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Updated by Charles Bystock on 03/20/2014

cloud computing servicesIn a recent blog post, we quoted industry giant Cisco, to the effect that “server and data center workloads are moving to the cloud, and they’re not coming back.” The question isn’t if or when, it’s how cloud computing services will impact your enterprise. In many ways, that will be up to you.

The cloud isn’t a disparate cure-all, it’s one new tool (or perhaps a series of tools) to orchestrate and manage your IT environment. Initially cloud computing services caused a stir because they could help companies reduce rising IT costs through greater efficiencies. But the cloud offers broader options that have the potential to significantly improve some, if not all, of your operations capabilities.

That’s good news for your future agility. CIOs and CEOs say the cloud will allow them to  drive innovation and perhaps entirely transform their organizations.

In 2011 a study conducted by the London School of Economics and Accenture indicated just 20% of enterprises had adopted some form of cloud computing. The report predicted that by the end of 2013, that number would grow to 40%. Right on target, Gartner reports that, as of last fall, 38% of survey respondents are using cloud computing services, and 80% expect to adopt some type of cloud within the next year.

If you aren’t in the mix yet, you will be.

Flexibility and scalability dominate every company’s IT “needs list.” Cloud computing services can deliver that, but because consumers are well familiar with the cloud, their expectations are high and rising when it comes to availability, quality and security. The cloud can help you reach those new heights to stand out from the competition, but your competitors have the same opportunity.

Cloud-based services are driving a momentous shift toward broader-scope business services. Companies are transitioning away from traditional technology product, and while the largest enterprises aren’t necessarily eliminating legacy infrastructure, they’re adopting customized combo systems that also include distributed options.

They often start by moving existing applications to Infrastructure-as-a-Service or Platform-as-a-Service solutions, but soon see greater opportunity in taking it to the next level, where cloud computing services can enhance enterprise-wide processes and power organizational ability to meet demands for increasingly digital services.

You can enjoy round-the-clock, reliable service without having to purchase and maintain expensive infrastructure and applications, but you can also partner with your providers to create new customer-facing services that wouldn’t have been possible before the cloud.

Incorporating cloud-based services also facilitates renewed focus on creative thinking and projects that directly support enterprise expansion and revenue growth.

Your choices continue to multiply.

Cloud computing still includes important utility-style services for things like storage, processing or email. But many providers have become industry-specialized, focusing on services specific to the financial sector, government, healthcare, retail, etc. or on department-specific applications such as sales or human resources. You get much more than an application housed elsewhere.

That growing diversity means your future likely holds relationships with several providers of cloud computing services. It also means you can prioritize implementation according to need and complexity.

But how do you know which cloud computing services or providers will have the most valuable impact on your organization? Most large companies have chosen to take advantage of IT sourcing consultants to help them understand their options and make strategically worthwhile choices regarding the cloud. With extensive in-depth marketplace knowledge and experience, consultants can help simplify and focus your decision-making.

You’ll want to keep your options open, because no one really knows what will come along next in the world of cloud computing services. Ultimately your challenge is to accept the fact that cloud computing services will be part of your IT environment soon, if not already. Integrating these services can improve your company’s internal capabilities and build greater customer satisfaction.