Cloud computing continues to change the way we interact with technology, in both our personal and professional lives. The change to storing data and running software over a network, or “cloud”, where they were once kept on hard disks, has ushered in an era where content and services are delivered wherever we work or play.
Cloud computing, of course, is the delivery of computing as a service, with software, storage and applications provided to users like a utility. Just as a customer accesses electricity at will, and pays for only what he uses, the cloud employs a similar pay-as-you-go model. The technology behind the cloud includes the internet, servers, storage systems and computers that process and deliver services to the user, who accesses the cloud via his PC, tablet or mobile device.
The cloud has become critical to the way we use computers and services and will remain so in the future. The devices we use will not need a great deal of processing power or large hard drives, as everything we want to use at any given time – storage, software, applications – will be available on the cloud.
All the computer and mobile operating systems now available, whether from Microsoft, Apple or Google, are incorporating cloud-based functionality and pushing these services to their customers.
In fact, we’re already using cloud-based services. Popular sites like Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Hotmail, YouTube and Facebook host content and information on servers that we access through the internet.
One of the fastest-growing parts of cloud computing has been “software as a service”. A number of important enterprise software applications are now delivered over the web, including those for accounting, customer relationship management and human resource management. Cloud computing is an especially efficient way of running a business. Instead of buying expensive software for all of a company’s computers, management can simply pay a monthly subscription for whatever storage and services it needs.
This allows the company to access the latest software without spending a large amount of capital outright, and nor does the company need to pay for maintenance and support. The software as-a-service model is very good for start-ups where capital may be in short supply when setting up a new venture.
Infrastructure as a service offers similar cost savings, as it allows companies to use servers without purchasing them. Still, there’s another cloud-based functionality worth noting as well: the platform as
a service. This provides the environment for the development and delivery of applications and services, again without spending much money upfront.
Apple has upped the ante with its iCloud offering. This provides network storage for photos, music and apps, in addition to giving users the ability to keep their calendars and email up to date regardless of the Apple device they are using.
The cloud is the future. We are moving to a virtual digital environment, and in this new ecosystem, the cloud will play a very important role.
Jazz Gill is a technology, telecoms and private equity consultant. You can contact him at [email protected].