For a growing number of enterprises, the question is no longer if they will migrate to the cloud, but how. The agility advantages are just too compelling. So what is the right cloud strategy for your business?

In the “old days” of cloud strategy—circa 2013—you had two basic choices: public (think Amazon) or private (think VMware). But look how things have changed in just two short years. Today, that binary decision has been “clouded” by the concept of hybrid clouds. And native cloud technologies like OpenStack have changed the way workloads are deployed, transforming the way clouds are managed and funded.

As the cloud landscape has matured, the approaches for implementing a cloud strategy have expanded. Today, your cloud capacity will likely be handled in one of four ways. In this blog series, we’ll review the relative advantages of these cloud alternatives and some key considerations to keep in mind as you consider your options.

Option 1: Outsource your cloud services

There is little argument that simply outsourcing your cloud services to a private cloud vendor is the path of least resistance. As with any outsource arrangement, the advantages include simplicity and no management overhead or headaches. That makes it an attractive option for enterprises for which IT is not a core competency.

The downside? You have no control over your cloud solution. The vendor can use any technology they choose—and that could limit your options down the road. Adding new features or capabilities may be possible, but could be expensive and take time.

In addition, your service quality and availability are dictated by a service-level agreement (SLA) that may or may not meet your needs. Many private cloud vendors have SLAs that are, to put it mildly, unimpressive. Look at the fine print and you may find that your SLA allows significant unplanned downtime. You may be able to upgrade to higher availability but rest assured you will pay for it.

The outsource option may be appropriate for certain applications. But you should be aware of the limitations and the potential costs.

Option 2: Buy a cloud solution and manage it yourself

Want greater control over your cloud services without compromising efficiency? One option is to source your cloud solution from a technology or service partner such as IBM, Cisco or Accenture while managing it in-house. With this approach, you can maintain a degree of control over how your cloud applications are deployed and managed, while enjoying the advantage of scale. As with a pure outsource approach, you have the additional advantage of clear accountability if there is a problem.

There is a potential limitation to this approach. Remember that you’re buying into whatever cloud ecosystem your partner puts together. This could involve technologies from a variety of vendors—including technologies that could lock you in or prevent you from deploying certain new capabilities down the road. For organizations seeking to maximize their business agility, this could prove a significant limitation. If you’re considering this approach, it’s a good idea to take a careful look at any prospective partner’s cloud ecosystem to make sure they can deliver the flexibility and availability you need today—and anticipate needing tomorrow.

In the next post, I’ll review two other potential pathways to the cloud, and some questions to consider as you chart your course.