Our heads in the cloud(s)?Comment on this story
Cloud computing, cloud storage, cloud backup, cloud email, cloud servers, cloud this and cloud that - can't I just stay on the ground?
The reality is that we have been using cloud services for years without knowing it, without calling it the cloud.
Anyone who has ever signed up for Gmail, Webmail or Yahoo! email account has used a cloud-hosted email account - where your email service is not stored and kept primarily on your computer, but accessible on the internet wherever you are.
And if you think that didn't apply to you, don't forget that your Blackberry is also a cloud-hosted email service stored and kept on one of Blackberry servers. The cloud is far from new - it's been here for a while already and is spreading to all areas from data storage to office telephony and communications.
How did we get here? Why are we here?
Way back when, with the advent of computers, it was the companies that wanted to get ahead, that invested in information technology such as computers, word processors, internet, servers in the back room, email for all staff, because the extent to which the business could use IT in order to operate more efficiently and quickly was a crucial differentiator. At that stage, you could make your company more competitive by applying technology to your various work processes and steal a march on your competitor who hadn't done the same.. This no longer applies.
Now that IT services are much more readily accessible, it is no longer a differentiator but rather an essential cost of doing business. It's now a commodity service like having running water in a building. And this is how the winds of change blew in the 'cloud'. As with anything that becomes commoditized, the focus shifts to how the service can be improved - to be more efficient, and be better and at even lower price points.
We have seen this before……
These kinds of shifts have happened before. As Nicholas Carr pointed out in his book, The Big Switch, about a hundred years ago every business had to produce their own electricity to power their operations - this enabled them to get ahead of any other business that was using more primitive sources of energy at the time.
Eventually, there were industrial advancements that enabled electricity to be transmitted over long distances and you didn't have to create electricity in your backyard to have access to it. Major electrical companies emerged to provide this utility and it ceased to be a differentiator and it became a commodity.
Businesses didn't have to do this for themselves and it ultimately made them more efficient as they could focus on their core business instead of worrying about how to generate more electricity - if you are making clothes or furniture, why bother being an electric company for your own needs and build expertise in that if you don't need to?
The impact of this shift was profound. Not only could businesses focus their resources on their primary business, but it also opened the door for smaller-scale businesses that had previously not been able to generate their own electricity. And then products and services that exploited this easy access to electricity became commonplace over time - televisions, vacuum cleaners, photocopiers and almost everything you can think of. This created whole new industries and ushered in the modern world as we know it.
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