Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What is a Cloud Service and why should You care?

Wikipedia gives a silly technical explanation: “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility…”

Why should you Care?

Cloud Services are currently changing the way people, businesses and governments work and live.  Let me give you a few examples:

For Businesses (Small and Large)
  • Cost Savings are Huge.
    Cloud services are designed for sharing of one system between many users and companies. This means that you split the cost between all users. Lets say you company want to use Google Apps (Gmail / Calender / CMS …). This advanced system is used by many companies world wide and therefore the price is as low as 40 Euro per year and user. And you only need to signup on a website, in other words, no servers, no expensive consulting companies (I’m not promoting Google, but this is simply the best example).  You can also watch this nice video by Salesforce.

  • Growth Opportunity is extreme
    - for those who develop their own services.
    Scalability is a button switch away and you can target the entire world with your system.  Google has only been around for 10+ years, Facebook 6 years, YouTube 5 years and  Twitter 4 years. Of course you don’t need to aim for world domination. A good system on Google Marketplace will give you a head start if you are developing business systems.
Basically, Your company might be a victim if you don’t know what Cloud Service is and how it might affect you business.

On the other hand, if you play your cards right and know how Cloud Services might help your business you can be a world leading company in your area.

For Governments (and citizens)

The US government is currently working with NASA in order to transform the entire government IT infrastructure from costly and energi-innefective systems to Cloud services. This transformation is initially a very costly process, but will give US a head start over other countries. Watch this video from NASA and US CTO office.

  • Integration of all information
    Cloud doesn’t mean centralized data, but it means that all data is reachable and can easily be cross-referenced and integrated. This results in great new opportunities and some challenges. All technology progress couses some new problems, but it resolves more issues. Integrated information will eventually lead to better organization, less corruption, improved democracy, security, efficiency and more comfort.
Basically, Your job might be in risk if you are working with activities that will be replaced by integrated Cloud systems.

On the other hand, if you know how Cloud Services might help your career you may be a very valuable resource for the next 20 years.

For Consumers
Your life is slowly changing and you will not think about the term “Cloud Services”, but rather “Web based applications” or just “Web services”. You are problably today using some of the Cloud Services like: Gmail, Gtalk, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, Picasa, LinkedIn, Blogger, Dropbox, Delicious etc. Your data is spread around the web and you are not too considered about it.
Here is why you should care:
  • Profile yourself and be in Control
    Information (video, photo, comments, documents) you put online, on facebook, linkedIn, twitter, discussion forums etc. is stored, logged, processed and integrated. It can work for you or against you. It can help you get your dream job (LinkedIn), it can get you fired (Facebook). It can even get you imprisoned. It can help you get elected as president (Obama). It can spread your news in minutes around the world and international media (YouTube and Twitter). 

    Be present online with information you control (you own blog, domain, linkedIn, faceboo, twitter) in order to avoid trouble and get the benefits. If you are not present online you will not get any benefits, but you might get into trouble. Other will publish information including you (comments, photos, documents, videos). Since you are not the publisher you will not be in control of the information and that information will be on top of the Google search result when someone (a company, friend, acquaintance) Googles your name.

  • Your time is limited. Love efficiency.
    By using Cloud Services you avoid many trouble you are today having with your computer. You don’t have to install any software, transfer files and care about backup. Cloud Services work at home, at work, at friends, on the road. You only need a Browser and Internet connection. It is available on your Desktop, Laptop, Media Center, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Your data (Documents, Music, Files, Bookmarks, CV, Photos, Videos, Email and Contact) and applications are following you.

  • The Innovation in new services
    The examples and benefits described above are really only the beginning of Cloud Services. More Services and more integration between them will lead to very innovative consumer services. For example, context aware services will take into consideration your geographical location and other parameters about your current context in order to present valuable information and options. Here is another innovative example by Microsoft Research:

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