Person typing on a laptop as a large blue cloud and smaller ones hover over the laptop.
Image: Blue Planet Studio/Adobe Stock

In previous decades, cloud computing and digital data storage have become staples of modern business. Though this technology was often reserved for only the largest organizations, it has now become a widely accessible solution for many companies. Hybrid multicloud platforms can change the ways in which businesses conduct themselves, and understanding their benefits and disadvantages can help organizations become more productive and secure.

In 2019, the Harvard Business Review published a study that detailed specific strategies for implementing multicloud technologies. The data exposed not only helpful information for adopting cloud computing but also shed light on the complex nature of multicloud systems. Multicloud technologies can be complicated, especially as they evolve, but learning about them, and the hybrid models others swear by, can allow organizations to flourish long-term.

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How does cloud computing operate?

Cloud computing is not easily defined. There are multiple ways to describe and use cloud systems, which contributes to the confusion surrounding the technology.

At its simplest, multicloud can be described as a collection of public cloud programs running aspects of a business in the interest of improving operations and reducing costs. This approach allows companies to pick and choose which tools they’d like to use in an attempt to maximize productivity. Multicloud computing operates via a public platform-as-a-service (PaaS) network, allowing companies to access cloud servers and change subscription details instantly.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Cloud Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

Hybrid cloud systems, alternatively, also take advantage of private clouds in addition to public software. This can be useful for larger companies or for those that deal with sensitive information. Though both hybrid cloud and multicloud technologies have their merits, they are both used in vastly different circumstances.

What is multicloud?

Multicloud technology involves using multiple cloud platforms to conduct business. This allows companies to produce, distribute and manage their business without having to invest in physical infrastructure and data servers. Multicloud is especially useful for small enterprises. In previous decades, organizations would have been forced to purchase their own servers and maintain them personally. That is no longer the case.

Multicloud systems run on a pay-as-you-go basis. This is, in addition to cost-effectiveness, is one of the biggest benefits of using multicloud. Customers can pay for special tools when needed and cancel them at any time.

In addition, cloud platforms like those offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft include options for organizations depending on what they produce. Businesses producing apps, for example, can take advantage of developer tools from within the cloud.

These tools encompass the basic components that make up multicloud and hybrid cloud technologies: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and PaaS. Multicloud itself is mostly centered around IaaS and PaaS.

Multicloud computing, therefore, is quite versatile. The benefits gained from using one cloud platform become even more numerous when applied to multiple platforms operating in tandem. In fact, research suggests that more than 60% of multicloud organizations use three or more public cloud platforms.

But, multicloud isn’t perfect for every company, and the debate over hybrid versus multicloud platforms is valid considering the organizations that tend to operate in a hybrid cloud environment.

What is hybrid cloud?

As the name implies, a hybrid cloud model merges two different types of computing: public cloud software and private infrastructure. While similar to multicloud, hybrid cloud differs in one clear way. With this approach, organizations can still use aspects of multicloud technology while still maintaining control over their own data storage centers and in-house management systems.

This is important for companies that keep sensitive data. Hybrid cloud models provide more security than multicloud platforms do, allowing medical and personal information to remain safe when entrusted to businesses that provide delicate products or services. Hybrid clouds can utilize intrusion detection systems (IDSs), which are constantly improving. These advancements, along with the physical servers that can be accessed by companies, contribute to secure and safe data collection.

SEE: Quick glossary: Hybrid cloud technology (TechRepublic Premium)

Hybrid clouds, however, are often reserved for larger entities. While multicloud computing allows companies to use infrastructure from other organizations, a hybrid cloud model forces businesses to invest in their own servers, routers and interfaces. This is why it can be difficult for smaller businesses to participate in a hybrid workspace.

A hybrid cloud model can also be used to supplement the demands of business, which some organizations may not be able to keep up with. In a hybrid structure, physical computing can be aided by cloud servers to provide relief during a retail spike, for example. This is most applicable to organizations that already have in-house computing technology. This option can be helpful for those who want more control over daily operations as well; though, the need to provide private internet connections and data storage can prove costly.

Key features to look for in a cloud strategy

When it comes to implementing a multicloud versus hybrid cloud strategy, there are a few essential questions to consider. For one, nearly every business requires some form of network security. Organizations must determine how important their digital security needs are before they can decide upon a cloud model. These security aspects include:

  • The nature of collected data
  • The amount of collected data
  • The size of the organization

Security is extremely important for large companies that are gathering private information and vast amounts of data. For other groups, a multicloud approach might be more suitable. Either way, a successful cloud strategy includes stringent security protocols. It is also worth noting that multicloud approaches can include security options; though, implementing them may fall to organizations rather than the cloud provider.

Hybrid multicloud strategies should also include specific information about which kind of cloud will be utilized. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are all mainstream options. Other tech conglomerates such as IBM offer their own cloud services. Hybrid cloud technologies will also rely on personal servers, which will require businesses to maintain and organize their own data. A cloud strategy must detail the specific platforms organizations use to conduct business.

In addition, hybrid multicloud services will frequently involve recovery measures to help restore and backup data. Adopting a cloud strategy, therefore, should include safeguards for private information. These basic aspects of cloud strategy are essential for organizations looking to transition to a multicloud or hybrid cloud structure.

But how can companies go about choosing between hybrid versus multicloud technologies? The answer, which is largely dictated by factors surrounding production, industry and business dynamics, is simple.

The benefits and popularity of multicloud

Cloud computing is becoming increasingly relevant. According to a report by Flexera, more than 50% of organizations will be moving operations to a cloud platform in 2022. In fact, nearly every corporation includes aspects of multicloud in their daily procedures.

Multicloud has grown in popularity due to its ease of use, cost-effective nature and adaptable tools. It allows organizations to develop a professional strategy while saving time and money. But, hybrid cloud technologies are almost as popular as multicloud approaches.

So, why do so many organizations use the hybrid and multicloud approach? And, most importantly, how can new organizations choose the correct model for their company?

SEE: Research: The complexities of multicloud deployments are often worth the benefits, even in uncertain times (TechRepublic Premium)

The merits of a multicloud approach are great. Multicloud is easy to implement, cheaper than investing in physical servers, and highly effective. Multicloud is best for small companies that cannot afford private servers as well as businesses that operate almost exclusively in digital commerce. It is also suited to organizations that don’t have to adhere to severe security regulations or that experience regular shifts in user engagement. All of these issues can be managed by multicloud providers.

Hybrid cloud systems, conversely, are better for organizations that require a greater degree of control. Hybrid cloud approaches are generally more secure than multicloud computing, which is required for businesses that provide healthcare and financial services as well as those that work for government agencies. Hybrid approaches, while requiring more maintenance, also grant organizations more control over their interfaces and digital production.

That said, hybrid cloud is not an essential aspect of cloud computing and is often only viable for companies with enough resources to develop private servers. Because of the options available for hybrid cloud, it has great potential for future business usage. Currently, however, it is most successful when applied to large or highly regulated organizations.

The debate between multicloud and hybrid cloud computing is not one that has a clear answer. The best option for your organization is dependent on a plethora of factors, each of which is important for conducting business. Before adopting a hybrid or multicloud strategy, any company must consider the ways in which each strategy will impact their operations. In most cases, multicloud computing will be best. Hybrid cloud, however, has undeniable merits. It is important, first and foremost, to know the limits and requirements of your own company.

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This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays