Moving to the cloud. Running in the cloud. Stored in the cloud. Accessed from the cloud: these days is seems like everything is happening “in the cloud”. But what exactly is this nebulous concept?
The short answer is that it's somewhere at the other end of your internet connection – a place where you can access apps and services, and where your data can be stored securely. The cloud is a big deal for three reasons:
That's important because there's a shift going on from office-based work to working on the move. This shift is reflected in computer hardware sales: in 2015 about 270 million desktop and laptop computers will be sold, compared to 325 million tablets and almost 2 billion smartphones.
That makes the cloud a very good place to run business software like customer relationship management (CRM) applications – software that users need to access reliably at any time, wherever they are, and on any device.
I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non- connected computers is byzantine by comparison.
Steve Jobs, 1997
With a cloud app, you just open a browser, log in, and start working.
That means a field sales representative using cloud-based CRM can get all the information they need from their mobile device. Contact notes can be updated in real time so they are always fresh and complete and available to others – no more waiting to get back to the office to type it in. And sales managers know exactly which deals will close and when, from their desktop machines in their offices, or their tablets or phones when they are out and about.
And this all happens without any hardware to buy and manage, or software to install and update. That's because the hardware and software required is all the responsibility of the cloud company that runs the app. Companies such as salesforce.com have years of experience managing their cloud infrastructure and making sure that it's secure and reliable so that you don't have to.