Cloud computing allows you to purchase computing capability as a utility in the same way that you would purchase electricity or water. This means you can substantially reduce the amount of IT infrastructure and support you need to maintain in-house.
With Cloud services both the programs and data are accessed via the Internet and all you need to access and use them is an Internet connection. Modern cloud solutions are typically web based and highly configurable to your specific needs. Familiar examples of cloud computing are Gmail and Hotmail.
In the past sophisticated business systems were out of the reach of most SMEs because of cost. Cloud computing is now in the process of leveling this 'playing field' and means the computing power that was once only available to the largest and wealthiest of companies is now available to all.
Cloud systems are normally fully run, secured and maintained by the provider. Typically no additional equipment or technical support is required by you other than system customisation, which can be handled by your staff or a partner company. Upgrading is handled by the Cloud provider which means you will always be up to date with new features, current look and fell, security patching and performance enhancements. This all means you can just get on with using the system and getting business benefit from it.
The number of applications which are cloud based increases monthly, but areas such as CRM, ERP, HR, accounts, logistics, collaboration, communication (such as email, messaging and conferencing) are well served. Other areas such as document management are also fast coming online.
One of the great advantages of cloud solutions is that it is possible to get a basic new system up and running in weeks, which is something unheard of with conventional software solutions or development. Typically Cloud based solutions are far cheaper to run because you are saving on the initial product cost and ongoing people and facility costs. These systems are super-scalable, very secure, more reliable and you only pay for what you use.
Typically the popular solutions are run by big providers like Salesforce, Workday, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle who all stake their reputations on keeping their systems up and running and absolutely secure. Because they are web based, internet usage is generally fairly modest, with most of the work done on the provider's server.
These technologies change the nature of computing making it far more business centric, meaning that less technical resource is needed to maintain your systems.
Stephen Fry explains cloud computing
This educational video was commissioned by Data Barracks who are a provider of cloud Infrastructure, Disaster Recovery and Backup services.
We think it sums up what cloud computing is about really well.
Demystifying the Cloud
This infographic about cloud computing published on Computer Science Zone summarises the current state of the market really well.