The Cloud – Why Now?

by Mark Swanson

Despite the cloud’s popularity, there is still confusion as to how the cloud is different from previous information technology services. A common question is, “What’s the difference between the cloud, an application service provider (ASP) and software as a service (SaaS)?”

The answer in one simple word is: nothing. The cloud is a fairly recent term that encompasses the old ASP or SaaS business models. Many cloud applications, such as e-mail and http://www.Salesforce.com, have been around for over a decade. So the real question is, “Why has the cloud emerged so quickly and strongly as the latest IT buzzword?”

I actually had a discussion with a colleague at a tradeshow recently about this very topic. We discussed the factors that are fundamentally driving the adoption of cloud technologies today. The one thing that absolutely stood out was the emergence of ‘ubiquitous broadband’ or the ability to access online applications and data anytime, anywhere. Ubiquitous broadband frees you from worrying about being stranded without access to your data and applications. As connectivity is everywhere, you can now retrieve data and use applications on all the various devices you have — a smartphone, notebook computer, iPad, whatever.

It has fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other personally (i.e. replacing face-to-face interaction with online interaction), as well as how we operate as businesses. No longer are we tethered to an office or to our laptop computers. Ubiquitous broadband has led to ubiquitous data and applications, available anytime and anywhere. It has redefined the way we work. Just think about it — for many people, employment used to mean driving to an office. Now it means connecting to a network where you get things done.

What this has meant for me is that I no longer have to take my notebook computer on business trips. I can always tap into e-mail, have access to all my company’s information and retrieve files using my DropBox program, regardless of where I am using either the 3G or WiFi.

The rollout of 4G wireless this year means much higher bandwidth speeds, which will open the door for a plethora of new devices and applications that will enable business users to leverage this new technology. I am thinking about how we can use this new technology to help our customers. You should too!

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