This is part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series, a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories.
As long as the amount of data organizations generate continues to grow, finding affordable and flexible storage for that data will remain a top priority. Compared to on-premises infrastructure, the cloud is significantly more cost-effective and easier to scale, so it’s no surprise that cloud-based solutions are an attractive proposition for businesses of all sizes. However, data protection is an equal and, arguably, even more, critical factor for business owners and IT decision-makers. Though the cloud has several advantages, it’s important to consider the risk of a security breach or significant downtime that comes with every technology implementation.
The Business Case for Data Protection
From wearables to online shopping to telehealth, consumer data is increasing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, this has also given rise to a prevalence of data breaches – which has been exacerbated by the recent increase in remote work during the pandemic.
In one survey, 20% of businesses reported a breach or attack related to employees working from home, while The FBI reported a staggering spike in cyber-crimes just weeks after the pandemic began. Any time a company suffers a data breach, they risk significant damage to their brand’s reputation: 85% of consumers say they will not do business with a company if they have concerns about its security practices.
Additionally, data breaches can render networks and applications inaccessible, greatly hindering employee productivity and sometimes requiring resources for disaster recovery. Privacy regulations have also increased in recent years and are expected to continue expanding under the new administration. Significant data breaches can result in heavy fines for failing to comply with regulatory requirements.
Cloud Computing’s Variations
There was a mad dash to the cloud when it first began taking over the IT industry more than a decade ago. But in time, the associated data protection, security, reliability, and compliance challenges reminded practitioners there’s no such thing as a perfect solution. Rather than retreating and losing out on the benefits of the cloud, the industry has developed variations on cloud-based architectures.
Today, public, private, community, and hybrid clouds fall under the umbrella of cloud deployment types. In simple terms, public clouds are large shared spaces that provide nearly limitless scalability, while private clouds are secured by and for an individual company’s data. Community clouds are used by a group of companies in the same industry or field as a way to pool resources while maintaining privacy, and hybrid architectures use a combination of public and private clouds to maximize the benefits of each.
(A quick aside: the term multi-cloud refers to architectures that integrate two or more cloud platforms, which can apply to public, community, hybrid, and even private deployments. It’s sometimes linked to hybrid cloud, but the terms are not interchangeable.)
Hybrid Architecture’s Data Protection Advantages
Although it may seem more complicated than a public or private solution, hybrid clouds are gaining in popularity for their potential to maximize privacy at minimal cost. Cloud platforms are even acknowledging the benefits of hybrid architecture with services like AWS Outposts.
A hybrid approach is in stark contrast to solely relying on traditional public cloud solutions. In a public cloud, organizations hand over control of their data to a third party, introducing more access points and potential network vulnerabilities. Additionally, their data is often stored in close proximity to other companies’ data, creating a more alluring honeypot for hackers.
The private cloud portion of hybrid architecture typically houses the organization’s most sensitive data. Therefore, it is protected by its most stringent security protocols, making it extremely difficult for unauthorized users to gain access and wreak havoc. By prioritizing the most high-risk data, a private cloud investment becomes more feasible.
At the same time, while all data has security considerations, not all of it is highly sensitive; treating all data equally can be a costly mistake. Hybrid clouds maintain scalability and affordability by delegating much of the organization’s data storage and computing to the portion of their architecture hosted on one or more public cloud platforms. It’s not uncommon for organizations to generate irregular amounts of data or experience an unexpected surge in demand; in those instances, flexibility is paramount.
Colocation’s Role in Hybrid Cloud
The appeal of hybrid clouds is quite clear — and many organizations are finding out that incorporating colocation services into hybrid architectures only serves to strengthen its advantages. Colocation providers own and operate multi-tenant data centers, offering IT teams and their managed services providers a reliable and secure place to store their servers and other hardware while retaining total control of their data.
Most leading colocation providers offer 24x7x365 access to their facilities as well as remote hands technicians for on-site support. This means colocation customers enjoy many of the same benefits of using a private cloud, but without having to manage their own facilities and shifting data centers from a CapEx to OpEx expenditure.
In fact, because colocation providers specialize in data center design and operation, they often boast layered, best-in-class reliability and security features that would be difficult or unrealistic to replicate in a privately-owned facility. For example, many have redundant power and cooling systems and are able to offer a 100% uptime guarantee. Likewise, many invest in biometric technology and round-the-clock surveillance to ensure their facilities are secure.
On the other hand, like public cloud platforms, colocation is inherently more scalable than a traditional private cloud. Customers can simply increase their agreement with their colocation partner, who will happily provide the additional bandwidth, power, equipment, and/or square footage they require.
Technology’s Balancing Act
Demand for hybrid cloud is growing, partially driven by enterprise leaders that can no longer justify the cost of on-premises infrastructure and partially due to a growing trend among early cloud adopters toward cloud repatriation. But building and managing hybrid architecture is no easy feat.
IT leaders and service providers are turning to colocation companies to provide the foundational layer of their hybrid architectures, thereby reducing their operational complexity as well as their operating costs. Like the hybrid cloud, colocation offers a way to balance the critical need for data protection with the strengths of modern technology — and leveraged together, like most things, they are greater than the sum of their parts.