Many people think of the cloud as some magical place their data goes when they save something to OneDrive, but its actually a lot more complicated than that. The cloud, as most people think of it, doesn't exist. A more accurate description might be "The Clouds".
This is what most people are familiar with. A company such as Microsoft or Amazon, provide you with storage, compute, and other services, on a shared platform with the general public.
This is used day in day out by all sizes of business, however there are some reasons why you may not wish to use this model. Certain regulatory frameworks or operational requirements may require some of your data to be stored onsite, or in a specific geographical area. Not all Public Cloud providers support these types of requirements. You may also have existing investment in on-site infrastructure that you wish to keep using.
Public cloud is generally billed on a Pay-As-You-Go model, which is great for smaller businesses, as the expense is purely OPEX, and scales with the business with no unexpected capital outlay needed. An additional benefit of Public Cloud is scalability, you can easily scale your services or IT needs with no upfront cost, in a matter of minutes, rather than days or weeks.
Private cloud is broadly speaking, owning the hardware that your services run on, and hosting them either at your premises, or by renting rack space in a datacentre (AKA Co-Location). While this reduces OPEX in some cases, it greatly increases the CAPEX upfront, and recurs additional CAPEX at each upgrade cycle, or whenever your needs outsize your investment. Additionally, with Public (or Hybrid) cloud, you can easily downsize your systems if your needs or priorities shift, where-as with Private cloud, this is generally not an option.
Hybrid cloud is a combination of Public and Private cloud. This enables you to get the best of both worlds. You get the scalability and flexibility of public cloud, with the control and regulatory compliance of Private Cloud. There are several different ways to implement Hybrid cloud, and they're not all really the same thing.
Another meaning of Hybrid Cloud, is the use of multiple Public cloud providers, to allow for the use of different services available on each. This approach is better described as a "cross-cloud" or "multi-cloud", rather than Hybrid Cloud.
What about Small Businesses?
For a start-up, or company that hasn't yet made much investment in IT infrastructure, the choice is clear. Public Cloud provides scalable, reliable, and easily managed infrastructure with little to no capital expenditure required.
Many existing companies may have invested in a small amount of IT infrastructure, such as one or two Windows servers running Active Directory, to allow managed sign-on and data storage. When that company wants to leverage the abilities and productivity of cloud systems, they're left with an issue. Do they scrap their existing investment and move to a cloud first IT model, or keep their existing servers and integrate them into their cloud providers solution?
Most Cloud providers don't have good support for integrating existing onsite services, such as Active Directory. Microsoft Azure however has support for Azure Hybrid Sync, which allows you to synchronise your onsite Active Directory with your Office 365 and other cloud services. Microsoft Intune also allows for devices to be provisioned and managed in the cloud through your onsite servers. Over time you may choose to continue to grow your onsite investment into a full Hybrid Cloud, or move forward with Cloud first technologies and eliminate onsite server requirements.
Additionally, Azure allows Hybrid Use Benefit, which reduces the cost of hosting Windows Servers or SQL Servers on Azure significantly.
As a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider, IT+X can help you find the best solution for your organisation. Get in touch to find out more.