Cloud computing is important to more than just IT

Is IT moving to the cloud?
Cloud Computing is one of the IT industry buzzword these days for computing services. Gartner senior analyst Ben Pring says, “It’s become the phrase du jour.” But why is it so attractive? To answer this let’s start with a definition. Wikipedia defines cloud computing as

“the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a metered service over a network(typically the Internet).”

For IT groups it gives the potential to reduce costs and increase speed of service (every CIOs dream). They aren’t burdened with hardware maintenance, software release deployments, disaster recovery, or physical access to data for an increasingly mobile workforce. The need for those types of services is still relevant. But with cloud computing much of that is outsourced to a third party that solves these types of business needs as part of their solution offering.

But the cloud computing model is about more than B2B services.
The idea has already started to make it’s way into news articles, television commercials, and service offerings for consumers. Microsoft has a campaign theme using the phrase “to the cloud”. Apple and Google have cloud based media storage and retrieval with iCloud and Google Music. Drop Box and a slew of other companies offer cloud based storage to take care of backups and additional capacity needs of a consumer.

The real benefit to consumers today is that data is accessible from multiple devices.  In the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s most people used a single computing device. The data they needed was local to that one device. Programs such as GoToMyPC and Citrix Server were developed to give you remote control to your main device (home or office). But for the most part, software and hardware was purchased for that single device. Consumers had to deal with specification and compatiblity concerns (i.e. USB 2.0, Windows Compatible, Firewire, IDE, SD Disk, etc.)

But today, many consumers own multiple electronic devices. Many, if not all of them, with access to the cloud: Desktops, laptops, netbooks, smart phones, tablets, and televisions. The value of cloud computing to the consumer is that they have access to their data and computing services wherever they are and from whatever device they have with them. Consumers no longer have to worry about software verions, upgrades, cable compatibility, etc.

As I write this post, I’m use Google Docs to compose the draft while listening to Google Music play my library of music. I’ve pretty well converted all of my home computing to some cloud service because I use multiple internet connected devices. Whenever, wherever, and with whatever device I use, the data is there.

Oh, I should mention that cloud computing is a “sticky” service. If you become unhappy with your service provider in the future, the cost and complexity of moving to a different service provider may keep you in the unhappy relationship. Choose wisely.