96Cloud computing is an exciting and valuable capability. Its definition, however, is an enigma. I challenge you to scour the internet for a simple one sentence definition that makes any sense. Good luck!
So here goes my own definition…
“Cloud computing is doing IT stuff such as storing data, running programs and hosting computers and servers, over the internet instead of locally, and using a service that is owned by someone else”.
That’s it. Of course that simple definition screams for more details and examples, as it should.
The word “cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet.
Important features of cloud computing are:
  1. You don’t have to worry about buying anything.
  2. You pay for what you use.
  3. You aren’t on the hook to operate it.
  4. It uses the internet as a method of access.  It is hosted in a way that uses the internet to deliver whatever the service is to you.
  5. You don’t own it.  Essentially you rent it or perhaps lease it.  This means you pay monthly (generally) for what you use.
  6. You don’t have to do much of anything to scale up to a bigger footprint.  Except to pay for what you are using.  It grows with you.
  7. You are able to access all programs as well as data using your browser.
  8. You can get started very quickly.
  9. The costs are much less when compared to conventional software programs.
  10. You don’t need to have your own servers and storage.

And let’s mention what cloud computing is not. It’s not your business network or corporate data center.  If you own the hardware and software (infrastructure), it violates feature 5 above.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about whether you should be looking into doing cloud computing.  The answer is yes.  In fact, most of you are already doing cloud computing.  Using Gmail?  That’s a cloud-based email system.  How about Facebook or Salesforce.com?  …cloud computing.
Cloud computing isn’t an everything or nothing technology.  Most businesses use it for some of their IT capabilities, and rely on their own networks for the rest.
Note that cloud computing isn’t always better.  Everything has trade-offs, and you need to evaluate them along with the alternatives – just like any other business decision.  If you don’t have an in-house IT expert to help you with that, then give me a call.
Stay tuned for next week’s issue, where I’ll be providing my top 10 cloud computing applications for small businesses.