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You may have heard the term cloud computing before and wondered “what in the world have they thought of now” or “this can’t possibly be useful to me”.  If that was your initial response, you’re probably not in the minority. However, cloud computing is everywhere and you could be using it every day without ever knowing.

No, cloud computing is not the act of using your laptop computer during a commercial flight, nor is it a top secret government project to harness the sky for IT applications.  Cloud computing is an information systems and business concept used to deliver data to a user wherever he or she might be.  Sounds complex, right?  In reality, it’s pretty simple to understand, and in practice, it’s very useful for many businesses.

Wikipedia defines cloud computing as “internet- (“cloud-“) based development and use of computer technology (“computing”)… Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications online which are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers”.  In its simplest form, cloud computing allows a user to access information via the Internet through a web browser instead of a dedicated program running on the PC’s desktop.  So what does this mean for business?  If I’m connected to the Internet, I have access to my data.  It’s that simple.

The flexibility and scalability of cloud computing is what attracts many businesses, especially when it comes to Software as a Service (SaaS).  SaaS is a type of cloud computing that delivers actual business applications through a web browser (think Google Docs or Salesforce.com).  In the example of Google Docs, a user can create and edit documents as if he or she was using Microsoft Word or any other word processing application.  Those created documents can be saved to “the cloud” or the user’s PC; Word- created documents can even be uploaded to “the cloud” and edited via Google Docs.

The possibilities of cloud computing don’t just end at the desktop, in fact the promise extends far beyond. Because your data is in “the cloud”, it can be accessed through any web connected device that has a browser.  This includes laptops, tablets, and smart phones, with no data synchronization of any type required.  Enabling collaboration is a key element of cloud computing as well.  Now, your documents stored in the cloud can be shared with others and true real-time collaboration can take place at the click of a button.  Imagine a platform where your data is stored in one place but accessible and sharable from anywhere – that’s flexibility.

As knowledge workers are asked to be more productive and businesses are looking for ways to innovate, providing the flexibility of “the cloud” can be crucial to staying competitive for any business.  The fast paced world of today requires information be readily accessible and easily customized to fit any need.  Providing users with the power of cloud computing may just give your business a competitive advantage and have your customers sitting on cloud nine.


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