Is a hybrid IT environment right for my company?
Should your company's applications and data be held locally, or in the cloud?
Perhaps the answer is not one or the other, but both.
Enterprises are increasingly shifting toward hybrid IT, an optimized infrastructure model that blends cloud-based environments, co-location and on-premise solutions to run their business applications and store data. This flexible, tailored approach can increase profitability, performance and security by enabling companies to optimize their IT strategy and control IT spending. For instance, by offloading some data and applications onto the cloud, an enterprise can avoid some costs related to servers and networking while maintaining faster on-premise processing for sensitive or mission-critical business needs and data. This allows for greater control over access, which is important for organizations looking to mitigate risk.
Every enterprise has its unique set of circumstances, meaning there is no one perfect solution. Finding the right combination for your enterprise — whether the answer is hybrid IT, or something else — requires first assessing the specific and unique needs of your company. In this article, we'll provide an overview of hybrid IT and help you determine whether it is a good fit for your organization by answering four key questions.
What is hybrid IT?
Hybrid IT, as the name suggests, is based on finding the ideal combination for how your enterprise's data and applications can be optimally stored and managed.
But first, we should clear up a common misconception. While the terms "hybrid IT" and "hybrid cloud" are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Hybrid cloud refers to the use of a public and private cloud for an organization, while hybrid IT refers to using on-premise infrastructure for some services, applications and data, and a public-private cloud provider for others.
Balancing that split requires evaluating potential costs and benefits, versus data privacy and regulatory needs. For instance, cloud solutions can help work-from-home employees access company materials with greater ease. But mission-critical applications may be best managed on-premise.
“At the end of the day, it's recognizing that there is a breadth of platforms and computing resources that are available," says Jeremy Tamm, VP of sales and marketing for TELUS International's managed digital solutions. “Rather than having some homogeneous computing platform that solves every business problem, there's a recognition that [organizations] should be using multiple different platforms to be able to provide the best blend of security, risk mitigation, availability, resiliency and performance."
Hybrid IT has become increasingly popular in recent years because it offers more flexibility for companies as demands, needs and costs change. Enterprises that are looking for more options for data deployment and use often turn to a hybrid IT solution. While the rise in hybrid IT has often been scattershot, Tamm advocates for organizations to consider a more planned and thoughtful process when evaluating their needs.
Determining your ideal IT mix
Tamm says determining how to achieve the greatest ROI from your enterprise's infrastructure mix involves answering four key questions:
- Who are the users of the applications and data, and what are their characteristics? If your workforce is geographically decentralized, a cloud-based system may be attractive. If employees regularly need access to sensitive documents, a private cloud or on-premise storage location may be ideal.
- What type of data goes into the system, and how often is this system changing? Certain businesses have a greater sensitivity around speed, which will impact the ideal IT infrastructure mix. For example, financial services often require extremely low latency, since every millisecond is critical in trading. This would often favor an on-premise model with proximity to the adjacent trading related systems. On the other hand, a seasonal business would benefit from the cloud since it would save the expense of additional servers and networks that would only be needed temporarily.
- How often does the information in this system have to be audited or reported? The more mission-critical and sensitive a company's data and applications are, the more advantageous it is to have them held in isolated environments. According to Tamm, these types of systems often need a greater level of risk mitigation, availability and honorability. Why treat every system you have with the same operational, security and controls framework?
- How does your organization weigh security, performance and availability? It is important to remember that every option you choose — whether to have your data on-premise, co-located, private cloud or public cloud — involves a trade-off. As an organization, it is valuable to rank security, performance and availability in order of importance. The public cloud is preferred for enterprises that highly value scalability and consumption variability, while private cloud increases security, performance, and often, subject to the quality of application development and systems configuration, availability.
Tamm also advises that organizations maintain a level of flexibility and scalability with their particular hybrid IT mix, as circumstances in the future may necessitate change. For instance, an organization may launch an application in a public cloud with the intention of benefiting from the low cost of market entry and agility, only to later encounter new security risks and cost pressures that make a private cloud or on-premise storage preferable.
By asking the four questions listed above, your organization will better understand the value or drawbacks of having your data and applications on-premise, in a public cloud or in a private cloud. In addition, organizations should continually come back to these four questions to determine if changing circumstances alter the ideal hybrid IT mix.
What types of businesses benefit most from hybrid IT?
According to Tamm, the size of your enterprise and your overall constituency will impact how beneficial hybrid IT will be.
A large enterprise, says Tamm, can often benefit from adopting hybrid IT more easily because the enterprise can rely on having a procurement team, operations team and monitoring team to help with a smooth execution. In addition, since a large enterprise already has multiple departments, a shift to hybrid IT will not typically involve the need to create new systems. In comparison, the costs associated with creating different types of systems, along with the costs of managing hybrid systems, may make a standard platform more attractive for a smaller business. A potential option for small businesses looking to capture the value of hybrid IT without the need of building up people, operations and systems is to utilize a service provider that handles this.
If there is one thing that is clear from the rapid evolution in how application and data can be stored and managed, it's that the options for any organization have greatly increased. Hybrid IT offers flexibility that can adjust to the particular risks, auditing needs and performance requirements of your organization. By continually revisiting the key questions that affect the value of your infrastructure, you'll be able to find your optimal IT mix.