Use the Cloud to connect beyond traditional boundaries
With the number of definitions being applied to the term “cloud” these days, it’s no wonder business owners and IT managers are having a hard time keeping up. Depending on who you talk to, cloud can mean anything from “all things related to the internet” to a description of a more complex, distributed method of provisioning and utilizing the various elements (or layers) involved in a network computing model. There are purists in the industry who don’t agree with the broad use of the term “cloud”, as it creates confusion in the market as to what is and is not true cloud computing. Over time, however, this situation should be resolved through the understanding that, no matter what software or system you elect to implement, there will likely be an aspect of “cloud” in it. The popular term will become less important, and the market will simply recognize that this is how business computing is done. It becomes “normal” IT, and not something special.
The stealthy inclusion of web services and connected applications has been happening for a few years now. Even the tried-and-true QuickBooks desktop editions have become the center points for a large number of Internet delivered product features. Where payroll was once simply part of the program, it’s now an outsourced service delivered seamlessly from within the application. It’s the same with credit card processing, bill payments, attaching documents, and more. The cloud is involved in a lot more than most people really understand, because so much of the “magic” happens behind the scenes. This makes it easier for the user to adopt, but doesn’t go a long way towards helping them understand the model or the intrinsic benefits derived from it. Cloud is here, and it’s probably in the solution you are currently using. It’s already “normal” IT, you just didn’t know it.
While the market works through this realization, there is much to do in terms of educating folks on how they can use this new paradigm to their greater benefit. Business process automation, outsourcing non-core processes, and using integrated systems to improve information sharing and exchange within an organization aren’t entirely new concepts. What’s new, and what is enabled through this distributed yet interconnected technology model, is the ability for organizations to extend their “connectedness” beyond traditional boundaries. The walled garden of the enterprise can be safely and affordably opened to allow interaction at deeper levels with entities outside of the firewall, allowing metrics relating to those interactions to be captured, collected and analyzed in real time.