific security requirements challenging to implement across multiple cloud instances.  

Often the number one security challenge is the lack of redundancy, which can be a severe security risk to hybrid cloud deployment. If redundancy is not present, you will not have backup copies of data distributed across your infrastructure.

Backup and failover are vital to any cloud infrastructure. You need to achieve redundancy across the entire data center to eliminate the possibility of data loss and ensure your data stays available even during an outage. If your server goes down, another one is automatically switched on to minimize downtime.

In addition to achieving redundancy, another challenge is demonstrating compliance with industry standards and regulations. You must ensure not only that your public cloud provider complies with relevant standards, but also that coordination efforts between the cloud and on-premises servers are compliant.

For example, if your data includes customer bank and financial data, you will have to demonstrate your infrastructure is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Use our PCI Checklist to ensure you are protected.

Consumers are already skeptical about data breaches, especially incidents such as the Equifax data breach.

When a single attack compromises personal information of over 143 million people, and all the public hears about it, cybersecurity awareness rates grow significantly.

Another critical challenge with a hybrid cloud model is establishing clear identity and access management policies. When you entrust a third-party with access to your critical data, you need to establish new rules for both your and your vendor’s employees. Clearly outlined processes related to who can view, alter, and move files goes a long way in keeping your data safe.

For organizations looking to circumvent the public Internet and have their data transferred via private networks, solutions such as AWS Direct Connect can help achieve compliance. AWS Direct Connect lets you link any cloud application you need directly to Amazon S3 or other Amazon web services.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Vaguely Written SLAs

When you sign an SLA with your cloud or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider, make sure you read the fine print. Your SLA defines many of your critical business processes, so you need to ensure it is fully tailored to your needs.

Ask yourself if you can hold your cloud provider to their SLA. While you already have standards set for your on-premises infrastructure, make sure the cloud provider agrees to the same terms and documents it in the SLA.

You can test this out by sampling data on your on-premises servers under typical workloads and simulate issues that could disrupt service. If one of the primary drivers for your business is keeping sensitive data on your on-premises servers, service level agreement best practices should mirror the security requirements for hosting your data on a private cloud.

Data integration in a cross-cloud deployment

You may choose to keep sensitive data on-premises and other workloads in the cloud. Over a third of cloud users experience errors and downtime with a hybrid cloud. These errors can cost a significant amount of lost revenue and downtime to recover.

Data integration is another issue associated with hybrid cloud deployment models. The accurate data and file versions must be exchanged between the on-premises and cloud servers, which is not always straightforward to achieve. Continuous software updates and patches can contribute to errors in data transport across the data center. Part of this challenge includes real-time access to data that can be impacted due to errors.

How much downtime can your business afford? The question is straightforward, and you should factor it into your deployment and include it in the SLA.  A certain amount of downtime per any given point in time or throughout the year should be acceptable. If your business peaks at specific aspects of the year, your affordable downtime will vary.

Just calculate the amounts of data you can lose if you experience downtime. Besides having it specified in your SLA, you should also consider what kind of disaster recovery solutions your provider offers. If you can eliminate downtime, you will not have to worry about possible business disruptions. This is why it would be smart to think about cloud disaster recovery options at this point.

Rigorous readiness

Business leaders often need rigor in plans and readiness. The more departments participate in making decisions, the more control is required.

For instance, decisions for purchases might prove a strong business case. Some line of business decisions could lack proper analysis without considering the data integration required.

To address this challenge, you must ensure to curb any extraneous decisions that involve expenditures of your infrastructure. Your IT leadership should not be able to arbitrarily decide on how, when, or where data is moved in a hybrid cloud deployment.

They need to have a detailed plan on what workloads should reside in public and private environments. They should ensure critical data such as developer tools, active directory information, and user data are stored in the private cloud. Testing environments, public documents, and less sensitive business information can be outsourced to public cloud providers.

Getting ready for a new infrastructure model also involves new cost management strategies. You need to be confident that your IT, security, business planning, and accounting departments are on the same page regarding costs necessary for hybrid cloud deployment options.

Cloud Applications Developer

Skill gaps in a hybrid cloud environment

One of the most overlooked challenges in a hybrid cloud strategy is training. Does your IT staff have adequate knowledge about how hybrid cloud storage? Do they understand the responsibilities of your data center provider versus their requirements?  

Too often, IT administrators in a multi-cloud infrastructure rely too heavily on the provider to handle everything. When asked how to fill knowledge gaps in such environments, company leaders considered four fundamental data points. They include application architecture design, business processes, application development, and integration development, as well as cloud monitoring and governing.

To fill these gaps, business leaders will have to work with the cloud service provider who already knows the ins and outs of their cloud limits and capabilities. They will also need to train their staff on hybrid cloud computing and develop new cloud management strategies. They should also bring new talent who has past work experience with similar cloud architectures. When in doubt, hire someone who has been around the block a few times in a hybrid environment. They are very likely to be able to offer a new perspective and increased efficiency of daily operations.

