The importance of a hybrid approach to cloud transitions

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Cloud is no longer just a buzzword thrown around amongst IT circles. Cloud, whether hybrid, public or private is a fundamental tool. Most business functions are reliant on cloud technology in some capacity. In fact, new statistics from SUSE suggest that 65% of UK businesses are projecting an increase in their use of hybrid cloud over the next two years. However, despite the clear trend towards cloud-based infrastructures, some key issues preventing enterprises from fully transitioning into the cloud remain – particularly when it comes to security and availability.    

There is no doubt that private and on-premise cloud environments are costly and time consuming. Unless organisations are willing to accept a large capital cost, they often opt for a cloud connection over the public internet in order to access the flexibility and scalability afforded by public cloud offerings like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. However, this approach of putting business critical information into the public cloud is often also an organisation’s key concern. Connecting to the public cloud opens up security concerns, potentially putting businesses in breach of their own IT policies, as well as those of regulators. For SMBs in particular, the cost of lost data, coupled with fines and reputation damage – notably with UK GDPR on the horizon – means a breach could negatively impact an entire organisation.  

Latency and outage issues that come with over-the-internet connectivity to public cloud services are also a major concern for organisations. A business doesn’t want to get halfway through transitioning their data and applications from legacy systems to the cloud, only for the connection to fail, running the risk of an unforeseen drawn out process, or even data loss. The limitation with these solutions is that they don’t enable businesses to choose the path their data takes. There is always the risk of insufficient bandwidth and increased data consumption charges – neither of which are conducive to a good worker or customer experience, or to the business’s bottom line.  

Businesses therefore need a reliable route to the cloud, unburdened by unexpected costs, unforeseen connectivity issues or lax security. This hybrid approach – using private connectivity for business-critical apps – is ideal for security-conscious organisations that principally need a cost-effective and flexible connection to the public cloud. 

The evolving cloud landscape    

To understand the true benefits of private cloud connectivity, is to understand the necessity of the progression of cloud and cloud environments, and why embracing cloud is vital in the first place.  

The 2017 State of the Cloud report found that on average, cloud users were running apps in four different clouds, across public, private and hybrid environments, and are likely already experimenting with a further four. It shows us that businesses are increasingly comfortable with cloud computing and are beginning to understand exactly what works for them.  

When defining a cloud strategy, businesses must recognise that it’s not just about the type of cloud environment, alone. Rather, it’s about the services that sit on top or alongside it that can have more of an impact on overall performance. Clearly, the benefits and reach of cloud are wide-ranging and are dependent on the needs of the business. However, when considering a dedicated private cloud connection, there are five specific advantages which should be considered: 

Agility provides businesses with the ability to effectively scale bandwidth up or down as required, enabling greater flexibility.  

Guaranteed security thanks to the dedicated expertise that network providers have on offer and because cloud technology encourages businesses to develop strategic transition plans that take into account any potential risks or threats.

Business continuity from the cloud services offering an affordable alternative to costly infrastructure and expertise which businesses currently employ.

Improved productivity as cloud computing enables users to work from any location and on any device. As a result, they’ll get increased collaboration between members and teams while also providing the ability to access, edit, share and create documents without needing to be in the same room.   

How to take full advantage of the public cloud connection

We have critical mass when it comes to adoption of cloud technology, and businesses have finally woken up to the many benefits associated with it. The next logical step is a compulsory review of business IT strategies and processes. Part of that will mean a move away from the ageing, legacy equipment and a shift towards cost-efficient, and more flexible hybrid cloud solutions.  

The need for reliable, high-capacity internet access to the public cloud is a solution that is still untapped. It’s the missing link for organisations across different sectors which a mixture of mission-critical and lower-priority applications. Increasingly, vendors are offering a solution in the form of a private dedicated Ethernet connection to a preferred public Cloud Service Provider using their core network, typically terming it as a cloud connectivity solution or ‘Cloud Connect’. At the same time, businesses can enjoy fixed quarterly bills and no large outlays. Importantly, these business benefits are not dependent on using a particular service platform or cloud provider. It works for anyone, anywhere – substantially boosting the potential of the cloud. 

This is especially true for financial services organisations which need immediate and highly secure connectivity. The amount of proprietary data that an organisation can be moving from legacy to cloud at any given time, is a hacker’s paradise and private Ethernet to the public cloud can be the protection required.  

According to Gartner, by 2020 ’Cloud Shift’ will affect more than $1 trillion in IT spending. Clearly, cloud spending is not slowing down anytime soon. But businesses run the risk of not considering how their software and applications actually get to the cloud, least of all the security risks they could be exposed to by using the public internet versus a proprietary Ethernet connection. One thing’s for certain, sufficient consideration must be given to the cloud transition pathway, one that guarantees zero downtime, boosts bandwidth and protects against increasing cyber threats.    

Conrad Mallon, Chief Network Architect at SSE Enterprise Telecoms

With over 30 years’ experience, Conrad is the Chief Network Architect at SSE Enterprise Telecoms, responsible for delivering and maintaining network architectures, as well as new ground-breaking technologies.