Charities possess a lot of sensitive data, often relating to the vulnerable individuals and groups they support or the payment details of their donors. And they face numerous challenges around safeguarding this data in a secure and compliant fashion.
Complicated legislation exists regarding what can be stored in-house or with a third party, and IT managers can sometimes have reservations about placing sensitive data in the public cloud. This means that devising an IT infrastructure setup that delivers functionality whilst remaining compliant and keeping stakeholders happy can prove challenging.
At the same time, charities stand to benefit from the affordability, flexibility and scalability of cloud infrastructure.
A hybrid cloud arrangement, however, can provide a flexible solution.
What is hybrid cloud?
First, let’s take a quick look at the difference between public and private cloud.
The public cloud is shared infrastructure managed by a third party. It’s quick and easy to access, but security can be a concern.
Private cloud infrastructure, by contrast, is dedicated solely to your business, whether on-site or in a dedicated data centre. It offers all the benefits of the public cloud, but with the added security of knowing that only you have access to that infrastructure. The drawback is that your organisation has to manage and maintain that hardware – wherever it resides.
A hybrid cloud mix gets the best of both worlds. Charities can choose which elements of their IT systems will be outsourced to trusted cloud providers and hosted on platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, and which they will continue to host internally or on dedicated hardware.
Organisations often turn to hybrid cloud because the public cloud can be limited as a one-size-fits-all solution – with data and security issues often as the main barrier to uptake.
Adopting a hybrid cloud model, on the other hand, means your IT infrastructure can be tailored to the needs of your organisation. Hosting sensitive data related to the individuals and groups you support in your own data centre or on-premises allows for maximum oversight.
For example, your charity could leverage a hybrid cloud mix to run its databases much more efficiently on a dedicated server, but can burst into the public cloud when extra capacity is needed in other areas of the organisation – say, when your website experiences a sudden influx of web traffic due to a campaign.
Why hybrid cloud?
With strict regulations around the storage of sensitive customer data, charities may look to avoid any perceived security risks associated with hosting in the cloud by retaining data on dedicated hardware or on-site. Or to appease stakeholders who are perhaps wary of storing sensitive information in the public cloud.
At the same time, a charity could leave the responsibility for storage of other applications and information with a managed services provider, gaining the considerable benefits of cloud and managed serviceswith it.
Through hybrid models, charitable organisations can provide both employees and customers with peace of mind around information security, while also utilising cloud-based productivity applications such as Office 365 to enhance operational efficiency.
Hybrid cloud: a happy medium?
Hybrid cloud challenges any reservations about hosted platforms and removes the barriers to their adoption, with charities and those they support set to benefit.
It’s important to remember, however, that storing data internally still poses risks. And what’s more, the public cloud is constantly getting safer and the surrounding regulation is improving rapidly.