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Hybrid cloud, in many ways, is like a strange beast with multiple personalities! It can act as local storage, it can act as a remote file server, it can be an FTP server, you can access it via tablet, smart phone or desktop and it keeps track of the work of a team including you, your colleagues, partners and customers!
In a nutshell, a hybrid cloud storage solution, the cloud (#1 in the figure), acts as an intermediary that maintains a super set of your data, with the local cloud acting as the primary storage.
- The cloud data can be accessed via a browser or a mobile device
- The local cloud storage can be a set of NAS devices or virtual appliances in your
- Talking about what I know best, Egnyte has precisely tuned sync algorithms that are capable of syncing the Local Cloud instances with the Egnyte cloud continuously, on demand, or periodically.
- The local cloud /NAS boxes residing in the head and branch offices would be accessed by mapping drives. Users also have access to the directories they need, in any office and on the road. As the cloud syncs all the files, there is no need to send files via e-mails, or old fashioned "Sneaker-net".
- The permissions and groups are maintained consistently and coherently across the local and remote clouds. Customers can work off browsers and access the appropriate files in the cloud, collaborating with the company's employees.
In many ways the hybrid cloud is the answer to Paul Samuelso's dilemma "have one's cake and eat it too...;"
If your local NAS box (or the laptop hard disk) crashes, the remote cloud acts as backup; and the local cloud acts as backup if your cloud service goes down.
Hybrid cloud storage is an approach to managing storage that uses both local and off-site resources. Hybrid cloud storage solution is the most practical way to address the business need to maintain some resources in-house and others online (in the cloud).
The cloud portion of a hybrid storage cloud provides the ability for secure and controlled access to data anywhere (inside and outside an organization) with any device, using Internet access.
The hybrid portion of a hybrid cloud storage solution refers to the local storage, also called local cloud. This local storage can be a network-attached storage (NAS) device or virtual appliance, and provides data access at LAN speeds that is not dependent on the Internet.
The cloud acts as an intermediary that maintains a superset of the data, with the local cloud acting as the primary storage.
Why is cloud storage computing efficient?
- Easy file sharing with a distributed workforce, customers and partners.
- Central storage location — with control (folder permissions, user permissions and sub-folder sync) and visibility (via audit reports).
- Device-agnostic — accessible by many devices.
- Mobile access i.e. accessible anywhere
The main advantage of hybrid cloud storage is device agnostic access to files from anywhere, still maintaining fast, uninterrupted local access within the office, and achieving security and access control. From an IT organization perspective, aligning with a hybrid cloud storage enables them to provide services to end users instead of managing an infrastructure.
Here is an interesting article appeared in San Jose Mercury News. Their conclusions are very relevant:
- We have more devices (phones, laptops, tablets), so we have more reasons to access files on all those gadgets.
- People started working outside the office more; making it even more important to keep those files up to date.
- Networks got faster, making it easier to share files.
A perfect recipe for hybrid cloud storages, indeed!
How does cloud storage help BYOD?
BYOD is a recent trend — it means Bring Your Own Device; employees are free to bring their own devices and use them for work, instead of the company providing a set of fixed devices. This poses challenges for the IT folks, as the devices cannot be secured via uniform security policies.
The hybrid cloud storage provides the best approach in this scenario. The IT folks can implement folder permissions, utilize audit reports and so forth using the storage cloud, while employees can access the data from anywhere with any device.
Business agility is the ability to distribute, share, access and act on information as quickly as possible.
- With the modern digital evolution and social media, the velocity of information flow has increased many fold.
- Along with that, business workflows have become more complex and require more people to work collaboratively.
- In addition, people are accessing documents, drawings, proposals and papers from a host of different devices — including tablets, smart phones, laptops and desktops.
As a result, the ability to access and work on digital content from multiple devices in a distributed mobile fashion becomes imperative, and that is achieved by using hybrid cloud storage.
Let us quickly look at a few organizations and interesting use cases:
- Schools have been using hybrid cloud storage as teacher portals for collecting assignments, sharing class materials, and so forth.
- Wealth management companies have a similar use case; they share portfolio information and documents, provide value-added information services, and serve clients all over the world, while complying with FINRA and SEC regulations.
- Construction projects, whether building an airport or bringing up a new store, are typical cases where hybrid cloud storage facilitates business agility. The use cases span from designers and clients working on architectural drawings during design phase, to viewing the final drawings and specifications on-site via iPads during the construction phase.
- Non-profits are inherently distributed and mobile, with volunteers from all over the world requiring access to files. The ability to instantly expand the amount of storage available, and configure new users quickly, is critical for non-profit organizations responding to disasters.
- Procurement and RFP management is inherently collaborative and requires the input of multiple parties, and cloud storage is a natural fit. Organizations create a partner portal to store the RFP files in the cloud and easily share the files via a public link with thousands of potential vendors. Usually the RFP flow includes many documents — some are public, but a many are private to a vendor and the purchaser. Once the vendors express interest, the purchasing organizations can create user accounts and folders with appropriate visibility and permissions. As the RFP process moves along, the cloud storage creates an effective collaborative environment — across a vendor ecosystem that spans the globe.
- A similar use case is being leveraged by marketing and advertising companies managing ad campaigns (with large files, as well as collaborative workflow process) across an ecosystem of partners and customers in a secure multi-tenant environment. A well-organized permissions structure is critical to ensuring client data is segregated, which is not available with many consumer-oriented cloud file storage solutions.
- Many times the hybrid cloud storage augments existing IT infrastructure very well.
- In many companies IT is shrinking in comparison to the exploding user population. A hybrid cloud storage, with admin controls and granular permissions, that works across all devices, enables leverage of scarce IT resources.
- Another interesting use case is for companies that are expanding quickly, with offices across the globe. An easy way to get a new office up and running is to have an Office Local Cloud setup (which is based on NAS devices). When starting a new remote office, buy a NAS and add it to the hybrid Office Local Cloud with appropriate folder permissions. The folders will sync with the cloud and viola! — the new office workers have all the information they need, and they have a two-way collaboration capability with the rest of the company! And the cloud will scale as the office expands!
- Since the advent of cloud computing and hybrid cloud storage, start-ups have embraced this paradigm to their advantage. Start-ups inherently will have fewer resources for storage, and a greater need to share information. Hence, hybrid storage cloud is a boon to them.
- An effective use case is for customer-facing departments where users are mobile, distributed across the world and visiting current and potential customers, giving presentations and so forth. They need to edit and access large presentation files wherever they are; hybrid storage cloud helps increase productivity.
In short, multi-office organizations, teams that collaborate with partners and customers, engineering and construction companies, creative agencies, and schools are all examples of organizations achieving agility using a hybrid storage cloud.
Other question(s) answered in this page include:
- How can hybrid storage cloud computing give businesses the best of both worlds?
- How can cloud-based object storage help businesses?
- How will hybrid cloud make enterprises more agile?