The use of multiple or hybrid cloud computing has been significantly increasing in popularity in the last decade. According to a recent Tech Target survey, over 60 percent of companies currently utilize two or more cloud providers, with 35 percent using four or more.
As an IT business, it’s important to not only have a set of best practices to follow when managing multiple clouds, but also to have strategies in place to ensure that these critical steps are followed company-wide in order to avoid costly mistakes.
Although there are some major differences between multiple and hybrid cloud computing, for simplicity this article will discuss best practices that can be applied to either model.
Benefits and Risks of Multiple or Hybrid Cloud Computing
The use of multiple or hybrid cloud computing has increased significantly because the benefits of doing so have resolved some important problems for IT professionals and their clients.
Advantages such as increased security, prevention of data loss and downtime, avoiding vendor lock-in, and access to a variety of features and capabilities that weren’t available when utilizing just one provider are among the numerous improvements that can be seen in the organizations who adopt this strategy.
Despite the significant advantages of offering your clients multiple or hybrid cloud computing options, there are some risks that are important for any IT company to keep in mind.
These risks include issues such as increasing capacity of staff to manage the complexity of the new workload, difficulties in performing data integration or monitoring of applications, ensuring that you’re choosing the right provider for the right reasons, and of course overall compliance with security measures, specifically with the addition of privileged credentials.
Why we Created these Best Practices for Multiple or Hybrid Cloud Computing
The best practices we developed at Connectria were created by carefully analyzing the risks of multiple or hybrid cloud implementation and then using these risks to create strategies and policies that encourage and promote company-wide compliance.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it targets the major problems that most IT companies will face at one point or another when adopting a multiple or hybrid cloud strategy for their clients.
Best Multiple or Hybrid Cloud Practices for your Growing IT Business
1. Implement a security policy and ensure company-wide adoption
It may initially be counter-intuitive to think that by implementing a multiple or hybrid cloud strategy to increase security that you’ll need to ensure that you even have security to begin with. The key to this best practice is ensuring that you have company wide-adoption of your new policies which ensures that you’re able to offer your clients the increased security that you’ve promised.
Some key items to include in your new security policy are ensuring that your data is encrypted in both rest and transit (the latter of which can often be forgotten in a multiple/hybrid strategy), knowing when to utilize a private cloud (there’s always a situation where this is required) and implementing a new strategy for security that is able to manage the complexities of a multiple or hybrid cloud environment.
Simply extending your current on-prem policies to apply to cloud infrastructure is not just foolish, it’s dangerous as well. Make sure your new policy addresses the cloud infrastructure for what it is: a new, and different, infrastructure in your (or your client’s) business.
2. Limit the number of people who can access each cloud
Although this best practice technically falls under the security category above, we felt that it was important to highlight the need for a strategy that will ensure that only those people who absolutely need to access information in each cloud, do. We suggest utilizing an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution in order to ensure compliance.
In addition to implementing an IAM solution, it is of equal importance that you incorporate consistent audits of the entire user process and workflow. This should include everything from auditing who is logging into the system to who accesses which files and who is authorized to run which applications.
When planning for this, it can be helpful to ask some important questions, such as the number of users that both your organization and your client’s organization requires, the resources that are needed to manage those users, and what will happen to the data that was created by those users when they’re dropped. We suggest starting your planning by making an extensive list of these questions and discussing them as a team.
This analysis and any audits should be documented and archived for the future and to assure you remain compliant with any legal or client requirements.
3. Consistent measuring of the performance of each cloud provider, to avoid staff confusion
It is important to have an evaluation strategy in place that will measure the performance of each cloud in a consistent manner. Not only will this strategy help you manage things like compliance, but it will also point out any inefficiencies or concerns with security.
We suggest evaluating metrics on things like cloud performance, features, costs, and security in order to implement planning and budgeting for future strategies. This way, your staff can not only communicate this information in a consistent manner to management but also amongst themselves.
4. Train for widespread understanding of multiple clouds
As with any increase in capabilities, an increase in the capacity of staff is also needed. It’s important to implement a training strategy for your staff that not only educates them on the various cloud providers but empowers them to stay up-to-date in an industry that’s constantly changing.
Encourage proficiency versus surface-level knowledge as it will set you a cut above the rest.
As a general rule, it is easier, faster, and more cost-effective to cross-train current team members on new technology. That said, don’t be close-minded about expanding your team to include new members or partners if doing so can accelerate your adoption and skillset surrounding a multi-cloud strategy.
5. Schedule workloads to run at the most cost efficient-time on the most appropriate resource
Writing and scheduling scripts is the best solution to ensuring that this best practice is implemented in your organization. Creating a pattern for analyzing resources and non-critical security issues on an ongoing basis is also vital to remaining competitive in the multiple or hybrid cloud environment, let alone recognizing the cost savings you’ll incur from scheduling start and stop times for non-essential resources.
In a perfect world, you’d have a cloud management platform that would help you schedule the start and stop times for these non-essential resources, but writing and scheduling scripts are the next best solution in lieu of this. Again, what’s important is consistency and repeatability so that comparisons made between datasets have constant parameters for evaluation.
6. Spend a significant amount of time choosing the right cloud providers
While this item isn’t necessarily as technical as the rest, it’s ultimately the most important as choosing the wrong providers or combination of providers can cause problems in all other areas of your strategy. From well-known public cloud providers like AWS and Azure to more specialized clouds like the one we offer at Connectria, infrastructure is almost never a one-size-fits-all proposition. Choosing the right providers can be the difference between a costly, bloated, inadequate cloud combination and a turbo-charged, cost-effective, and balanced cloud environment.
Implementing best practices to include not only the comparison and contrast of providers but also a deeper look at their interactions will ensure that you don’t have any problems once your multiple or hybrid cloud strategy is in place. Another advantage of mapping out your choices is that it helps your organization to see the degree of complexity of each strategy, which allows you to properly plan out training and management going forward.
Something to Keep in Mind Going Forward
As a final note, it’s important to constantly re-evaluate your multiple or hybrid cloud strategy. As with any technology, not only will your clients have new demands, but the capabilities of the various options will also change and new options may surface that will present a better fit.
You also need to keep in mind that as this technology grows, new management platforms will surface that will automate many of these strategies for you, ensuring that you’re able to offer the most up-to-date and strategic solutions possible to your client base.
Contact Connectria if you have questions about the implementation of these best practices. One of our cloud advisors would be happy to discuss your IT requirements and your objectives and help you plan a strategy that will match your company’s requirements. Connectria offers our own cloud solution in concert with AWS and Azure.