Cloud computing is taking off on a massive scale, so what should companies know as they move their information technology into the cloud?
Cloud computing is a fundamental change of how we - companies and consumers - use computer technology. Cloud computing is the delivery of computing power over the internet. It turns software into a service where customers don't pay for a licence but for how much they use; it makes computing power and storage space a commodity, bought when needed and scaled up when necessary.
The cloud is such a "major technology disruption" that the new chief executive of computer giant Hewlett Packard, Leo Apotheker, has decided to refocus his whole company around a cloud strategy.
The early adopters are both the very big and the very small beasts in the corporate world. Ironically, small firms would be best placed to take advantage of the cloud. Indeed, it is usually start-ups that are seizing the moment. After all, information technology is costly. It requires capital expenditure - for servers, software licences - and a team to maintain it all.
The global economic crisis is helping with cloud adoption. Big IT providers report that customers' budgets are so squeezed that there's a huge reluctance to invest. So finance directors hope that moving to the cloud allows them to replace capital expenditure with operational expenditure.
Getting your IT from the cloud may be cheap, but it comes at a price: standardisation. Using the cloud means opting for off-the-shelf solutions. There will be no, or hardly any, customisation. On the upside, instead of having the same big, pricey software package for everyone, your staff should be able to select smaller and cheaper applications with the functionality that is just right for them.
The cloud is also the perfect answer to the surge of corporate mobility. Workforces are becoming ever more mobile, while staff - from the chief executive down - carry smartphones and tablet computers, and expect that they can use them to access their work files everywhere.
Using cloud services saves companies from building the expensive infrastructure to support mobile solutions.
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