Many businesses are planning to deploy cloud infrastructure as a service: which means outsourced storage, hardware, networking and servers. Essentially, the idea of IaaS is that another provider handles your infrastructure, with you simply uploading virtual machines.

But given the number of different providers, service agreements and tiers on offer, it is advisable businesses choose carefully, watching a number of key factors.

To look at the numbers: According to an Opsview survey carried out in the second quarter of this year, some 28% of businesses are considering implementing an IaaS solution, and 9% are in the proof of concept stage. Seven per cent intend to start this year.

Among the preferred vendors, Amazon is the clear winner with 56% of respondents favouring it as an IaaS supplier. At a distant second is RackSpace, at 18%, followed by Dimension Data at 5%, Go Grid and Tier 3 at 4%, Terremark at 2% and Joyent at 1%. It should be remembered that Google, Microsoft, IBM and HP are also competing in this space.

Infrastructure as a service is still a relatively new ideas, and this explains the number of companies (40%) who still do not yet have plans.

For those businesses intending to deploy IaaS, there are a number of key concerns they must address when choosing their provider.

Security is tantamount, and 56% of the 420 businesses surveyed said that they were worried about this area. Companies need to ensure they have complete transparency into the location and operation of their servers and data. They need to know that the environment is thoroughly protected from attack and fulfils all regulatory needs, as well as ensuring that there is an audit trail for any issues.

Monitoring is vital here. Businesses need to know that any IaaS infrastructure they will use can be tracked for who is connecting to the network, the activity and any suspicious circumstances, detection of any problems and the data retrieval.

Linked to this is data control, a concern for 14% of participants. Again, monitoring enables companies to know exactly where every item of data is, who is accessing it and when, and to make sure security policies are being followed.

When it comes to choosing a provider, cost is also vital, and 12% of those surveyed were worried about this area. Businesses need to know they will have the resources, availability levels and recovery times that they require, within their budget.

Twelve per cent of those surveyed said that reliability is very important to them. As a topic that is often discussed when it comes to IaaS, businesses need to know that their supplier will provide them with an always on, trustworthy connection.

Performance was an issue highlighted by only 4% of those surveyed, but it cannot be ignored. Businesses require fast connections supplying the bandwidth they need, so they should check with potential suppliers exactly what availability and performance is promised, and of course this needs to be clearly set out in any agreement.

In order to check the performance and reliability of suppliers, monitoring is essential. Companies must be very careful of any promises of 100% uptime, and check every aspect of their contracts.

Businesses must be sure that in the event of any downtime, there is automated failover ready and that they can still easily access and monitor their data.

In addition to these areas, they need to know that the platform is easy to setup and use, with quick troubleshooting.

Opsview offers full monitoring capabilities, with excellent coverage for cloud, physical and virtual systems. Its software delivers a 360 degree view of a company's entire infrastructure, in real-time, on a simple to follow and useful dashboard, correlating events between cloud and physical systems.

It also offers the operational insight needed for capacity planning with the cloud, and cloud-based hosts can be easily added to the dashboard using the Pocket module.

The open source Opsview Core system is free. For companies requiring a professionally supported solution, there is Opsview Pro for SMEs and Opsview Enterprise for deployments of up to 20,000 devices.