Companies face important IT challenges today. Not only do they have to deploy and run their business applications with agility, but their infrastructures need to scale to support growth while maintaining quality of service – all in a cost-effective manner, says Richard Vester, EOH Cloud Services.

However, with the number of users, applications and data growing at a staggering pace, many organisations have only thrown more hardware and highly skilled resources at their data centre behemoths, cramming in more servers, storage and support infrastructures.

While today’s infrastructures are generally underutilised and costly to support and maintain, they are essential for day-to-day business operations. Sadly, most data centres run at approximately 20-30% efficiency rates and there are not only performance and scale issues, but ecological and economical inefficiencies as well.

So what are the alternatives? Cloud computing has been flagged as the new mantra to address these challenges, yet there are dozens of definitions of what it actually entails, as well as confusion about public, private and hybrid clouds and how they relate to security, risk and compliance.

Public cloud computing delivers software and hardware as services from virtual resources via the internet and ensures a lower upfront investment, no infrastructure set-up and minimal management. But it’s not without its accessibility and security risks. On the other hand, private clouds eventually translate into lower costs, easier integration and greater control to ensure data integrity and security, but with a hefty upfront cost.

The decision to outsource entire operations to the cloud makes no sense without having a measured, controlled and managed outsourced environment that leverages existing infrastructure investments with clear choices of future hardware, software and platforms. To add more fuel to the fire, some companies simply do not want to outsource their infrastructures and want to keep their operations on site.

Others can not envision another costly and lengthy migration to new software systems and their associated hidden costs.

Enter managed cloud services. Cloud service providers today offer organisations hybrid cloud solutions which are essentially a “best of both worlds” scenario.

Companies have the choice of what kind of infrastructures they want and what software systems they want to run on to expand their business operations in an open, secure cloud environment while retaining legacy enterprise systems as a fully integrated private cloud to gain full benefit of their CAPEX investments.

It is not simply infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Opting for managed cloud services, organisations have the choice to migrate resource demanding applications to the most optimal environment for better capacity utilisation as and when it is needed, while sensitive data remains in-house in the private cloud.

As business demand increases or decreases, organisations can expand or reduce their capacity as and when required, thereby managing cost and reducing wastage of infrastructure and additional skilled IT resources.

Through the use of virtualisation technologies that pool data centre resources onto fewer systems there is greater utilisation and far more eco-efficient use of systems to deliver quick wins in power and cooling, for example, all without massive and costly projects.

Importantly, a hybrid cloud solution offers the price, capacity and provisioning speed of a ‘public’ cloud, while maintaining the security and governance tools companies require for compliance and protection of sensitive information.