Everyone everywhere is talking about cloud computing. The online, on-demand provision of IT resources is expected to be the next big thing.

Attend any conference and the message is the same: everything technology-related is moving to the cloud. Gartner suggests cloud computing will take such a stranglehold on the market that one fifth of businesses will own absolutely no IT assets by 2012.

The problem is that ‘next big things’ can quickly become over-hyped, with little substance behind the claims of transformation. Keynote experts regularly talk at conferences and claim that the cloud is already affecting the present day delivery of technology, never mind the future.

So, it’s time to deflate the puff and understand the real deal with cloud. In short, where will on-demand computing affect your business?

In your company’s case, the simple answer is probably not very much – and only in specific areas. The cloud will eventually have a tremendous impact on the provision of technology but many companies will be slow to invest.

The quality of available on-demand technology can lag well behind the sense of hype. Businesses are necessarily concerned about relying on new areas of development for their IT provision and data storage.

What happens if the cloud solution falls down and the provider isn’t able to offer the right level of support? Worse, how do you know where your information is really being held?

Make sure such critical questions are not unanswerable. Take time to consider your options. Speak to experts that can show demonstrable returns on investment, providing on-demand technology that really can deliver measurable and valuable benefits.

Dabbling in the cloud needn’t be a risky venture. Select elements of your business that can be managed by a specialist in on-demand provision without security risk to your business. While delivery levels in cloud might not yet match the hype, early successes in specific business areas will help you to define a route to future success.