Cloud — Biggest thing ever!

by Mark Swanson

Last month, at one of the Information Technology trade shows, one of the industry’s pundits made a startling prediction — that the shift to the cloud computing platform will be bigger than the shift to the Internet or the shift from the mainframe to the PC. I think it depends on how you look at it. Cloud computing is really not all that new. In fact, many people claim that we are back to where we started from in the 1960s when computers were time shared from a remote location. Sun Computer coined the phrase, ‘the network is the computer’ decades ago when they had a vision of computing as a utility. This transition is not about inventing a new platform like the mainframe or the PC, but really a transition of how we use computing. What is fueling this transition is bandwidth. We now have enough fast bandwidth to deliver the same kind of experience that we have on desktop computers so we are starting to use devices to access the platform rather than use the device itself. It is affecting everything — hardware, software, the way we use computing and even the way we view computing. This is the phase where it truly has become a utility. If you look at it this way, I think that it is at least as big as the shift to PCs or the Internet.

From the end-user perspective, what is driving this shift? The interesting thing about this question is that it is consumer end-users that have been driving this transition. Corporations’ budgets have been in lock-down mode for the past four years, while applications like Google Mail and Facebook have been growing exponentially. Consumers are years ahead of business in adapting the many tools and conveniences found in cloud computing. In my opinion, the reasons for this are as follows:

■ You can use the cloud from any device. iPhone, Android, iPad, notebook, netbook, it does not matter.

■ You can use the cloud independent of location. Remember the days of running around trying to find a phone data port to dial up the Internet? We send our e-mails while we are stuck in traffic — on the median, of course!

■ You can use the cloud to pool resources. Want to put together a team of great accountants? Geography is no longer a factor, as you can find talent on LinkedIn. In an argument about a fact with a co-worker? ‘Google it’ and leverage some expert who might be half way across the world. In the pursuit of leveraging the world’s resources, cloud computing is revolutionary.

Where do you think we are in the transition process in business? I still think we are in the early stages — less than 10 percent there. In our business, the vast majority of companies still keep their phone systems in the back closet and pay someone $125 an hour to come out and make a change to them. Most companies are still figuring out how to use the cloud and whether or not they’ll use the public cloud, private clouds, or hybrid clouds. There are still a lot of questions out there, but that’s a great thing!

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