The cloud is everywhere.

It has changed how organizations manage their business. It touches everything from the software running your desktop computer to your complex business processes and your foundational IT infrastructure.

The cloud has also provided dramatic gains in efficiency and productivity. It has pervaded blogs, industry conferences and the minds of CIOs with its promise of adaptability, cost benefits and agility, but despite its advantages, some are still hesitant to get onboard due to its inherent risks. Contracts and assurances only seem to go so far when there’s an underlying concern of trust: Will processes continue to function? Will data be protected and will it be kept confidential?

These hurdles lie in the way before the cloud becomes a widely accepted paradigm for computing, but nevertheless, it is fast becoming a dynamic force in business. In fact, marketing research firm IDC predicts that we’ll see a $27 billion in net new IT revenue by 2013, 27 percent of which will come from cloud services. With the right approach, cloud-based services can improve performance and create a competitive edge for forward-thinking businesses.

What the Cloud Can Do for You

Many business leaders view the cloud as the next big thing in IT, document management and business process outsourcing, and it’s easy to see why. It enables companies to add IT capabilities or capacity when they need it – without investing in a new infrastructure. A flexible, on-demand model can bring new agility, enabling IT to better align with business objectives and shift its focus from operations to innovation. It also helps businesses make the most of their documents and workflows. Specifically, these benefits include:
•    Unlimited storage and processing power: The cloud is a bottomless source of storage capacity, which means businesses don’t have to expand a data center or add servers to a network. Similarly, it houses vast computational power, so there’s no need to add more CPUs to an in-house IT infrastructure. In addition to costs, this helps companies reduce the need for overall energy consumption.

  • Flexibility and scalability: Because there is no infrastructure to manage and maintain for the cloud, and businesses only pay for what they use, there is a huge advantage in flexibility. Instead of investing in permanent resources that may not be needed in the future, businesses can just tap into the cloud for immediate needs.
  • Benchmark technology and best practices: Leading providers of cloud services are able to provide innovative technology and current best practices thanks to size and resources, and businesses reap the benefits.
  • Streamlined implementations: As more data and documents move to the cloud, the platform becomes a key resource for knowledge workers to share information, create and revise documents and collaborate in real time.

Mitigating Security Concerns

Despite all of these advantages, however, many organizations are delaying the decision to tap into the cloud. One of the main reasons for the holdup is the understandable concern about the security.

In many cases, this concern can be resolved through private clouds. Information security is an issue with any shared environment, but private clouds developed and maintained by a trusted provider ensure that information may be more secure than if it’s stored inside a firewall. Providers of private cloud services typically operate security systems that are multilayered and more robust and effective than organizations can create on their own. In fact, they must provide state-of-the-art security to stay in business. As a result, they often set the standard for information security today.

What to Look for in a Provider

Since cloud computing is a form of outsourcing, all of the key issues from information security and privacy to service quality and reliability ultimately come down to one thing: the choice of someone you trust. It’s imperative to find the right partner when making the transition from a physical data center to cloud computing. Why trust another company to provide your company’s cloud services in the first place? Due to their scale, long history and extensive expertise, private cloud providers typically create security and disaster recovery systems that are substantially more effective and advanced than a business could create on their own. When looking for a provider, businesses should choose one whose offering aligns with the following principles:

  • Security measures should be designed to support the business, not impede it.
  • The system should approach defense from a multiple-layer standpoint spread throughout the expanse of the IT infrastructure.
  • The security design should be flexible enough to adapt to changing business situations and evolving technology.

Businesses can have great success with cloud computing by doing a little research. By finding a provider that has a long track record of performance, a reputation for innovation, leading-edge technology and expertise, and a comprehensive portfolio of best practices, they will enhance their chances for a successful business transformation effort and an edge over the competition.