Use cases for hybrid cloud architecture

You should learn from others’ past mistakes, so you do not follow down the same path.  Statistically speaking, the total cost of ownership among those who adopted a cloud-based environment was 40% in 2017.

Cloud Technology Partners reported methods for making a business case for cloud deployments. The report also explored the ways a company can quantify cloud benefits.  Regardless of the industry, an organization can expect a total cost of ownership savings of about 40%.

In the Bain Brief last year, 21% of companies reported that they are “safety-conscious” about their cloud environment. This means those who are safety-conscious are more willing to adopt a cloud environment.  Many may prefer a private cloud due to regulations and compliance rules based on the industry.

Right Scale reported that hybrid cloud adoption is up and private cloud adoption is down.  The percentage jumped 3% between 2017 and 2018 and will most likely grow a few more percentage points this year.

public private and hybrid clouds

Hybrid cloud network elements

The network is a critical component when working in a hybrid cloud environment. The assumption by most application developers is that all application components reside close to each other.

In a hybrid cloud environment, this is not the case. While physically and virtually separated, the two settings must be linked correctly. Correct mapping of network topology can help in overcoming the problem. This process will involve security and latency among multiple layers between the internal and external resources.  

Trusted data centers already have an answer to the connectivity issue and deploy hybrid cloud solutions to respond to the challenge. Your applications must be able to run seamlessly within the environment. To do this, you may need to host specific applications with network dependencies in one place or the other (on-premises or in the cloud).

Depending on the application’s size, you will have to run it on its own stack in one environment or the other. Hybrid management should be viewed operationally to find a solution on the infrastructure.

Finding the proper cloud technology balance

A hybrid cloud deployment involves finding common ground for flexibility between the two environments within the same infrastructure. This flexibility may include the use of public cloud resources for testing and staging.

The basics of components in both environments should include how each is operated and how the application programming looks. One of the main challenges with this is that business and technology solutions seek the lowest common denominator to offer a seamless experience for users.

Your employees should be able to perform their daily work without noticing in which part of the environment they are working. As long as they experience the same speed, security, and bandwidth, they will not even know the difference.

Advantages of hybrid cloud storage

Another thing to keep in mind is the stability you will require in your computing environment. Do you plan to grow your business over the next few years?  Will you be splitting up your departments?  

These are all important considerations of the scalability of your hybrid cloud. With scalability comes scaling costs. What will happen if you need to increase cloud usage and storage?  This may be included in the SLA so check with your cloud provider. If you need the flexibility to scale up or down or place some of your business capabilities behind a firewall, what flexibility will your hybrid cloud have to do this and in what capacity can this be accomplished?

In other words, if you need to add or delete users to the environment, will they be using both on-premises and cloud resources? As previously mentioned, your SaaS applications may require more capacity in the future than they did when you first deployed them over the network. Think of it like this, the more data you add, the more storage you will need.  You may also wish to consider the age of the data and performing a periodic cleanup. Why waste storage space by holding onto old data you will never need to use again?

Compatibility challenges

Cross-compatibility is another challenge you may face in a hybrid cloud. With two levels of infrastructure – on-premise and the public cloud – the odds are that both will operate on different stacks. 

Will your IT administrators be responsible for managing both with the same tools or will they have to learn how to use new ones based on what your cloud provider uses? Will the cloud provider offer the flexibility for your administrators to use whichever tools they need to for continuity across the entire environment?

Governance in hybrid environments

Another challenge to overcome is to develop a list of best practices when governing your hybrid cloud. The five critical elements of cloud computing include broad access to network resources, resource pooling, measured service, on-demand self-service, and elasticity.

Additionally, you may want to develop best practices that focus on evolving automation. Do not forget to communicate this to your users.  It is always a best practice to inform your users about any network changes, so they are aware of what is happening behind the scenes. They can also help by acting as your watchdogs to report any errors or anomalies they incur daily.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution

Every business requires a unique solution to address a variety of business challenges. The computing environment adapts to the business needs and meets multiple efficiency criteria.

Consider different factors such as cost, scalability, reliability, security, and compatibility. Of course, data safety is a significant challenge, but you need to find a hybrid cloud that meets all your needs. You should consider what your business needs are now and what they may be in the future. Only then you can find a cloud provider capable and willing to meet those needs.  Whether your needs change six months from now or six years from now, you need to go with a cloud solution that will be able to support your business long term.

Discuss your security, performance, and SLA needs with the cloud service provider. Make sure you tackle these common issues before they grow into a serious challenge. Make sure you understand what your cloud infrastructure should deliver and how you can achieve consistency across the entire environment. The sooner you address this, the sooner your business will be on its way to boosted efficiency.