If the vast majority of Baby Boomers (who met their first computer when they were 40ish) can be wooed away from pen or typewriter, children of the 21st century will embrace every new technology that comes along.

 

To understand why cloud computing is the way of the future, it is necessary to know what it is. Cloud computing is an online service which delivers software and data storage over a network to a defined community of users or subscribers.  It can relieve businesses of the burden of caring for expensive servers and associated computers, buying expensive software and having to maintain time-consuming back-up systems.

There are three components to the cloud: Infrastructure as a Service (known as IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

IaaS provides virtual servers and creates networks.  Cloud users still need a device to work from, but they are able to take advantage of gazillions of bites of storage in online storage facilities. Google documents, for example, offers more storage space than any one person could fill in several lifetimes.

A computing platform includes not only an operating system and a place to execute the programming language (write code), but also a database and a web server.  PaaS is used by application developers, who can run and test their software innovations without the expense of acquiring the hardware necessary to carry them.

SaaS is also knownby the descriptive term on-demand software, and is accessed, through a web browser, by users on a variety of devices.  Because the cloud-based software does most of the work, the computing device can be much less powerful than when it has to do all the work itself.  Netbooks, tablets and smart phones work beautifully.  Many businesses already use SaaS for applications including customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management, managing information systems, collaborative workspaces, and accounting.  In effect, SaaS outsources computer maintenance, both hardware and software, greatly reducing the costs of IT support.

The best-known use of cloud computing is webmail, although there are undoubtedly users of webmail who have no idea what cloud computing is.  Webmail messages reside in the cloud on the provider’s server and are accessible from any device, anywhere there is internet access, unlike modem-delivered email which resides on a single computer.

Among the cloud services that are particularly useful for businesses are storage and backup. Parking all one’s data in the cloud frees one from the onerous job of changing and safely storing daily backup tapes. Cloud storage of archived material frees up working computers to deal with current activities.  Pre-defined, cloud-based databases are often easier to use than those developed in-house, and much more cost effective.

Accounting services such as keeping track of income, expenses and tax obligationscan be outsourced to the cloud, as can bill paying. Online meetings, webinars and videoconferencing are all examples of cloud computing.  And last, but not least, is VoIP or voice over internet protocol which has changed the way people communicate.  What did we do before Skype?

 

Even those who do not yet have cell phones have probably already used cloud computing.  It is the future.