The term “Cloud computing” is generally used to refer to applications that take advantage of the capabilities of the Internet, distributed computing, and huge (practically unlimited) amounts of online storage and computing power to perform functions that have traditionally been done by installable desktop applications. Instead of license fees, cloud-based applications are usually paid for with a subscription or per-use fee. This pricing model gives users the flexibility to purchase as much or as little of the service as they need.
In the not-too-distant past, most computer applications were “native” apps that required you to install software on a desktop or laptop computer and to be at your computer to use them. To share data between computers, you needed to burn CDs or specifically save files to a shared drive or file server. To run the same application on two computers, you had to buy two licenses and install the application on each computer. Performing backups, software updates, and hardware maintenance was up to you. Worst of all, you paid for a full software license even if you only used the application occasionally.
All of this is changing as cloud computing is taking hold. Just about every type of common business software is now available as a cloud-based service. With the recent explosions in smart phone and tablet usage and capabilities, mobile apps are also starting to shift away from the native and installable model of software distribution. In the future, most computing will be done “in the cloud.”
Some examples of cloud computing applications include: email clients, cloud-based storage and backup, office applications (such as spreadsheets and word processors), sophisticated database management systems, and even photo and video editing.
Cloud computing also enables integration of your data between applications in ways that were previously impossible.
In future posts, we’ll talk about some of the capabilities, especially with regard to data integration, that are made possible by cloud computing. We’ll also give you concrete examples of how you can take advantage of “the cloud” right now to cut costs, improve efficiency, and make your operation work better.