By: Andrew Stuart
Hybrid cloud architecture has been a while maturing, but now offers businesses unparalleled flexibility, ROI and scalability. The smaller the business, the more vital these traits are, making hybrid cloud the number one choice for SMEs in 2016.
It’s been more than two years since Gartner predicted that, by 2017, 50 per cent of enterprises would be using a hybrid of public and private cloud operations. This prediction was based on growing private cloud deployment coupled with interest in hybrid cloud, but a lack of actual uptake – back then in 2013. “Actual deployments [of hybrid cloud] are low, but aspirations are high”, said Gartner at the time.
It’s fair to say that Gartner’s prediction has been borne out, with hybrid cloud services rapidly becoming a given for a whole range of businesses, but perhaps less predictably the value of hybrid is being most felt in the SME sector, where speed, ROI and overall flexibility are most intensely valued. As enterprise data requirements continue to rocket – indeed overall business data volume is growing at a rate of more than 60 per cent annually – it’s not hard to see why this sector is burgeoning.
Data protection is no longer an option
Across the board, from major corporations through to SMEs in particular, there’s now clear recognition that data protection is no longer merely a “nice-to-have”, it’s a basic requirement for doing business. Not being able to access customer, operational or supply-chain data for even short periods can be disastrous, and every minute of downtime impacts on ROI. Critically, losing data permanently threatens to damage operational function, as well as business perception. The latter point is particularly important in terms of business relationships with suppliers and customers that may have taken years to develop, but can be undone in the course of a few hours of unexplained downtime. It’s never been easier to take business elsewhere, so the ability to keep up and running irrespective of hardware failure or an extreme weather event is essential.
Speed and cost benefits combined
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of hybrid cloud technology (a combination of on-premises and off-premises deployment models) is that SMEs are presented with enterprise class IT capabilities at a much lower cost. SMEs that outsource the management of IT services through Managed Service Providers (MSP), pay per seat, for immediate scalability, and what’s more avoid the complexity of managing the same systems in-house. This model also avoids the requirement for capital investment, allowing SMEs to avoid large upfront costs, but still enjoy the benefits – such as data protection in the example of hybrid cloud data backup.
One UK business that saved around £200,000 in lost revenue due to these benefits is Mandarin Stone, a natural stone and tile retailer. Having implemented a hybrid cloud disaster recovery system from Datto the company experienced an overheated main server just months later, but were able to switch operations to a virtualised cloud server in just hours while replacement hardware was setup, in contrast to a previous outage that took days to resolve. “Datto was invaluable,” said Alana Preece, Mandarin Stone’s Financial Director, “and the device paid for itself in that one incident. The investment [in a hybrid cloud solution] was worth it.”
The considerable upside of the hybrid model is that where immediate access to data or services is required, local storage devices can make this possible without any of the delay associated with hauling large datasets down from the cloud. SMEs in particular are affected by bandwidth concerns as well as costs. In the event of a localised hardware failure or loss of a business mobile device, for example, data can be locally restored in just seconds.
Unburden the network for better business
Many hybrid models use network downtime to backup local files to the cloud, lowering the impact on bandwidth during working hours, but also ensuring that there is an off-premises backup in place in the event of a more serious incident such as extreme weather, for example. Of course, this network management isn’t a new idea, but with a hybrid cloud setup it’s much more efficient – for example, in a cloud-only implementation the SMEs server will have an agent or multiple agents running to dedupe, compress and encrypt each backup, using the server’s resources. A local device taking on this workload leaves the main server to deal with the day-to-day business unhindered, and means that backups can be made efficiently as they’re required, then uploaded to the cloud when bandwidth is less in demand.
Of course, since Gartner’s original prediction there’s been considerable consumer uptake of cloud-based backups such as Apple’s iCloud and Google’s Drive, which has de-stigmatised the cloud and driven acceptance and expectations. SME’s have been at the forefront of this revolution, making cloud technology far more widely accepted as being reliable, cost-effective, low-hassle and scalable. The fact that Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are both largely cloud-based show just how the adoption barriers have fallen since 2013, which makes reassuring SME decision-makers considerably easier for MSPs.
Compliance can be particularly onerous for SMEs, especially where customer data is concerned. For example, the global demands of a standard like PCI DSS, or HIPAA (for those with North American operations) demand specific standards of care in terms of data storage, retention and recovery. Hybrid solutions can help smooth this path by providing compliant backup storage off-premises for retention, protect data from corruption and provide a ‘paper trail’ of documentation that establishes a solid data recovery process.
Good news for MSPs
Finally, hybrid cloud offers many benefits for the MSP side of the coin, delivering sustainable recurring revenues, not only via the core backup services themselves, which will tend to grow over time as data volumes increase, but also via additional services. New value-add services might include monitoring the SME’s environment for new backup needs, or periodic business continuity drills, for example, to improve the MSPs customer retention and help their business grow.
Written by Andrew Stuart, Managing Director, EMEA, Datto
Datto is an innovative provider of comprehensive backup, recovery and business continuity solutions used by thousands of managed service providers worldwide. Datto’s 140+ PB private cloud and family of software and hardware devices provide Total Data Protection everywhere business data lives. Whether your data is on-prem in a physical or virtual server, or in the cloud via SaaS applications, only Datto offers end-to-end recoverability and single-vendor accountability. Founded in 2007 by Austin McChord, Datto is privately held and profitable, with venture backing by General Catalyst Partners. In 2015 McChord was named to the Forbes “30 under 30” ranking of top young entrepreneurs.