As companies shift more data from legacy systems to cloud infrastructure, they may get the best return on investment by pairing open source software with industry-standard appliances. These solutions provide an efficient on-ramp into the cloud for small and midsize organizations, but can also be customized for the needs of larger businesses, with options that span public and private implementations.

While IT departments are interested in the scalability and flexibility of the cloud, they may need guidance on how to best implement infrastructure and services at the start. Providers such as Amazon offer public resources on a massive scale, but organizations may find the best way forward by starting with a private cloud and/or blending internal IT systems with the public cloud.

They will need to improve storage efficiencies across the IT department, so that they don't end up responding to rising data volumes by simply procuring additional storage media, which can quickly become costly. A proven way to accomplish this is to combine open source software and hardware, which spares buyers from licensing costs and expensive upfront appliance purchases. Many open solutions came to market in 2013, and companies can easily get help in setting them up, according to Joe Arnold, CEO at Swiftstack, a Seagate Cloud Builder Alliance partner.

"Open source software has proven itself to be enterprise-ready. Big operators have achieved a competitive advantage leveraging open source running on low-cost standard hardware," explained Arnold in a piece for Virtual-Strategy Magazine. "Storage is critical and thus has been sacred for some time, but it too can be delivered with as much, if not more reliability and availability using open source software on standard server hardware."

Platforms such as OpenStack may be especially appealing since they can be used to construct private and hybrid clouds. A recent Unisys survey found that half of enterprises preferred a private cloud, followed by 26 percent that favored hybrid solutions.

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