WOOF! Newsletter

April 14, 2021

Hybrid IT Hosting: The Balanced Approach to IT Infrastructure

If you build your IT infrastructure right, it does more than enable a remote workforce. The infrastructure improves data access, security and performance, and lowers cost of ownership. It's not 'too good to be true’ . . . it's Hybrid IT.

TIME TO READ: 9 MINUTES

 

Both Cloud Hosting and On-Premise (local) Hosting have their perks, and their prices. Last month however, we mentioned a third way to build IT infrastructure . . . Hybrid IT Operations.

Hybrid IT is a "best of both worlds" approach. Done correctly, Hybrid IT actually works FOR your organization.

To see how, let's go through what's involved. Then we'll share some examples of Hybrid IT working in the real world.


What Hybrid IT Infrastructure Is

The term "Hybrid IT" refers to a blend of on-premise and cloud IT hosting. It uses elements from both, which we'll illustrate.

The key to Hybrid is that all the IT services interconnect in the background. Instead of everything running in one space, you build a "smarter" setup that balances between cost, performance, and cybersecurity.

This approach even adds to the security of the cloud services you incorporate. How? By using secured "tunnels" between the on-premise apps and the cloud services. More on this later.

What does this mean for employees? It means three things:

  1. Maximum uptime for all users
  2. Employees use your IT services as they would normally
  3. You've enabled employees to work from anywhere at any time.


What Hybrid IT Is NOT

Hybrid IT is not 100% free from cybersecurity risks. (No such thing!) You still have to protect your users and your data.

Also, Hybrid IT isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. IT setups vary, depending on several factors. Hybrid works best when you architect it to suit your current and future business growth objectives.


Example 1: Customer X

Customer X operates in San Jose, California. Like many businesses, they shifted to a remote work model in 2020. This led them to consider moving all their IT services into the cloud.

We advised taking a Hybrid IT approach instead. The setup we proposed:

  • Active Directory (user management) – Stays local and replicated to the cloud
  • VPN for anywhere access – Use our hardware VPN, technically cloud (it runs in our datacenter, but connects back to their servers)
  • Office 365 for all users – Cloud-based
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to protect users and data (including the data going in & out of Office 365)
  • File, print, and application servers – Stay local
  • Databases – Formerly cloud-based, but moving them local gave additional protection and greater performance
  • Cloud backups, so all users had regular backups running

This created an IT infrastructure that used both the cloud and on-premise IT. That way, in the event of an Internet/Office 365 outage, employees could continue working. They could go on-site, use their local Active Directory account, and still get to their critical databases.

 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid IT Infrastructures

Here's the same chart we used for Cloud Hosting and Local Hosting last issue, updated with Hybrid IT. While we maintain that Hybrid IT is the "best of both worlds," it has a few tradeoffs.

HYBRID IT INFRASTRUCTURE

ADVANTAGES
DISADVANTAGES
Cost savings over time
Setup & configuration takes time
No single point of failure; company can still operate during crises
Needs some local servers (or servers homed in a private data center)
Maximize performance of cloud-based apps
Improper/unsecured setup may allow for a "weak link" in IT operations
Secure databases to protect customers and employees
 
Balance between performance and security
 
Device-agnostic
 
Maximum uptime for all users
 

 

 

How Hybrid Addresses Cloud Hosting's Issues:

  • It places more data control in your hands. You know where the databases are.
  • You have access to backups and can evaluate their viability
  • It creates a secure "tunnel" for data to flow through between devices. This blocks hackers from probing your activity. The users' experience remains the same. (Sometimes it even improves!)

How Hybrid Addresses On-Premise Hosting's Issues:

  • Resiliency. Hybrid IT works in a way that lets users keep working, even if there's an outage.
  • Performance. You're squeezing the best performance out of the whole system, by using cloud services where they'll help the most.

Since Hybrid IT uses elements from both, which should you use where? As before, let's list the highest priorities you could use, and determine which way Hybrid IT should 'lean.'

HIGHEST IT PRIORITY
BUSINESS TYPE EXAMPLES
CLOUD, LOCAL, OR HYBRID?
Performance
Technology / Software, Finance, Construction
Hybrid
Intellectual Property Protection
Biotech, Engineering, Government, Construction
Hybrid, Leaning Local
Ease of Use (Office & Remote)
Professional Services, Retail
Hybrid, Leaning Cloud
Data Control
Biotech, Education, Finance, Government
Local or Hybrid, Leaning Local
Backup Reliability
All of them!
Local or Hybrid, Leaning Local
Low Maintenance Costs
Construction, Education, Finance, Professional Services
Cloud or Hybrid, Leaning Cloud

 

How to Hybridize Your IT

Okay, so you're convinced. Hybrid IT is the way to go. How do you make the switch, without breaking the bank?

Because you build a Hybrid IT infrastructure based on your company's needs, no two Hybrid setups look exactly alike. Thus, the setup process will look like this.

  1. Review existing setup
    • Where does your technology live?
    • What is your Disaster Recovery strategy?
    • What cybersecurity strategies are in place?
    • What backup strategy have you deployed?
  2. Examine performance. Do users report bottlenecks? Where?
  3. Assess security
  4. Identify where IT infrastructure elements fit best. In the cloud? On-prem? Either?
  5. Create backups BEFORE any changes
  6. Generate disaster recovery strategy if one doesn't exist yet
  7. Begin shifting locations for IT infrastructure elements
    • This can take the form of migrating servers, changing software, or installing new systems.
  8. Test the infrastructure from users' devices, to check for failure points
  9. Validate your cloud backups before making any changes


Example 2: ABC Corp.

ABC Corp. is located in Dallas. They implemented an all-cloud IT hosting model, based on the recommendation of a former IT consultant.

They kept having trouble with phishing emails hitting several users, over and over.

Not acceptable, so they called us. We found that someone had hacked their Office 365 user accounts!

To solve the problem and prevent it from happening again, we recommended "hybridizing" their infrastructure.

  • We moved their Active Directory back to a local server.
  • We created a synchronization between the on-premise Active Directory and Office 365.
  • Then we implemented Office 365 Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • To increase password security, we implemented secure GPOs (Group Policy Objects) on the server.
  • To block future phishing attempts, we implemented a cloud-based smart host for email filtering.
  • Finally, we migrated an application database onto the same local server, since it contained customer data.

Results? The phishing attacks stopped. Users reported no performance issues. Work continued humming along.

Even better, the process reduced ABC's cloud hosting expenses – and strengthened their overall security at the same time!

 

Always Make Sure You Back Up, and Plan for Disasters

As a final note, remember this:  No matter your IT infrastructure approach, make sure it contains two critical components.

  1. A consistent Backup routine for all devices, and
  2. A detailed Disaster Recovery Strategy.

Hybrid IT gives you a balance between security and performance. It's a third way…and a way to long-term productivity.



Looking to improve your IT operations' efficiency this year? Contact us for a network review (no obligation!) at woof@planetmagpie.com.