In recent years news about cloud technology and cloud computing has been the subject of keen interest.
However, when pressed to define exactly what this somewhat ephemeral “cloud” is, many market observers find themselves at a loss.
In view of the somewhat fuzzy understanding of the cloud, here’s a fairly simple and straightforward definition borrowed from the authors of “Cloud Computing for Dummies,” who describe it this way:
What Is the ‘Cloud’
“The ‘cloud’ in cloud computing can be defined as the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service.” They go on to explain that cloud services can include the delivery of infrastructure, software, and storage over the Internet based on user demand.
However you define it, one thing is certain. Cloud technology is rapidly gaining acceptance and being more widely adopted by a number of industry groups.
The cloud’s benefits for businesses — both large and small — are considerable, and gradual recognition of these benefits, perhaps grudging at first, has managed to convince an increasing number of companies to go with the cloud.
Depending on the extent to which a company wants to move its operations onto the cloud, the technology offers three primary categories of service:
Software as a Service
Software as a Service, or SaaS, involves the licensing and delivery of cloud-based software on a subscription basis. Independent software vendors and application service providers provide on-demand access to these software services along with relevant database storage.
Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, is a service model that’s sometimes known as Hardware as a Service. Under IaaS, a company pays a service provider for access to all the equipment required to support company operations. The service provider typically owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running, and maintaining it.
Platform as a Service
Platform as a Service, or PaaS, offers companies a way to rent hardware, operating systems, storage, and network capacity over the Internet.
While almost every industry has moved at least some portions of its operations or data storage onto the cloud, here, in no particular order, are four industries that are embracing the cloud:
Although initially slow to warm to cloud technology, financial services companies are stepping up their transition to cloud computing.
In answer to a 2012 survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 71 percent of the financial services companies surveyed said they planned to invest more in cloud services during 2013 than they did in 2012.
In its comments on the industry’s growing commitment to the cloud, PwC observed: “Agile companies are inventing new business models around the cloud to decrease time to market, create operational efficiencies, and engage customers in new ways. With the cloud, the sky’s the limit.”
Overcoming its concerns about the security of sensitive patient data, the healthcare industry is embracing cloud technology as a cost-effective way of storing and sharing the voluminous amount of information it must handle as an essential part of doing business.
While the level of transition to the cloud is somewhat uneven across the industry, hospitals, doctors, and imaging centers that have made the move find that it not only allows easier access to patient information but also facilitates the transfer of such data to medical professionals and facilities around the world.
To keep pace with the preferences of consumers who increasingly use digital technology to formulate buying decisions and to actually make purchases, old line retailers are turning to the cloud as the best way to deliver a seamless buying experience across all channels.
In its 2013 report, “A New Era for Retail: Cloud Computing Changes the Game,” Accenture reported that the retail sector’s cloud market is expected to more than triple in size from $4.2 billion in 2011 to $15.1 billion in 2015.
The Accenture report also carried the results of a survey among retailers about their readiness to provide a seamless buying experience. Roughly three-quarters of all retailers surveyed described their state of preparedness at or below “underdeveloped,” which goes a long way toward explaining the sharp increase in investments that is being contemplated.
Logistics and Transportation
Charged with the responsibility of getting products where they are needed when they are needed, the logistics and transportation industry must respond to the ebb and flow of traffic throughout the year.
While activity peaks at certain times of the year — introduction of spring fashions, back-to-school shopping, and the run-up to the winter holidays — this industry also has periods when traffic drops off dramatically.
In an article for “CIOReview,” David Cheverton, chief information officer for Damon Distribution Services, says that the industry’s seasonality makes it an ideal candidate for cloud technology.
Firms that otherwise would have to make prodigious investments in on-site hardware, storage space, and software can pay for only the services they need when they need them if they switch their operations to the cloud.
If they try to do everything in house, much of their on-site computing capability would be vastly underutilized for several months each year.
About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.
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