Are you ready to embrace “The Cloud”. There are some super opportunities for most of you. But there are some pitfalls of which you should be aware.When talking about your IT infrastructure, what is The Cloud?Ask 100 people and you will probably get 100 different answers. I think of it as utilising your own or another business’ facilities to address your needs over the Internet. Commentators refer to private (your own) and public (someone else’s) Clouds, but I don’t want you to get hung up on semantics at this early stage.What Opportunities Exist? It is simpler to provide you with some specific names to investigate,so I will break with my normal practice of avoiding application names so you can do some research on your own to build your knowledge about just what you might find to suit your needs.Managed Sales Departments.SalesForce.com has been around for many years now and is used by all sorts of businesses which have an active sales force to better manage this resource. It allows sales people to organise their clients and prospects, their diaries and follow ups, their potentials and leads, and, because it is a Cloud application, it can be done from just about any Internet connected device.Manage Documents.Worldox has recently released a Cloud based document management system where documents are hosted and managed in their data centre. Users have the same rich Worldox experience, regardless of where they are located, for a modest monthly fee.Create and Edit Documents.So now, you can also look at the new Office 2013 which also has Cloud capabilities and save your files using Worldox, with both applications being hosted elsewhere. Your documents could be saved locally with Office 2013 and you could use a local version of Worldox to save the files. Very flexible.Rent you Internet Security Application.Anti virus and Internet Security vendor Sophos now has a Cloud version to protect you from the Internet invaders like viruses, malware and spam. Using Sophos Enterprise under the Managed Service Provider program will provide you with excellent protection offered as a Cloud application.Backup Off SiteSuitably setup providers can now manage your daily backups for you. I guess most of you do it yourself now, but when something goes wrong, how often is the corrupted or deleted file missing? Too often by my calculation.With Cloud solutions offering a far more comprehensive result than most small besinesses can afford, the provider can ensure the backup is happening as it should and often provide the opportunity for many tens backup points rather than maybe four or even less with a lower cost solution.Clouded E-mailThere are opportunities to purchase services in the Cloud which provide MS Exchange mail services, a backup (redundant) Exchange server, database servers or just about any other service you can think of.So What?This list above is just a taste to whet your appetite. The savings may be profound. But is is important that you evaluate all your systems before jumping on board any Cloud solution.Tasks that readily lend themselves to running in the Cloud are applications which place a peak load on your infrastructure but which do not interface with your other systems. You can buy the server and Internet capacity you need from an external supplier and run such an application in the Cloud for a few dollars and not place a load on your infrastructure which it cannot easily accommodate. Alternatively, you could avoid having to boost your infrastructure’s capacity by not trying to run these peak load applications in house.Where applications are closely integrated, you must be wary of attempting to run any one of them in the Cloud on its own. Your Internet connection may well become flooded as data moves from your in-house server to your Cloud server and back, causing problems with the job you are running and restricting performance to other in-house Internet users.So, what is the plan of action?Call in your IT people and discuss with them your Cloud aspirations. With their assistance, identify applications that can be run in the Cloud without directly affecting the performance of other in-house applications.Alternatively, consider moving all your applications to the Cloud if they are suitable and dismantling your in-house setup.Identify a suitable Cloud service provider and assess the cost involved with running your applications off site. In most cases, your costs will be a monthly fees covering applications and hardware usage, so it becomes a straight forward cost to the business rather than needing to depreciate the capital cost over a period.Also, most Cloud hosts will provide a simple and cost effective plan which allows you to add to or subtract from the number of users, mail boxes or whatever as your business needs fluctuate.Run some performance testing to ensure the change of location will not cause effectiveness issues.Write a plan and stick to it.This is a short essay based on my personal experience with setting up Cloud environments and remote hosting. Its aim is to let you know that it can be done, but not every application and circumstance should be shoehorned into a Cloud environment. With care, you can probably shrink your internal infrastructure, get a more flexible system running and save some money.What more can you ask. Life is simpler and costs are down, but work goes on apace. Magic!