Head in the clouds? What to consider when selecting a hybrid cloud partner

online shopping cartThe benefits of any cloud solution relies heavily on how well it’s built and how much advance planning goes into the design. Developing any organisation’s hybrid cloud infrastructure is no small feat, as there are many facets, from hardware selection to resource allocation, at play. So how do you get the most from your hybrid cloud provider?

Here are seven important considerations to make when designing and building out your hybrid cloud:

  1. Right-sizing workloads

One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid cloud service is the ability to match IT workloads to the environment that best suits it. You can build out hybrid cloud solutions with incredible hardware and impressive infrastructure, but if you don’t tailor your IT infrastructure to the specific demands on workloads, you may end up with performance snags, improper capacity allocation, poor availability or wasted resources. Dynamic or more volatile workloads are well suited to the hyper-scalability and speedy provisioning of hybrid cloud hosting, as are any cloud-native apps your business relies on. Performance workloads that require higher IOPS (input/output per second), CPU and utilisation are typically much better suited to a private cloud infrastructure if they have elastic qualities or requirements for self-service. More persistent workloads almost always deliver greater value and efficiency with dedicated servers in a managed hosting or co-location environment. Another key benefit to choosing a hybrid cloud configuration is the organisation only pays for extra compute resources as required.

  1. Security and compliance: securing data in a hybrid cloud

Different workloads may also have different security or compliance requirements which dictates a certain type of IT infrastructure hosting environment. For example, your most confidential data shouldn’t be hosted in a multi-tenant environment, especially if that business is subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or PCI compliance requirements. Might seem obvious, but when right-sizing your workloads, don’t overlook what data must be isolated, and also be sure to encrypt any data you may opt to host in the cloud. Whilst cloud hosting providers can’t provide your compliance for you, most offer an array of managed IT security solutions. Some even offer a third-party-audited Attestation of Compliance to help you document for auditors how their best practices validate against your organisation’s compliance needs.

  1. Data centre footprint: important considerations

There is a myriad of reasons an organisation may wish to outsource its IT infrastructure: from shrinking its IT footprint to driving greater efficiencies, from securing capacity for future growth, or simply to streamline core business functions. The bottom line is that data centres require massive amounts of capital expenditure to both build and maintain, and legacy infrastructure does become obsolete over time. This can place a huge capital and upfront strain onto any mid-to-large-sized businesses expenditure planning.

But data centre consolidation takes discipline, prioritisation and solid growth planning. The ability to migrate workloads to a single, unified platform consisting of a mix of cloud, hosting and datacentre colocation provides your IT Ops with greater flexibility and control, enabling a company to migrate workloads on its own terms and with a central partner answerable for the result.

  1. Hardware needs

For larger workloads should you seek to host on premises, in a private cloud, or through colocation, and what sort of performance needs do you have with hardware suppliers? A truly hybrid IT outsourcing solution enables you to deploy the best mix of enterprise-class, brand-name hardware that you either choose to manage yourself or consume fully-managed from a cloud hosting service provider. Performance requirements, configuration characteristics, your organisation’s access to specific domain expertise (in storage, networking, virtualisation, etc.) as well as the state of your current hardware often dictates the infrastructure mix you adopt. It may be the right time to review your inventory and decommission that hardware reaching end of life. Document the server de-commissioning and migration process thoroughly to ensure no data is lost mid-migration, and follow your lifecycle plan through for decommissioning servers.

  1. Personnel requirements

When designing and building any new IT infrastructure, it’s sometimes easy to get so caught up in the technology that you forget about the people who manage it. With cloud and managed hosting, you benefit from your provider’s expertise and their SLAs — so you don’t have to dedicate your own IT resource to maintaining those particular servers. This frees up valuable staff bandwidth so that your staff focuses on tasks core to business growth, or trains for the skills they’ll need to handle the trickier configuration issues you introduce to your IT infrastructure.

  1. When to implement disaster recovery

A recent study by Databarracks also found that 73% of UK SME’s have no proper disaster recovery plans in place in the event of data loss, so it’s well worth considering what your business continuity planning is in the event of a sustained outage. Building in redundancy and failover as part of your cloud environment is an essential part of any defined disaster recovery service.

For instance, you might wish to mirror a dedicated server environment on cloud virtual machines – paying for a small storage fee to house the redundant environment, but only paying for compute if you actually have to failover. That’s just one of the ways a truly hybrid solution can work for you. When updating your disaster recovery plans to accommodate your new infrastructure, it’s essential to determine your Recovery Point Objectives and Recovery Time Objective (RPO/RTO) on a workload-by-workload basis, and to design your solution with those priorities in mind.

Written by Annette Murphy, Commercial Director for Northern Europe at Zayo Group