The Cloud brings to companies the ability to leverage resources, such as virtual machine, storage or application, hosted over the internet.

If you are a small business looking to compete and scale, the cloud delivers on a promise for exponential growth -- expanding cloud use when you need it and contracting when you don't. Simply put, you pay for what you use, and only what you use.

From AirBnB using Amazon's Web Services (AWS) to ramp up more servers to meet the demands of the users to Walmart partnering with Microsoft's Azure to expand its e-commerce ecosystem, companies big and small are finding the cloud the essential business tool to grow their businesses.

And as more and more companies leverage the cloud, there are many questions about choosing the right cloud company, integrations, and support.

Investigating these three areas will prepare your company to expand capabilities and build a framework for scaling and growing the business.

New vs. Established

Since the initial development of the cloud market in 2002, we have seen the emergence of big companies providing cloud-based infrastructure services. According to RightScale's State of the Cloud Report, the big three established public cloud providers include Amazon Web ServicesMicrosoft's Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

We have also seen the recent rise of Chinese internet giants entering the cloud space with companies like Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud, proving that there is room in the game for new features and differentiation.

So how do you pick which cloud provider is the best fit for your company? 

When weighing whether to go with a new or established cloud company, think about the risk-reward tradeoff. A new cloud company may be more unknown and riskier but more affordable. Whereas an established cloud company could cost a bit more, but provide a more dependable work environment.

If you work for a startup, that is scrappy and willing to experiment, a new, up-and-coming cloud provider will offer credits, enticing companies to test and build their platform together. There is a financial upside to going with a new provider but it will require taking on the growing pains of the enterprise that is building out new products.

If you work at a more established company and are looking to test new product ideas, you may not have an appetite to help a cloud provider identify bugs and may be better suited to go with an established player in the space. You may need dependability and a mature working environment to allow you to build new capacities in the cloud within an established infrastructure.

When shopping for your cloud provider, think about whether a new or established company will be a better fit.

What is the risk-reward tolerance in your company?

Build vs. Buy

Another piece of the puzzle is to identify the required infrastructure layers or hardware, software, or other resources needed to operate and manage into the cloud.

My husband Ryan Tudhope, co-founded a visual effects company Atomic Fiction (which recently become part of Deluxe-owned VFX brand Method Studios), in 2010 and needed a solution to scale their business. One of the first studios to tap into the cloud for rendering visual effects, they leveraged the cloud to create and enable their artists to focus on making movie magic, not whether they have enough rendering machines to get the job done.

To use the cloud, they took a look at the services available in the marketplace. They did a deep dive into what their company needed to use the cloud and didn't find an existing solution in the market to address their needs. So they built their own tool (developed and spun out as Conductor Technologies). 

They have seen the cloud take their visual effects work to the next level through shots they created for Game of ThronesDeadpool, and the Oscar award winning Blade Runner 2049.

Had there been a platform like Conductor available off-the-shelf, they would have chosen to buy it and reduce their time to market rather than making the significant investment required to build their own.

Evaluate what elements would be valuable to own and customize in-house versus simply re-creating the wheel when a perfectly good solution is in place (assuming of course that the good solution is cost-effective).

The build or buy question applies to many layers of scaling a business and the cloud is no exception. 

What integrations will your company need and what is available on the market? 

Operating Expenses vs. Capital Expenses

Despite leading technology integrations, there is a general disdain by IT leaders for disruptive technology and transferring the technology "power" within an organization. This hesitance could come from a place of insecurity, in creating job risk. Or it may be rooted in practicality, feeling the organization isn't ready to take on big technology projects.

As a leader, it is important to weigh both the insecurities and the hesitations. Many compare the cloud to a utility, where computation is being delivered on an as-needed basis. It is important to recognize that investment in one utility does not mean there isn't a need for divestment in another. Instead, it is offering new capacities in parallel, offering the business tremendous advances.

In building out IT support for new cloud capacity, think about weighing the operating expenses (OpEx) to run the business versus the capital expenses (CapEx) to developing the system. This ROI calculation is an important start, but take it a step deeper and factor in agility. Think about the value of accelerating the time-to-market or improved productivity when accessing cloud infrastructure.

How might you calculate the true value of cloud?

The race to the cloud promises to provide scale and growth opportunities from the largest enterprises to the smallest organizations alike. It is important to weigh options about which cloud company to utilize, what integrations to incorporate, and how IT will support it.