Don't have the foggiest about The Cloud? Then how come you're already using it?
If there's one buzzword that's absolutely everywhere right now it's Cloud computing. Apparently it's the next big thing. Apparently it's going to revolutionise the way we work and save us time, effort and money.
Yet many people seem confused about what exactly it is:
"If it really is that important, should we be worrying about The Cloud? Should we be preparing for it? Will it be a key tool for B2B businesses?"
And then we get that situation, the same one that we had when 'Web 2.0' was on its way in, where everyone is referring to Cloud computing, in many cases just in order to seem 'in the know' and to impress their peers with their knowledge, when in fact they have no idea what they are talking about.
Or at least they think they don't. Because, a bit like with Web 2.0, a lot of noise is being made about something that's already very much part of our daily lives. It's just that we don't know it, because a 'cloud' (forgive the pun) of mystery has grown up around what is essentially a simple concept.
Basically, The Cloud is just the internet being used intelligently to host both data and applications in such a way that we can access them wherever and whenever we need them, without worrying about where they are situated, about how much space is being taken up, and whether we need to upgrade to the latest version. It's all taken care of for us, and we just pay for what we need.
"Hold on!" I hear you say, "Haven't I seen this somewhere already?" But of course you have, every time you access Salesforce.com, Google Analytics, Silverpop, or your social media monitoring tool amongst other well-known, cloud-based applications. In each case you don't have to worry about where the servers are that host these applications and the data they are gathering / holding, or about installing the newest version. It's all done for you - you simply pay for the service provided.
And the concept itself certainly isn't new. In fact, it's over 15 years old. For those of you around in the 90's, I'm sure you can remember Sun MicroSystems' famous strap line: "The Network is the Computer". Sun's approach, which was too far ahead of the technology at the time to achieve its full potential, involved exactly the same thinking: take the donkey work away from the desktop and harness the power of a network to make it faster, scalable, and far more versatile. Over the last 15 years the network in question, the internet, has evolved to make this vision possible, and it's been given a name, The Cloud.
So the next time you hear someone talking about their plans for 2011, and the fact that they will be "moving all our systems into The Cloud", feel free to smile knowingly and reply "The Cloud? Oh we've been using it for the last 3 years or so." You won't be lying.