The past few years has left IT managers and security-conscious decision makers in a state of hesitation when it comes to fully migrating all of their business data and applications to the cloud. As a result, a new model of cloud deployment, known as the hybrid cloud, offers businesses the opportunity to take a stair-step approach to the cloud while also giving them the comfort and security of controlling critical data inside a private, highly-protected cloud. Industry leaders have determined a few prevailing definitions that we can use to identify the overall idea of what makes up a hybrid cloud solution. While these definitions serve as a great starting point for laying out the foundation of the hybrid cloud, a more granular look at the makeup of a hybrid cloud solution is needed in order to pinpoint when and why an SMB or enterprise should consider deploying a hybrid solution within its network infrastructure.

Industry Definitions of Hybrid Cloud

At its most basic level, hybrid cloud is “a cloud computing environment which uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms,” according to technology media outlet, Tech Target. Simply put, the hybrid model allows for a mix and match of public and private clouds to serve as one infrastructure for the organization, allowing the business to reap the benefits of each cloud and build a solution that fits nicely within their existing business requirements. Gartner takes the definition a step further by explaining that hybrid cloud computing serves as a “policy-based and coordinated service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services.”

While multiple industry leaders have attempted to come to a solid agreement on the true definition of the hybrid cloud, there are a few elements of the definition that can help businesses get a solid understanding of what it means to deploy a hybrid cloud solution and how these two infrastructures work together to create a seamless and fully-customized solution for businesses needing more than an all-or-nothing approach to the cloud.

Public vs. Private Cloud

In a hybrid cloud environment, both public and private clouds operate independently of one another, yet allow for interoperability of business applications and portability of data. Public clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS ) and Google Cloud give businesses a low and predictable cost of ownership and make it possible for businesses to shift from CapEx to OpEx, reducing upfront costs and lower ongoing IT costs. And while the public cloud offers the financial savings that SMBs and Enterprises alike are particularly fond of, the skepticism of data security tends to result in hesitation of putting all of their data eggs in one basket. Private cloud environments complement the public cloud infrastructure nicely and are particularly attractive to businesses seeking to protect critical data from potential security concerns of the public cloud.

Public + Private = Hybrid

For SMBs and Enterprises, it’s important to understand that a hybrid cloud solution is more than simply connecting servers to a public cloud and calling it “hybrid.” Instead, the hybrid cloud model is a particular arrangement of distinct and independent elements that allow companies to securely store data on private, protected clouds while leveraging the resources and application availability provided by the public cloud infrastructure. In order to establish a truly hybrid cloud model, the organization must take into consideration the requirements of all business applications, the security levels needed for particular types of data and the legacy resources that are available to support both the public, private and hybrid cloud environments.