Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, no, cloud computing is not going to cure the common cold.

By any measure, the cloud has proved to be a boon for enterprise productivity and efficiency. By the end of the decade, Gartner estimates, it will be as rare to find corporate "no-cloud" policies as it is to encounter "no-Internet" policies today.

While this is a disruptive technology, the understandable excitement surrounding all things cloud has also fostered no small amount of hype.

It’s not the cloud that’s at fault here. While cloud computing justifies its reputation as a game changer, problems invariably will to crop up when companies don’t understand--or fail to have a realistic appreciation of--what cloud computing can and cannot do for them. The blunt fact is that the cloud can’t resolve all of a company’s IT problems; if that’s not made clear from the start, then prepare to hear about it from disgruntled customers suffering from buyer’s remorse. When reality sets in, clients are going to blame someone for selling them a false bill of goods, so make sure that it isn’t you!

First Things, First

Keep the discussion rooted in reality. Everybody has already read and heard about the cloud, so enterprise clients are going to arrive at meetings with their own preconceptions. This is where managed service providers must assume the role of tutor and set realistic expectations from the start.

The overall messaging should present the cloud as a tool, not a panacea. When they meet to discuss a company’s cloud computing plans, it’s up to MSPs to detail for corporate boards or C-Level managers what a cloud initiative will do for their business.

Other suggestions include:

  • Methodically and carefully map out the client’s needs in association with the CIO or whichever executive is taking the lead in planning the company’s cloud migration as part of a larger enterprise strategy to realize certain business objectives.
  • Don’t overpromise. Make sure to put paid to exaggerated notions that have led some companies to view cloud as a magic answer to all aspects of their IT problems. Be sure to accurately gauge what’s going on in the company’s IT boiler room. Find out ahead of time whether there are particular configuration challenges with integrating the enterprise’s existing legacy systems into the new cloud platform that might cost more than initially anticipated.
  • Decide how to measure success. Although there obviously is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution, there’s no mystery about the list of advantages of a move to the cloud. The obvious ones include higher productivity and efficiency, improved scalability and storage capacity, as well as better use of analytics. But bring the discussion back to the enterprise’s overriding business objective, as well as to the timetable for achieving its goals. Before walking out the door with a contract, make sure everyone understands how the move to the cloud meshes with the company’s larger business goals.
  • Perhaps most important of all, discuss the security implications of adopting this particular cloud solution. Here’s a sobering factoid: More than 25% of the respondents surveyed by the Cloud Security Alliance acknowledged not having adequate security policies or procedures in place. Any decision to migrate data to the cloud must include a wide-ranging security discussion to make sure that adequate technologies and procedures are in place to safeguard the new infrastructure. Otherwise, you’re courting disaster down the road.

This content is underwritten by VMware -- and is editorially independent. It is produced in accordance with conventional standards of business journalism.

Charles Cooper is an award-winning freelance author who writes about business and technology. During his 30-plus year career, he has worked as an executive editor at several leading tech publications including CNET, ZDNet, PC Week and Computer Shopper.