The Benefits and Drawbacks of Hybrid Cloud Storage

A hybrid cloud approach to data storage takes advantage of both cloud and on-premises resources, combining the capabilities of private and public clouds to form an integrated storage architecture. The approach promises significant benefits for enterprises of all types and sizes, including scalability, agility, and cost-savings.

With a hybrid cloud, organizations gain a flexible and agile data storage solution, providing redundancy both locally and across geographies, says Cindy LaChapelle, a principal consultant with technology research and advisory firm ISG.

Hybrid cloud storage introduces three main benefits: scalability, cost management, and control of data, notes Trevor Norcross, a director at business management advisory firm MorganFranklin Consulting.

While hybrid cloud storage can be approached in many different ways, it’s often helpful to begin by identifying a small subset of applications to deploy as a pilot, Norcross says. “This can be used to test all aspects of utilizing a new storage architecture, including technical feasibility, program governance, and cost management.” He adds that it’s important to be deliberate and thorough about testing specific low-risk scenarios, such as low-cost cloud storage, when archiving legacy data or using redundant storage to introduce high availability.

Key Advantages

A hybrid cloud can give adopters an efficient and cost-effective way to store infrequently used data. “Archival solutions in the cloud provide long-term storage and access to archival data without responsibility for maintaining the currency and availability of the underlying infrastructure,” LaChapelle explains. “The client organization only needs to supply the underlying interface and applications required to access that data store.”

Hybrid clouds also allow small- to medium-sized businesses to leverage cloud-based solutions that provide enterprise-level backup and disaster recovery solutions without investing in an expensive infrastructure. “These solutions still need to be carefully architected, however, to ensure that retrievals from cloud-based storage environments can be accomplished easily and quickly and in a fashion that supports their recovery times and ensures business continuance,” LaChapelle says.

Hybrid cloud storage architecture adopters are free to design applications that utilize on-premises storage for speed of access while keeping the power of the cloud at their fingertips if they need to allocate and use more storage than they have immediately available on-premises, Norcross says. Additionally, costs can be controlled based on decisions related to the storage location. “Continually adding storage to an on-premises data center can quickly become expensive, but the flexibility to use cloud storage on demand provides alternative price and performance points to choose from.”

On the Downside

Drawbacks to hybrid cloud storage include the challenge of simultaneously supervising and monitoring multiple storage pools, as well as finding the talent needed to manage a distributed storage architecture. “Additionally, different tools may be needed to monitor storage in multiple locations, and some organizations may find it difficult to view everything at once under a ‘single pane of glass,’” Norcross notes. “There are also different skillsets required to manage storage in an on-premises enterprise storage area network — as opposed to being able to effectively manage storage in cloud environments — and some organizations may find it challenging to find IT personnel with the right experience to accomplish this.”

Although the hybrid cloud environment seamlessly integrates private and public cloud, onboarding new IT capabilities to the environment can introduce new security issues and concerns, warns Kurt Seifried, a director with the Cloud Security Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes best cloud computing security practices. “Generally speaking, the usual cloud security risks are applicable, but when it comes to hybrid clouds, special attention needs to be paid to areas such as compliance and data security, thanks to the interconnection between the public and private clouds.”


Many organizations have already begun migrating storage applications and data to the cloud. “It’s important, however, to make applications cloud-ready and not just do a ‘lift and shift’ with no plan to take full advantage of the benefits of cloud-based solutions,” LaChapelle cautions. “The best way to recognize the benefits of a hybrid cloud solution is to fully map the current state application, data, and system dependencies in the on-premise environments before beginning the journey to the cloud.”

“Key attributes to look for in a hybrid cloud solution provider include flexibility and ease of data migration without the encumbrance of proprietary technologies, which could limit the ability to change providers,” LaChapelle advises. “The provider should demonstrate their understanding of the complexities of the interactions between the cloud and on-premise environments and potential performance or cost implications of their suggested architectures.”

Considering the growing number of providers and solutions, organizations should evaluate their needs first, Norcross says. “Every provider will have an innovative new offering with a lot of hype and marketing behind it.” he explains. “However, it’s critical to assess how [the vendor] meets specific technical and business needs, as well as how it integrates with existing IT systems, before making what could be a hefty investment.”

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