Hybrid cloud operations falling short? Time to recheck data practices

Digital clouds against a blue background.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

To cloud or not to cloud? Sorry Shakespeare, but that’s no longer a question in today’s digital environment.

In recent years, companies have leaned more heavily on cloud infrastructure — increasingly running a mix of cloud-based services and storage systems across a wider range of environments. In fact, more than 90% of enterprises currently rely on a hybrid or multi-cloud environment capable of blending cloud networks, legacy systems, and on-premises services.

With the cloud firmly entrenched in modern business operations, the decision has moved beyond whether to embrace it or not — now attention has turned toward how to better maximize cloud investments.

You can’t migrate your company’s workloads to the cloud and expect optimal performance overnight. Without dependable infrastructure, proper security defenses, and integrated data sources also in the mix, your business will struggle to unlock the cloud’s full potential — leaving tools unused, capabilities untapped, and digital transformation underdeveloped.

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Mike Albritton

Mike Albritton is SVP of Cloud, at CData.

Balancing hybrid cloud’s challenges and opportunities

There’s no denying the cloud offers companies unprecedented avenues for building the infrastructure best suited to their needs. Larger enterprises in highly-regulated industries may prefer the security of private systems or achieve peace of mind from keeping certain data behind a robust firewall. Alternatively, companies in less stringent industries may look to public cloud providers to reduce management costs and spend fewer resources on ongoing technical maintenance.

Despite this much-needed flexibility, when you fail to address known hurdles head on, the cloud can quickly turn from an asset into a liability. For example, the rise of hybrid cloud solutions has opened a new can of worms in terms of data sprawl, spending, and security. A whopping eight in 10 organizations cite cloud security and managing cloud spending as top challenges in their digital transformation strategy.

When you orchestrate an increasing array of cloud-based applications and services designed to create, share, and store data in various environments, it’s easy to accidentally run up cloud spend. These systems can seamlessly process enormous workloads and data volumes. However, without well-established parameters, that means a more complex task like pulling unstructured data in Snowflake or training a new AI model can quickly — and unintentionally — become a costly endeavor. No one appreciates getting hit with a surprise massive bill, especially with IT budgets already stretched thin.

In addition, the complex, distributed nature of the hybrid cloud makes it more challenging for organizations to secure data spread across various applications, systems, and networks. Only 39% of companies indicate high levels of confidence in their ability to secure data in the cloud.

Because each part of the cloud environment requires its own security protocols and policies, there are more potential openings for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities, especially if your security defenses aren’t compatible or integrated across your entire organization. Likewise, if your teams lack visibility into data stored across various environments, it's even more difficult to track, monitor, and respond to security threats in a timely manner.

No matter the IT infrastructure your company selects, every environment comes with its unique challenges — and the hybrid cloud is no exception. For those interested in hybrid cloud options, success hinges on developing reliable, achievable methods to achieve peak performance.

Five steps to improve your cloud data practices

As cloud applications and services grow in sophistication and complexity, it’s critical to bolster the speed, security, and dependability of your organization’s data operations. Navigating the dual challenges and opportunities of hybrid cloud environments requires dedicated attention and strategy — it doesn't happen on its own.

As you look to improve your cloud performance, scale operations, and set up your business for long-term success, consider these five steps to refine and reinforce your ongoing cloud data practices:

1. Set a clear vision

Data looks different for every organization. The ways you collect, use, and derive value from your enterprise data impacts your cloud infrastructure needs and priorities. But no matter your unique data sources, storage methods, or analytics platforms, all strong data operations start with a robust strategy.

A clear vision for your data operations is the best way to build a technology environment that celebrates and caters to your organization’s uniqueness. Ask yourself: How does my organization currently use data, how could we be more effective, and how can data help us achieve our business goals? From there, identify the cloud technology and tools best positioned to enable and support those specific goals. Which systems are best left on-premises, and how will those cloud and on-prem tools work together to deliver on your needs?

2. Build for scale

While you have myriad choices when developing and deploying data solutions, one thing is certain: Data volumes are growing — and nine in 10 organizations aren’t prepared for the next wave of enterprise data.

Given this future challenge, capacity planning is vital. As you build and upgrade your cloud infrastructure, prioritize systems and solutions that can handle massive volumes of data — and more importantly, that offer the flexibility and scale to keep up as data volumes grow and inputs diversify. The good news is virtual machines, containers, and many other cloud-based features allow you to automatically scale capacity with designated limits based on your real-time processing needs.

3. Connect data across functions

Companies rely on hundreds of different apps and tools in the cloud — resulting in numerous data sources spread across various locations, platforms, and formats. Yet, many organizations still struggle with data silos that prevent teams from accessing the data they need, when and how they need it.

Incorporate data connectivity and accessibility as core components of your cloud infrastructure to ensure all employees can access, share, and benefit from data sources found across your entire organization. In particular, prioritize finding the right third-party data connectivity software vendor to take the complexity and maintenance out of building connections between legacy systems and cloud-based platforms.

4. Vet vendors

If you’re like most companies, your cloud infrastructure likely involves numerous technology vendors, third parties, and contractors. While outside parties provide vital cloud expertise and solutions, they also pose a significant risk: Cyber attacks most commonly target third-party contractors and suppliers.

When working with any vendor or third party, vet whether they adhere to security best practices so your data is well-protected against threats. In particular, check if potential partners are compliant with SOC 2, a set of security and data privacy standards that ensure technology vendors securely manage customer data. These benchmarks provide a solid start to a more compressive vetting process and conversations across partner networks.

5. Continuously strengthen security

Data breaches, hacks, and other cyberattacks remain significant threats on the cloud. 80% of organizations have experienced a serious cloud security incident over the last 12 months. Heightened threats reinforce the need for secure and intelligent data management technologies and practices.

A good place to start is by implementing robust and continuous backups and rapid data restoration solutions, as well as standard security best practices like single sign-on, multi-factor verification, and other zero-trust principles. In addition, roll out ongoing updates and improvements to your data security configuration, such as adopting the latest encryption protocols. Educate employees on new security measures to ensure compliance and buy-in with important safeguards.

Data strategy

Cloud technology has advanced significantly over the past two decades, empowering more organizations to support remote and hybrid work, improve collaboration, efficiency and productivity, and scale operations without constraints. However, realizing these powerful benefits hinges on your ability to access, connect, and protect data across your entire cloud environment.

Today, the question is whether you’re getting the most out of your hybrid cloud setup — and if a new data strategy could make the difference.

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Mike Albritton is SVP of Cloud, at CData. Mike is responsible for executing on the company's cloud application and product strategy.