Cloud Computing: What Is It?

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Cloud computing is no longer just hype or a buzzword for the times. It is reshaping the IT marketplace as we know it, and it’s here to stay.

The media love stories about the cloud. “The cloud” and “cloud computing” have become ubiquitous in business and technology news stories. It’s popping up in consumer ads and quickly making its way into the high-level discussions of policymakers all over the world.

Early cloud adopters in both the private and public sectors are yesterday’s news story. They have paved the way for the rapidly expanding early majority. And to that end, IDC industry analysts expect that worldwide IT spending on cloud services will reach $42 billion next year – in large part because the cloud computing model “offers a much cheaper way for businesses to acquire and use IT.” And these days, who isn’t cost cutting?

So, if cloud computing is such a big deal, why does the concept itself still leave many scratching their heads? What is cloud computing, exactly?

Well, the term has been used many ways lately. According to the Business Software Alliance, “The key features of the cloud are the ability to scale and provide, as needed, data storage and computing power dynamically in a cost efficient way, without the user having to manage the underlying complexity of the technology. Cloud computing offers tremendous potential for efficiency, cost savings and innovations to government, businesses and individuals alike. These benefits will improve government services and citizen access; transform businesses; provide new innovations to consumers; improve important services such as health care and government-provided services; and create energy savings.”

As the new decade unfolds, we can expect to see more businesses, consumers – and even lawmakers – rushing to educate themselves about cloud technology and the implications that it holds for the way they work, live and play. And, they will be asking lots of questions. How will it alter the landscape of traditional IT offerings? How will it drive down costs? How will it dovetail with traditional IT architecture? Will it give rise to new policy debates?

BSA, the voice of the world’s software industry on a range of business and policy affairs (and for whom I once worked), has produced a solid educational video “to help speed this transition, especially for policy-makers.” The video provides the fundamentals of cloud computing – including what defines it and how it is being used, touches on its many benefits (increased efficiencies, scalability, enhanced functionality, cost savings, etc.), and then outlines key policy considerations for lawmakers.

If you are already familiar with the news coverage around cloud computing trends, you might wonder if cloud computing has the potential to usurp existing server, desktop and mobile technologies altogether. BSA’s video explains why the cloud model will instead “complement more-established IT architecture.” The video describes public, private and hybrid cloud-based implementations and responds to a wide range of policy questions on privacy and security, technology standards, intellectual property and more.

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