It is one of the most popular buzzwords in the IT and business worlds. You cannot go anywhere and not hear people, advertisements, and computer experts talking about the “cloud”. But what does the word cloud actually mean? Is it something tangible or just an abstraction used to define something that already existed? The answer probably lies somewhere in between.
As one person who had worked in the IT industry put it, “There is no cloud. It’s just a bunch of servers.” From an IT perspective, this is true. The cloud looks a lot like the web hosting of old. In that sense, nothing has changed.
Nevertheless, a fundamental shift has occurred at both the business and consumer level. For a business, that “bunch of servers” once occupied a floor of its building and had to be maintained by a full staff of competent IT professionals. For the consumer, valuable emails that they once downloaded from their ISPs resided exclusively on their hard drives.
With the advent of the cloud, there are now companies that specialize in doing nothing but providing working, managed servers for businesses. While we may refer to them as cloud service providers, they are still web hosting companies that now offer software as a service (SaaS) or a platform as a service (PaaS). For the business employee or even a private consumer, it means that they can now access their software anywhere and are not tied to a single workstation or home computer.
Having stated all of the above, it is important to know what you are getting when you move your business to the cloud. For many users, traditional web hosting may still be the best option, especially if they want full control of their platform and software. For those that cannot afford to do it themselves, they can now pay others to run their business applications from the cloud.