For as often as the terms multi-cloud and hybrid cloud get misused, it’s no wonder the concepts put a lot of very smart heads in a spin. The differences between a hybrid cloud and a multi-cloud strategy are simple, but choosing between the two models can have big implications for your business.
In this post, we’ll explain the difference between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud, describe some common use cases, and walk through some ways to get the most out of your cloud deployment.
What’s the Diff: Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-cloud
Both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies spread data over, you guessed it, multiple clouds. The difference lies in the type of cloud environments—public or private—used to do so. To understand the difference between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud, you first need to understand the differences between the two types of cloud environments.
A public cloud is operated by a third party vendor that sells data center resources to multiple customers over the internet. Much like renting an apartment in a high rise, tenants rent computing space and benefit from not having to worry about upkeep and maintenance of computing infrastructure. In a public cloud, your data may be on the same server as another customer, but it’s virtually separated from other customers’ data by the public cloud’s software layer. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and us here at Backblaze are considered public cloud providers.
A private cloud, on the other hand, is akin to buying a house. In a private cloud environment, a business or organization typically owns and maintains all the infrastructure, hardware, and software to run a cloud on a private network.
Private clouds are usually built on-premises, but can be maintained off-site at a shared data center. You may be thinking, “Wait a second, that sounds a lot like a public cloud.” You’re not wrong. The key difference is that, even if your private cloud infrastructure is physically located off-site in a data center, the infrastructure is dedicated solely to you and typically protected behind your company’s firewall.
What Is Hybrid Cloud Storage?
A hybrid cloud strategy uses a private cloud and public cloud in combination. Most organizations that want to move to the cloud get started with a hybrid cloud deployment. They can move some data to the cloud without abandoning on-premises infrastructure right away.
A hybrid cloud deployment also works well for companies in industries where data security is governed by industry regulations. For example, the banking and financial industry has specific requirements for network controls, audits, retention, and oversight. A bank may keep sensitive, regulated data on a private cloud and low-risk data on a public cloud environment in a hybrid cloud strategy. Like financial services, health care providers also handle significant amounts of sensitive data and are subject to regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires various security safeguards where a hybrid cloud is ideal.
A hybrid cloud model also suits companies or departments with data-heavy workloads like media and entertainment. They can take advantage of high-speed, on-premises infrastructure to get fast access to large media files and store data that doesn’t need to be accessed as frequently—archives and backups, for example—with a scalable, low-cost public cloud provider.
What Is Multi-cloud Storage?
A multi-cloud strategy uses two or more public clouds in combination. A multi-cloud strategy works well for companies that want to avoid vendor lock-in or achieve data redundancy in a failover scenario. If one cloud provider experiences an outage, they can fall back on a second cloud provider.
Companies with operations in countries that have data residency laws also use multi-cloud strategies to meet regulatory requirements. They can run applications and store data in clouds that are located in specific geographic regions.
For more information on multi-cloud strategies, check out our Multi-cloud Architecture Guide.
Ways to Make Your Cloud Storage More Efficient
Whether you use hybrid cloud storage or multi-cloud storage, it’s vital to manage your cloud deployment efficiently and manage costs. To get the most out of your cloud strategy, we recommend the following:
- Know your cost drivers. Cost management is one of the biggest challenges to a successful cloud strategy. Start by understanding the critical elements of your cloud bill. Track cloud usage from the beginning to validate costs against cloud invoices. And look for exceptions to historical trends (e.g., identify departments with a sudden spike in cloud storage usage and find out why they are creating and storing more data).
- Identify low-latency requirements. Cloud data storage requires transmitting data between your location and the cloud provider. While cloud storage has come a long way in terms of speed, the physical distance can still lead to latency. The average professional who relies on email, spreadsheets, and presentations may never notice high latency. However, a few groups in your company may require low latency data storage (e.g., HD video editing). For those groups, it may be helpful to use a hybrid cloud approach.
- Optimize your storage. If you use cloud storage for backup and records retention, your data consumption may rise significantly over time. Create a plan to regularly clean your data to make sure data is being correctly deleted when it is no longer needed.
- Prioritize security. Investing up-front time and effort in a cloud security configuration pays off. At a minimum, review cloud provider-specific training resources. In addition, make sure you apply traditional access management principles (e.g., deleting inactive user accounts after a defined period) to manage your risks.
How to Choose a Cloud Strategy
To decide between hybrid cloud storage and multi-cloud storage, consider the following questions:
- Low latency needs. Does your business need low latency capabilities? If so, a hybrid cloud solution may be best.
- Geographical considerations. Does your company have offices in multiple locations and countries with data residency regulations? In that case, a multi-cloud storage strategy with data centers in several countries may be helpful.
- Regulatory concerns. If there are industry-specific requirements for data retention and storage, these requirements may not be fulfilled equally by all cloud providers. Ask the provider how exactly they help you meet these requirements.
- Cost management. Pay close attention to pricing tiers at the outset, and ask the provider what tools, reports, and other resources they provide to keep costs well managed.
Still wondering what type of cloud strategy is right for you? Ask away in the comments.