The technical definition of hybrid cloud is straightforward: an environment that allows applications or workloads to run in a combination of public clouds, on-premises data centers, and/or edge computing locations.

What may be less understood: the bottom-line IT and business benefits of this approach. We took that question to the CIO Experts Network, a community of IT professionals and technology industry influencers. Here are their insights and answers.

Ready when it’s time to pivot

Running any type of business can be challenging. Successful business leaders need the ability to forecast supply, demand, trends, and economic conditions and the agility to hit any curveballs that come their way.

“If the pandemic taught us anything from the way that industry trends move, it’s that companies need flexibility,” said Tennisha Martin (misstennisha), executive director and chairwoman at BlackGirlsHack.. “The benefit of the hybrid cloud is that you have the flexibility to determine what does and doesn’t work for your organization.”

Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), president and chief strategy officer at GeekHive agreed: “This approach helps organizations adapt quickly to market shifts and customer preferences and dynamically adjust resources.”

More specifically, experts described that flexibility in terms of workload balance:

“For enterprises with a variety of workloads, having the versatility to move or load-balance workloads across public and private clouds provides flexibility to support scale, improve system performance, and enable cost efficiencies.” — Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), president of StarCIO and author of Digital Trailblazer

“The ability to scale and flex beyond the boundaries of our on-premises infrastructure allows us to support and pivot with the business as the workloads demand.” — Alex Farr (@AlexFarr_IT), CTO at Christie Group

“Three main benefits include improved agility, scalability, and flexibility. Hybrid cloud architectures make it easy to create, scale, and shift the most taxing workloads with minimum downtime.” — Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), president/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc.

“The ability to diversify the storage platform permits shifts based on processing loads and transfers to the data center and between nodes on the edge.” — Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO & founder HealthTech Decisions Lab

That said, it’s not simply plug-and-play to the cloud for workload balance, said Ben Rothke (@benrothke), senior information security manager at Tapad.

“It’s important to realize that not every workload or application lends itself to a private or public cloud approach,” Rothke said. “Far too many people think that if it is in your data center, then you can just migrate it to the cloud. That approach has failed many organizations and cost them dearly.”

Achieve greater speed, innovation, security

Speed is a follow-on benefit from the flexibility that hybrid cloud provides, said Adam Stein (@apstein2), principal at APS Marketing.

“IT teams can quickly obtain hybrid resources provided by the cloud service,” Stein said, which can translate to the “rapid deployment of edge services with high computing needs, including applications, analytics systems, and other processes.”

In addition, flexibility and speed are inherent capabilities for innovation, including the ability to fail fast using new tools or technologies that cloud provides, said Jo Peterson (@cleartechtoday) of the Forbes Technology Council.

“Public cloud and the rich ecosystem of providers available in marketplaces that have been created by hyperscale cloud providers offer access to cutting-edge tools and technologies that help organizations drive innovation in days or weeks — not months or years,” Peterson said.

Another significant benefit for both IT and the business is improved security.

“In a world of breaches, being able to seamlessly redirect data and processing from a compromised storage hub to one that is unaffected improves the likelihood of business continuity during the episode,” said Cutitta.

Other experts agreed with the benefits around resiliency:

“A hybrid cloud approach can provide redundancy across locations giving an organization disaster recovery and continuity of operations — options they may not have had pre-hybrid cloud.” — Will Kelly (@willkelly), freelance writer focused on the cloud and DevOps

“Our hybrid cloud model has allowed us to improve our security maturity, taking the reliance away from our office spaces, while providing a fast and easy business continuity plan to the business.” — Alex Farr (@AlexFarr_IT), CTO at Christie Group

Closely aligned with improved security is the ability to better address regulatory compliance concerns. “Depending on where server data is stored, a hybrid cloud allows businesses to operate sensitive workloads in their private cloud and adjust later as the regulatory landscape changes,” said Schober.

Cost savings across clouds

Schober goes on to note the cost efficiencies that hybrid cloud can offer. Although many organizations have had a rude awakening to how quickly public-cloud costs can get out of hand, a hybrid approach allows for greater manageability and cost mitigation. “While hybrid cloud approaches require substantial investment upfront, they soon earn their place in any business once their benefits are realized,” Schober said. “There is also the benefit of cost mitigation when an organization bridges their public cloud and private cloud.”

Stein and Peterson agree, and add data migration cost savings to the list of benefits:

“Both IT and business users benefit from the ability to store crucial data in the private section of a hybrid cloud environment,” notes Stein. “This reduces often unseen larger cost centers for migrating digital assets between different cloud providers.”

Peterson adds, “From a cost perspective, hybrid footprints allow organizations to utilize legacy systems that may not easily move to cloud or may have costs associated that have not been fully depreciated. This model allows the business to ease into a cloud migration and shift capital expenditures to operational expenditures in IT over time.”

A note of caution

While the overall hybrid cloud advantages are great, there’s a distinction between what’s right for the business and what’s right for IT, said Rothke.

“It’s important to note that IT benefits are only beneficial if they support the business,” he said. “The best IT solution is irrelevant if it does not help the company.”

Click here to learn more about hybrid cloud and the HPE GreenLake platform.