Are you considering using a hybrid cloud for your small business? There's a chance it might not be the best solution to fit your needs.
Although many cloud experts predict that the future is in hybrid clouds – infrastructures that use a combination of private and public clouds – some small businesses may not benefit from what they have to offer. To find out if a hybrid platform is suitable for your small business, first consider the four primary reasons to use a hybrid cloud: costs, ability to scale, data continuity and compliance.
"The top reasons to consider a hybrid cloud [that spans] on-premise and public cloud are costs and ability to scale," said Lynn LeBlanc, CEO and founder of hybrid cloud provider HotLink. For instance, public cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) has reduced its prices 42 times in the past few years and has five times more capacity than its next 14 competitors combined, she explained. Combine that with an on-premise cloud and a hybrid infrastructure, and it becomes a smart financial choice for businesses, she added. "Never in history have companies been able to purchase computing resources at such a low cost and with such ease," LeBlanc said. [Read Related Article: What is a Hybrid Cloud?]
Additionally, small businesses that store critical data can also benefit from a hybrid cloud. A private and public cloud environment both provides data continuity – access, backup and recovery in the event of an outage – and makes it easier for businesses to stay compliant.
"Storing critical data outside the cloud is not only recommended for continuity [when cloud vendors fail], but might even be required if you need to be in compliance with certain legislation," said Bart van de Garde, chief of technology and innovation at IT management company Jitscale.
Furthermore, using both an on- and off-premise infrastructure gives businesses better control over their and their customers' private information. "So if a small business had sensitive data, like customers' Social Security numbers or credit card information, the organization can feel confident in ensuring its customers' safety, security and anonymity [in a private cloud], while storing less-sensitive or ubiquitous data in the public cloud," van de Garde said.
If your business doesn't have enough employees, customers or other operational factors to reap these benefits, either a public or private cloud — not both — would be a more suitable option than a hybrid.
Can a small business ever be too small for a hybrid cloud?
Whether a small business is too small for a hybrid cloud depends on the business's individual circumstances — not its size.
"A micro business with five to 10 users and average data volumes, especially if not all users are in one place, may not benefit too much from a hybrid approach," said Rani Osnat, vice president of strategic marketing and customer experience at cloud provider CTERA.
On the other hand, businesses that either generate large amounts of data or have a dozen or more users would benefit from a hybrid approach, Osnat said. This is particularly true for businesses whose access to data is critical (e.g., finance, insurance and law); those that don't have reliable broadband connections (e.g., those in remote areas); and those located in areas prone to disasters (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, heavy snowfalls), he added.
This means that regardless of their size, small businesses requiring high levels of data security can also benefit from a hybrid cloud.
"One universally relevant hybrid IT use case is data protection," LeBlanc said. This includes everything from data backup to disaster recovery and IT business continuity, she added. "Computing and storage for data-protection purposes effectively act as an insurance policy," LeBlanc said.
As such, the type of business, rather than its size, might be a more important reason to choose a hybrid cloud solution.
"Even in a one-person business, it might be feasible to run part of the IT environment in-house and part of it in the cloud," van de Garde said. For instance, even the smallest business can store data locally with a backup in the cloud (or vice versa) for continuity in case of vendor failure, he said. "It is not only the size of the business that classifies the need for a [hybrid] cloud, but the industry the business is in," he noted.
Should your small business use a hybrid cloud?
A hybrid cloud isn't for every small business. To determine if a small business can benefit from a hybrid could, Osnat said business owners should ask themselves the following three questions:
- Is it vital for your users to have fast, reliable access to data?
- Are you concerned with downtime due to a local disaster?
- Do you have many traveling or home-based users who share files with one another and/or customers?
"If you answered 'yes' to two or more of those questions, you should consider a hybrid solution," Osnat said.