First, it was cloud computing that sparked the imaginations of businesses in terms of all the benefits they could receive. Then, came the division of public and private clouds; some companies wanted to keep their cloud on-premise, while others looked to cloud providers. Now, the next step in the cloud revolution has come—the gradual adoption of the hybrid cloud, which basically uses both on-premise and cloud applications together, in an attempt to get the most benefits from both.There’s little doubt that a hybrid cloud environment can be a significant advantage for a company, allowing workers to be more productive while saving on costs. At the same time, however, hybrid clouds can introduce new challenges and risks, especially for small businesses that have limited resources and budgets. Knowing about those risks, and preparing for them can make a significant difference in how much a small business can benefit from what is cloud computing.Application ControlPerhaps one of the biggest issues many companies run across when adopting a hybrid cloud is the overall loss of control they experience over their applications. This can sometimes be a benefit, since organizations no longer have to worry about the day-to-day management of their cloud-based applications but it also creates challenges that are not always easy to overcome.Applications change all the time, and when those applications are outside the company’s control, they could be caught unprepared when a sudden software update occurs. A single application change can create integration problems with other programs, leading to major disruptions among the most critical business applications. Manually overseeing these updates is simply out of the realm of possibility for most small businesses, since a hybrid cloud environment can be complex with numerous applications.Network VisibilityIn addition to control challenges, the hybrid cloud can create problems through a loss of network visibility. This essentially means that the network perimeter isn’t as clearly defined as it was before once business applications are moved to the cloud. Without a clear perimeter, the risk of security breaches only increases. In many ways, this ties closely with the loss of control.Cloud-based applications that are outside the control of a business can be particularly vulnerable. While many small businesses may rely on their cloud providers to handle the security tasks, the fact remains that hybrid cloud environments often involve multiple vendors, and keeping up with their security policies is a monumental challenge at times.SolutionsSo, what’s a small business to do in the face of such hybrid cloud risks?When it comes to following application updates and integration challenges, smaller organizations can turn to automation. By automating risk management with the right software, managing a hybrid cloud environment becomes much easier. This strategy gets rid of the manual approach and instead ensures that all applications in the environment integrate well with other critical applications. IT workers can be alerted if problems are detected, but every update doesn’t need to be monitored at every hour of the day. The automated strategy can significantly reduce application risks, while also shortening cloud project timelines.As for the security risks introduced through hybrid clouds, small businesses can manage those risks by making sure the most sensitive data is kept on-premise. By knowing where that critical data is at all times, the risks of a security breach are mitigated. Wide protection coverage is also a safe bet, since it eliminates any blind spots that might be missed when the network perimeter largely disappears.Small businesses should also know precisely who has access to data, especially when BYOD policies have become so common among organizations in recent years. Cloud management platforms can also help in tackling the issue of using so many different vendors in a hybrid cloud environment.The hybrid cloud has a lot to offer small businesses, but those benefits don’t come without notable challenges and risks. That shouldn’t dissuade organizations from adopting cloud solutions like the hybrid cloud, but they should enact the strategy knowing full well the possible problems that lie ahead. Only with a clearly laid out plan can small businesses take great strides in using the hybrid cloud to the fullest. Limited budgets shouldn’t stand in the way of hybrid cloud adoption.
About the Author: Rick Delgado is a freelancer tech writer and commentator. He enjoys writing about new technologies and trends, and how they can help us. Rick occasionally writes for several tech companies and industry publications.Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.Title image courtesy of ShutterStock