It seems that everyone these days is looking to embrace cloud services in some way or form, whether it is in order to become more flexible, or to reduce spiralling operating costs.

However, in order for businesses to fully realise the benefits, they need to plan the most appropriate way to provision cloud services and consider whether their existing connectivity and infrastructure in place is up to the task.

Do you have the right connectivity in place?

The most tempting draws for businesses when considering cloud services include reduced costs in infrastructure, improved employee efficiency and flexibility for the future. While these are sizeable benefits, they are dependent on a reliable and high speed internet connection to keep running.

In fact research from Vanson Bourne has revealed that 91% of IT directors are concerned insufficient network bandwidth could hinder the effectiveness of some cloud services. Furthermore, a remote working policy is now becoming commonplace in many businesses, and restrictions in bandwidth could pose a number of problems for those organisations looking to cloud services to support their future mobile working strategies.

Insufficient bandwidth can affect reliability and increase latency. All of this can become an obstacle for mobile working, especially for those workers who require real-time access to applications.

For any organisation looking to receive mission-critical services from the public cloud, reliable internet connectivity, whether in the office or at home, is essential. Equally, if they go down the managed or hosted private cloud route, it is vital that organisations have a robust private network and associated service level agreements to ensure that applications and services are successfully delivered.

Should you go for a public or private cloud?

When it comes to considering cloud the biggest problem for businesses can be whether they should make use of public or private cloud services. A survey of enterprise users from IDC concluded that 65% of those surveyed found private cloud more appealing than its public counterpart.

Enterprise concerns over public clouds come down to concerns over reliability and security, but these concerns were voiced in the early days of e-mail and the same can be said of most new technologies. What is important is for businesses to consider an approach that meets the specific needs of the organisation then decide on a private, public or indeed hybrid model of cloud services that involves a mixture of the two.

One area that is experiencing wider adoption in terms of cloud infrastructure is hosted telephony, with 20% of IT directors now saying that they would be happy receiving voice services this way. This growing market is an example of how adoption of cloud can grow as the technology demonstrates that it is fit for purpose and reliable, and few services are relied on as heavily as telephony.

Organisations also need to consider the working culture of their organisation and the ways in which their business applications will be used. While public cloud services such as Google Apps and Salesforce may be suitable for some organisations, they do not necessarily offer the same potential for customisation and integration that other enterprises require.

It is here, for example, where managed hosted services from a data centre may be a better alternative as they can deliver cost and flexibility benefits, alongside greater customisation and improved security.

Should security be a concern?

While organisations across the board are considering cloud services, there are still significant security concerns. Slowly but surely, however, fears are starting to be allayed. The Vanson Bourne research revealed that three quarters of IT directors said that they would be comfortable putting e-mail and basic office applications in the cloud.

However, only 7% said they would be happy to put ERP in the cloud and as little as 4% said they would put payroll there. The risk of data falling into the wrong hands is too much of a threat for some organisations to entrust their mission critical applications completely to the public cloud. For these organisations they should consider private or hybrid cloud services.

Should organisations be grasping the cloud?

It can be all too easy to be swept away by the hype when it comes to cloud, but at the same time it has the potential to deliver real transformational benefits for many organisations. However, only by taking a strategic approach and looking beyond the vendor hype, can organisations truly start to reap the rewards of the cloud and hosted services.

Any business IT function placed in the cloud needs to be instantly accessible and continuously available, and it is only through considering the right infrastructure and ensuring continuous connectivity that this can be achieved.