What is the cloud, really?
By Stuart Janicki • 29 Aug 2013
Our world is surrounded by the cloud, more so than we probably think. So don’t think of this as another 101-guide to the cloud, there are plenty of available resources dedicated to this explanation.
When I’m explaining the cloud to people outside of the B2B cloud computing world that I’m enveloped in, I use Facebook as an example. It’s hard to know someone who isn’t on Facebook (not to say you need to be on Facebook to be known). Opinions aside, Facebook represents the cloud model quite gloriously.
Facebook is built on a simple web interface with mobile integration, enabling users to access and upload information and images with no local software required. Of course, it even has collaboration with groups, pages and comments. This data is located in a data centre somewhere in the world, with the really old stuff held in cold storage waiting to burst into life.
Then the conversation moves away from social media and onto email. If we were putting internet technology on a timescale with life on Earth, then email must be a Tyrannous Rex. Millions of consumers around the world have grown up with Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo as part of their everyday lives. These services follow the same cloud computing principles as Facebook, they provide a web-based interface, with a mobile application and yet we use it to access emails – something which remains the pride of the business world.
Perhaps this is where our issues with cloud trust reside. We believe that the cloud is something new, something radical to the way we currently use the internet and technology; when actually we’ve been using it all along.
Consumers are more open to adopting the cloud, as is seen with the growth of Spotify, YouTube, iCloud, Tumblr, SkyDrive and Netflix. These tend to fall into three categories: a pure download or streaming service; a collaborative service with both download, streaming and users uploading their own information; and personal upload and storage.
They are in a flexible position because they choose whether they want to upload their own data and information, and also get to decide how much to contribute.
Consumers love the cloud because they can access services anywhere in the world, at any time. They’re all intuitive, dead easy to adopt and you can master them without training manuals. It has become natural for consumers to seek a cloud-first attitude for data storage and retrieval.
Ultimately, consumers become employees and it’s why in business we’re seeing the consumerisation of business technology. Individuals now expect to be able to benefit from this easy and accessible technology approach at work.
Businesses on the other hand are tied by law, regulatory requirements and a duty of care to protect the customer data they handle. Businesses also have sensitive commercial data and would prefer this didn’t become available to competitors.
But businesses are becoming more trusting of the cloud for customer data. A major player in the CRM world is SalesForce, and this is an out-and-out cloud service.
Businesses may not realise they are using a cloud service, and their interpretation of the cloud is as ambiguous as the definitions that are flashed at them. This is why it can be difficult to understand what the state of cloud computing is; some businesses just don’t understand how to interpret the question.
So with this in mind, where is the cloud used in business? Roughly half of all IT managers are using some form of IT services in cloud. These are the types of things they’re using:
- 55% web content control1
- 53% storing data1
- 46% for email2
- 23% for backup and disaster recovery3
- 22% for communications and collaboration3
- 17% for sales and marketing apps3
- 9% for finance and ERP3
So what is the cloud really? It’s all around us; it’s invisible and anonymous, which is the way it’s intended. We just need to realise how much of it we’re already exposed to.
Share this post