What Is Cloud Computing and How Does The Cloud Relate to Business?

By Judith Hurwitz, Marcia Kaufman, Fern Halper, Daniel Kirsch

Some consider the concept of cloud computing to be way over their heads — a pie-in-the-sky notion of data drifting through space until called upon to materialize. “The cloud,” in its simplest definition, is a place where data and programs can be stored — an easily accessible environment outside a computer hard drive.

To business people, cloud computing is a method of providing a set of shared computing resources that includes applications, computing, storage, networking, development platforms, as well as business processes. These days, “the cloud” pops up within just about every conversation about implementations of technology.

So what’s its real benefit of cloud computing to businessowners? Let’s say you run an accounting firm with ten accountants and your business requires that each employee have her own computer. In a traditional computing environment, you’d have to buy ten versions of accounting software — one for each computer. But in a cloud computing environment, you could buy just one version of accounting software and load it on a network computer, which each employee could then access through the cloud.

Cloud computing is quickly evolving. In a hybrid cloud environment, a business would use some resources that are managed in-house and some that are external (and exist on the cloud). A hybrid cloud could contain elements and resources that operate on both a public cloud (one that’s operated by a company for use by multiple persons or organizations — for example, Google Calendar) and a private cloud (one that’s built and exists exclusively for you or your organization). See Cloud Computing Elements for more on public versus private clouds.

A hybrid cloud is a smart way for companies to choose the best platform for each task or service. You can build a computing environment that’s perfectly tailored based on your needs. (See Hybrid Cloud Foundational Elements for the basic infrastructure of a hybrid cloud.)

No matter what type of cloud services best serve a business’s needs, the cloud is the foundation for the future of computing. Even for organizations that will use only minimal cloud services, the cloud could soon dramatically change both business and the computer industry as a whole.