The way some companies talk about the cloud, you’d think their plan was to wave a magic wand and suddenly all your problems will go away.

Cloud computing services can be a valuable way for companies to reduce costs and leverage a flexible environment. Business leaders are pushing to use it for many reasons, such as testing and development, scalable storage or other purposes.

But if you want to have a cloud solution that doesn’t need Harry Potter, unicorns and rainbows to keep it up and running, you’ve got to see through all that sales bologna and ask some legit questions.

First, let’s talk about compliance {cold shudder}. It’s not a four letter word, but it may as well be sometimes. As much as you may want to avoid it, you can’t, so you may as well get it over with. When you talk to cloud vendors, make sure they can deliver a secure environment where you can include your own data access controls to take care of HIPPA, PCI and other acronym soup rules your company deals with.

And we’ve all dealt with a sleazy car salesman from time to time. Don’t just trust them out of hand when they say they’re secure. Look at a third-party audit, and see if they can back it up when it comes to keeping your company’s data secure.

It’s not fun, but proactively thinking through all this can make your cloud decision-making much easier in the long run. Otherwise, all those petabytes of storage you sign up for will be like cans of Spam you bought in bulk – something you’re stuck with for a long time, but never really want to use.