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Hybrid cloud can help MSPs with cloud transition

The hybrid cloud model may be an important asset to managed service providers with customers who aren't willing to fully commit to the cloud but want to use it for backup.

When it comes to cloud computing, managed service providers (MSPs) must deal with some customers who aren't quite ready to make the full jump to the cloud but want to use its services in some form.

The hybrid cloud model may be the answer for MSPs watching customers transition to cloud computing at different speeds. A hybrid cloud environment allows organizations to manage some of their data in-house and some with cloud services.

That model provides flexibility for customers who want to keep mission-critical data on premise but who are also comfortable putting general applications and storage in a public cloud. Customers may also want to use the cloud for a specific need, such as backup or security. And the remote monitoring and management tools MSPs already use provide a useful on-ramp to the hybrid cloud.

Tim Crawford, CIO of All Covered Inc., thinks that the future of data centers is in the cloud because companies will be drawn toward paying $10 per month on hosted Exchange services instead of spending $10,000 on an in-house implementation of Exchange Server.

But Crawford also knows that all companies may not be ready and willing to put all of their data in the cloud. For that reason, the hybrid cloud can be a boon for MSPs because it doesn't require the same commitment as a full-scale cloud adoption.

"The hybrid cloud is an attractive way to take advantage of cloud computing, and MSPs can provide the proper support by responding quickly to any problems," Crawford said. "It also means choice for the customers, and they can determine the adoption speed they want to go at."

All Covered is an MSP focusing on small and medium-sized businesses. The company recently acquired ANALYSYS and the cloud expertise that it offers. ANALYSYS founder and current All Covered managing consultant Stephen Kolbe says the hybrid cloud is valuable to customers because it offers them choice for their cloud plans.

All Covered's customers may have different approaches to cloud computing, but All Covered sets them up using technologies from N-Able Technologies or Kaseya as part of its hybrid cloud offerings, depending on a customer's specific needs. N-Able's N-Central provides remote monitoring and management. Kaseya offers a range of services from system monitoring to patch management.

"Some [customers] will be the last to go to the cloud and others want to use it right away and build their business on it," Crawford said.

Skip Gould, CEO of BrightPlanIT Inc., uses Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite and believes that full-scale cloud adoption is still two years away. Hybrid clouds are useful because the market for on-premises services is still there, he said.

Dave Sobel, MSP and CEO of Evolve Technologies LLC, uses the ConnectWise professional services automation suite and thinks MSPs are well-positioned to offer hybrid cloud solutions to customers.

"I'm a huge fan of the hybrid cloud," Sobel said. "I don't see 100% cloud adoption happening, so I think the market is trending toward the hybrid model."

What's in a cloud?

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has other services provided externally.

A public cloud is one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-use model.

A private cloud (also called internal cloud or corporate cloud) is a marketing term for a proprietary computing architecture that provides hosted services to a limited number of people behind a firewall.

Are customers afraid of the public cloud?

Sobel said that the movement toward the hybrid cloud has more to do with individual environment needs than the fear of keeping all data secure in a public cloud.

"Companies will keep some data on-site due to either business or legal requirements," Sobel said. "But I think customers are comfortable with the public cloud after they understand what it offers."

The idea that a company's on-premise server is safer than cloud-based services isn't true, according to Sobel. The bigger issue for some customers may be that the public cloud is rigid.

"There's a difference between real and perceived security," Sobel said. "The stumbling block is that since public clouds offer such defined services, individual companies aren't positive their businesses can run on it."

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