So you’ve decided to move ahead with a cloud deployment. Now you’re on the hook to make another critical decision: which platform to select. Public? Private? Hybrid? It’s not a cut-and-dried process. What’s right for one organization isn’t necessarily right for your enterprise. To that end, here are five must-ask questions to help you choose wisely.

1)      What do industry regulations say?

When researching cloud options, it’s wise to start by examining regulations within your own industry. In particular, find out what’s needed to comply with any outlined data security requirements. Those requirements alone might dictate which cloud model is the best fit. For example, healthcare organizations governed under HIPAA have stringent data privacy requirements surrounding the handling of protected health information (PHI), which typically leads them to go with a private cloud solution. While the public cloud has huge appeal due to straightforward deployment and management, many soon discover that the potential of violating compliance mandates – and the associated multi-million dollar penalties – are simply not worth the risk.

2)      What types of data will be stored and shared?

This question is commonly overlooked by many, yet is critical to assess before deploying any solution that will come in contact with enterprise information. If your organization produces and/or handles large amounts of confidential and proprietary data, then keeping that information out of the wrong hands has to be a top priority. On the other hand, if you’re in an organization that does not handle mass amounts of private information, you may be less concerned about security and more focused on flexibility and cost-effectiveness, which are two selling points of the public cloud.

3)      What is your risk tolerance?

Risk tolerance is determined by a number of variables, from the type of data your organization works with, to how members of the executive team believe a data breach should be handled. Any organization considering a cloud computing solution needs to determine where you are on the risk spectrum – ultra conservative, open to risk, or somewhere in between. Because risk is not a tangible item and is constantly changing due to varying internal and external factors, such as changes in your IT infrastructure or more advanced security threats, it’s important to maintain an open and ongoing dialogue about risk tolerance and adjust IT strategy as needed.

4)      Where does your data need to live?

Where you want your data to be stored and where a cloud provider actually stores your data might be worlds apart. That could be an issue if industry regulations require otherwise. For example, in European countries, regulations mandate that customer data is stored within the country where the customers live. Therefore, companies that operate in numerous countries need to choose how they will store data specific to that country and ensure that a chosen cloud solution will support the desired location. Often the only viable options are private or hybrid cloud solutions.

5)      What kind of growth do you expect for your cloud-based applications and solutions?

The reality is that you probably don’t know. Ideally, you want a cloud solution that will allow you to grow as far and as fast as you wish – even if the route changes along the way. You want to protect any investment you make, with a built-in potential migration path that allows you to scale without revamping the system every few years. If you know that fast growth is on the docket, a hybrid approach might be a good fit, as you benefit from the seamless scalability of a public cloud solution with the strong security controls that a private cloud deployment can offer.

While private cloud solutions offer the ultimate assurance that data stays under IT control, for some organizations public cloud solutions may provide sufficient assurances for protection of information. In the end, you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to gamble with the control and security of your information and then place your own bet on the cloud environment that’s right for you.