BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Hybrid cloud storage is an approach to managing storage that uses both local and off-site resources.
Hybrid cloud storage is often used to supplement internal data storage with public cloud storage. Policy engines keep frequently used data on-site while simultaneously moving inactive data to the cloud in a transparent manner.
Ideally, a hybrid cloud implementation behaves as if it is homogeneous storage. Hybrid cloud storage is most often implemented by using proprietary commercial storage software, by using a cloud storage appliance that serves as a gateway between on-premises and public cloud storage or by using an application program interface (API) to access the cloud storage.
Some of the most popular hybrid cloud storage providers are Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, Rackspace and VMware.
With hybrid cloud storage, businesses can move workloads between on-premises or private clouds and use the public cloud to host the data and applications they're comfortable with being publicly available. Hybrid clouds help companies get the most out of containers, which simplify moving workloads among clouds. Containers also offer clustering and orchestration. Cloud management platforms help administrators streamline cloud storage management behind a single pane of glass.
Hybrid clouds also offer organizations the opportunity to recoup some hardware costs: If a company already has the infrastructure for private cloud storage but it needs more capacity, bursting to the public cloud can help that business keep the cloud it's already built relevant.
George Crump, president of analyst firm Storage Switzerland, discusses hybrid cloud integration issues.
But organizations that don't have regulatory issues to contend with don't need private clouds. Private cloud storage offers more control, but it comes with a price. Companies must buy hardware and software to run the private cloud part. This affects the bottom line of deploying hybrid cloud storage, although some organizations will use a private cloud to host IT services and offset the cost by charging departments or internal teams. But as public cloud storage continues to get cheaper, it is more often the more cost-effective option.
Hybrid vs. public and private cloud storage
The decision to use a public, private or hybrid cloud storage option depends on what an organization needs from its cloud. Businesses with a great deal of mission-critical, proprietary data might want to store that information on premises or in a private cloud to keep it out of the hands of competitors. That's not to say that those particular businesses can't also use a public cloud. If a private cloud can't meet their needs, a hybrid approach might work well.
Organizations that don't need to keep their data tightly secured or regulated can use the public cloud, which might be their most cost-effective option.