The hybrid cloud offers key business benefits — but it also presents a number of challenges.

A Forbes Insights report confirms that the hybrid cloud model is becoming commonplace. Although more and more organizations are pursuing a “cloud-first” model, it’s seldom possible to move all applications and services to the public cloud. A hybrid cloud enables organizations to combine an on-premises, private cloud platform with the shared resources of a public cloud provider. Even though the two infrastructures operate independently, they’re able to securely communicate so organizations can move data and applications between the two environments.

Many organizations made the leap to the public cloud to gain the cost advantages and near-infinite scalability that the public cloud provides. Private clouds, by contrast, were thought to be expensive and difficult to implement. However, the costs of private and public clouds are now very similar, according to the Forbes report.

In fact, 58 percent of respondents say costs per transaction actually increased after shifting to public cloud. Sixty-five percent scaled back or stopped public cloud usage, with 35 percent saying public cloud was considered temporary. While most organizations will likely continue to use the public cloud for some workloads, growing demand for private clouds has made a hybrid cloud model imperative.

Why Hybrid Cloud

With hybrid cloud, organizations can choose the right environment for each workload based on business, compliance and technical requirements instead of putting all their eggs in one basket. In particular, hybrid cloud enables organizations to keep their most sensitive data in private infrastructure rather than a multitenant environment.

For example, compliance requirements often dictate where certain data must be stored and/or how data must be protected. Private cloud makes it possible to maximize security, control and accessibility while minimizing latency. In some cases, legacy applications will only run on certain operating systems that aren’t supported by public cloud vendors.

Successful hybrid cloud implementation requires collaboration between business executives and IT management. Business executives typically focus on how a hybrid cloud initiative will create competitive advantages by improving speed to market for new products and services. Hybrid cloud also provides greater operational flexibility. Of course, cost efficiency and predictability are always a high priority, and hybrid cloud can deliver both.

On the IT side, hybrid cloud is appealing because it can enable IT teams to spend less time on routine tasks that do nothing but keep the lights on, and more time on strategic initiatives involving new applications and services. Hybrid cloud can also improve scalability and simplify security and compliance.

The Measure of Success

Unfortunately, the failure rate for hybrid cloud implementation is very high. According to research from The Bunker, 63 percent of respondents failed to achieve their desired goals. Top reasons for failure were an in-house skills shortage, bad advice, and lack of integration between cloud and non-cloud resources. More than half of respondents who had already completed their hybrid cloud migration admitted that they didn’t choose the best technical solution for their specific needs.

The key to maximizing the ROI of a hybrid cloud initiative is to make the right decisions about deploying workloads and applications in a private or public cloud. There is more to consider than compliance requirements and security.

Performance is an important factor. Many organizations choose private cloud for steady workloads and public cloud for more unpredictable workloads. Cloud bursting makes it possible to automatically shift traffic from private to public cloud to support spikes in demand. Access to data is also critical. Private cloud typically ensures the fastest access to important data, while public cloud access is dependent on the reliability, availability and speed of an Internet connection.

As beneficial as hybrid cloud can be, it’s not right for every environment. Sometimes it’s unnecessary. For example, a private cloud may offer more control, but if regulations don’t require data and applications to remain on-premises, a public cloud might be sufficient. An experienced IT solutions provider can help organizations determine the right model for each workload and ensure that the infrastructure can support cloud applications.