Those of us with enough time to stare at the clouds will notice that there is no shortage of different types: stratus, altostratus, cirrus and cumulus, among others.

Appropriately, when it comes to cloud computing there is also far more than just one type of cloud – and getting the most out of cloud services can save an organization money, enhance functionality and prevent security breaches.

But what type of cloud best fits military needs?

This question was addressed by IBM’s Stuart Paterson at Vanguard’s recent C4ISR and Beyond conference. As part of a panel on emerging technologies, he outlined some of the advantages of moving to the cloud from legacy technologies and addressed the different types of clouds and how to get the most out of them.

IBM remains open source with multiple cloud environments to choose from. These services can make cloud computing attractive to parts of the military looking to make information available when and where it is needed. The technology is also elastic and scalable, meaning it can be readily adapted to fit demand.

Many legacy systems, too, are now being adapted to become cloud-enabled, making the security and customization of cloud computing all the more important. Cloud computing also has the potential to standardize information storage, aggregate data and remove user complexity.

Security, however, remains the primary concern. Paterson posed several basic questions for organizations seeking a cloud provider: Can I trust this provider? Where is my information going? How is the infrastructure secured? Are the operational processes adequate? How are encryption keys managed? Will the vendor support my compliance needs? How are vulnerabilities managed? Who has access to the data? What happens when the relationship ends? What happens if there is an incident? And is a secure method used to access my cloud resources?

As one delegate noted, how legitimate is security when cloud data is stored in a foreign country?

There is also the question of whether a private, dedicated cloud is better than a cheaper, public cloud. While private clouds offer increased security and peace of mind, public clouds are cheaper and more accessible. Paterson said there are U.S military projects that trust public cloud security enough to use public clouds in certain circumstances.