Cloud computing, the latest technological phenomenon, is changing the way marketers, businesses, and people work, interact and play.
The term ‘cloud computing’ has been used to describe a myriad of online services, and so defining it is tricky. In summary, cloud computing is a way of working, playing and interacting without being tied to a specific device, be it a home PC, laptop or smart phone. Instead of storing data such as documents, music and photos on a local hard drive, data is saved via the internet onto “the cloud” which can be accessed by any device through an internet connection. Software can be similarly stored online and accessed through any number of portals.
Cloud computing carries with it a number of extremely convenient benefits, including increased security should your laptop crash or mobile be stolen. Storage that is said to be ‘in the cloud’, aside from being well-guarded and in much safer places than a personal laptop, is stored in multiple places on servers that span multiple locations. Hence, data is safe from an accidental loss standpoint. Data and software stored on the cloud is also extremely accessible, and a user can access their cloud from any workstation on any device that has an internet connection, be it a desktop PC, laptop, tablet, iPod or smart phone.
Software that is stored on the cloud also only requires the purchase of one license but can be accessed by a number of people from a number of different locations, negating the need to pay for multiple licenses.
Most people already use a form of cloud computing without realising it. Users who log on to web-based email services such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail instead of running an e-mail program on their computer are accessing software and storage for their account that doesn’t exist on their computer – it’s on the service’s computer cloud.
Despite the many conveniences and benefits that cloud computing boasts, questions about who has access to data held in the cloud and how robust its protection mechanisms remain contested. "The biggest problem with the cloud is that you cannot get a consistent definition of what is secure," said Matt Lowth, National Australia Bank's principal security architect. Lowth, speaking at an Open Data Centre Alliance panel on cloud security in New York in June, added that different industries had different expectations and definitions of security, complicating the issue. "In the case of cloud technology, standardising security requirements will provide positive user experiences both at a business level and for the end consumer," he said.
Companies that are able to harness the power of ubiquitous information and disseminate that information across social, mobile and cloud platforms will find themselves with an edge over competitors, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner. Chris Howard, managing vice president at Gartner, explained that “organizations that ignore the nexus of forces will be displaced by those that can move into the opportunity space more quickly—and the pace is accelerating."