Cloud computing is the next step for the cloud. While an exact definition of cloud computing is tough to nail down because of the many interpretations of it that abound, what we can say is that it is essentially Internet-based software services and centralized use of computer technology where details are abstracted from users who no longer need knowledge of, expertise in, or control over that technology. Google Apps, Salesforce, and Intuit’s Quicken Online where you log into their website to manage your finances are typical examples.
The attraction of cloud computing is that it allows subscribers to an over-the-Internet service to add or adjust capabilities and communication resources dynamically without requiring them to hire people, purchase hardware or software, set up proprietary servers, undertake lengthy technical training, or put up with a time-consuming installation process. In some ways, cloud-computing harks back to the pre-1990 days of timesharing where centralized computer resources were shared among different users.
Beware those who use the term too loosely as a general reference to the Internet. Technically, for those folks, even your email and website are “in the cloud” if those services are provided for by an ISP. Here at DataPlex, we like to narrow the definition to “focused enterprise and personal services” such as online contact management, accounting support, document sharing, and customized database applications. Basically, if you are running over a network a specialized application as a service where you didn’t have to set up a server or buy any hardware or software, you are most likely using cloud computing.
Any organization can take advantage of cloud computing by using a “cloud services provider,” or “cloud provider” for short. For detailed information on the five most common kinds of cloud computing, read our sidebar.