Most businesses currently use the cloud for one or more of their IT functions, but as they look to add cloud services, many need help determining which approach is best: private, public or hybrid. Businesses will turn to their IT solutions providers for answers, so you need to be prepared to guide them through the process of determining which approach best fits their needs. IT requirements and business goals are major factors in making this decision, but you also have to take your clients’ vertical markets into consideration to steer them in the right direction.

For instance, healthcare and financial services clients tend to have serious concerns about trusting their highly sensitive data to a public cloud infrastructure. Valid or not, such concerns must be addressed. One way to do so is to explain the differences between the public, private and hybrid cloud models. And, of course, you need to assess their bandwidth needs as well to ensure they have the appropriate bandwidth for the solution you are recommending.

In many cases, a hybrid approach may deliver the best of both worlds, allowing companies to keep their most valuable business data in tightly secured private cloud environments while using the public cloud for less-sensitive data. But the mix will vary by client, so you’ll need to spend time with them to strike the right balance.

Before advising your client, here are some elements to validate:

1. Explain the cloud models

When clients decide to adopt the cloud, they may really know what that means. Awareness has improved in recent years, but you may still have to explain what distinguishes public from private and hybrid clouds. For instance, clients may not completely understand that while public clouds deliver new levels of flexibility and scalability, they consist of multi-tenant environments in which your clients would be sharing resources with other users.

Like the public cloud, private clouds also offer flexibility and scalability, but a company’s data resides in a private, dedicated environment that business owners are likely to view as more secure. Hybrid clouds combine elements of both models, giving businesses the option of keeping their most sensitive digital assets in a private environment.

2. Find out what’s moving to the cloud

Even if they are vague on what cloud model to pursue, clients are likely to have some idea of which assets they want to move to the cloud. Perhaps they’re interested in a cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) service like Salesforce or they’ve heard that hosted email and cloud storage programs like Office 365 can save them money. As their Solutions Provider partner, your role is to listen and absorb before coming up with a plan to execute on the client’s vision.

3. Assess client needs

Some clients may be unsure about exactly what to move to the cloud. They will have heard about potential cost savings and access to new technology but not much else. You’ll have to evaluate their existing assets to determine which of them make sense to move to the cloud and which should be replaced altogether. Asset age and performance should weigh heavily in this decision. Some applications or systems may be so out of date that only a complete replacement will do. You’ll also need to determine which new functionality to add as a cloud service. This might include something like a data analytics application or automated backup.

4. Set a cloud adoption path

Once you complete the assessment, you can set a cloud adoption path. Whether the plan is to use a public or private cloud – or a combination of both – you’ll need a well-defined strategy to ensure a smooth transition. A cloud adoption plan should include a timetable, cost estimates, as well as any configuration and architecture requirements that may come into play. In some cases, cloud adoption is as simple as turning on a service through the web. But in more complex situations, such as moving databases and archives to the cloud, migration is a multi-step process, and should be approached methodically.

Whichever approach is best suited to your client, you’re more likely to come up with the right strategy by following these key steps. Doing so, you’ll not only help your client with a critical business need but also cement your role as their trusted advisor. And don’t forget to ensure the bandwidth sizing is handled correctly. The best app in the cloud is no good if their ability to reach it through a clogged highway prevents its proper use.

Craig Schlagbaum is Vice President of Indirect Channels at Comcast Business.