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What Does the Cloud Mean?

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on November 9, 2009

In the technology business, we often forget that to most people, we speak a foreign language. The first time I met my former boss, CEO Jeff Stibel, he asked me: "What do you think the restaurant owners in the food court would say if we asked them what hosting meant?" His point wasn’t to confuse me, but to remind me that tech-speak isn’t a native tongue for the general population. In that spirit, I believe it is important to clearly define jargon for my clients, or anyone seeking counsel on technology deployments. For small businesses looking into cloud computing, even the basics can be misleading.

Cloud computing at its root is a service that provides solutions through the Internet. The "cloud" provides services that vary in capability from basic e-mail service to enterprise software applications such as customer relationship management (CRM). The primary objective of cloud computing is to provide companies and consumers with a powerful platform to build and host applications that allow them the ability to scale on demand. For example, most cable providers offer programming "on-demand," which allows consumers to watch movies and TV shows with a click of the remote. It is this principal that is applied to cloud computing; technology services can be available at the click of a button.

Due to the cloud and its recent explosion onto the marketplace, a small business can now use the same software and services that major corporations do today, without having its own IT staff or datacenter. Companies such as Microsoft are offering powerful applications, including Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting, CRM, and several other services on-demand, for a fraction of what it would cost to run internally. They are not alone in this race to empower small business owners, who are cost- and time-sensitive. Knowledge of technology is no longer needed in order to leverage its power and benefits.

Imagine what it would be like without any servers in your office and an IT staff that focused on growing your business instead of keeping the lights on. With the cloud, the black box of technology—and all its benefits and cost savings—is now open for mainstream use.

Jordan Fladell
Solutions director
Slalom Consulting

Reader Comments

Martin Ashcroft

November 9, 2009 1:36 PM

Great summary. The best I've read, in plain speak, is the book, Dot.Cloud: The 21st Century Business Platform. And a companion screencast at


Gordon Crofton

November 13, 2009 12:43 AM

Says a lot in a short article! Well written. One thing I would add is the cloud is moving to an open format, (e.g., Open Platform as a Service)

Joe Griffin

November 26, 2009 5:40 PM

Hey Jordan :)

Stibel said something similiar to me one time. Jeff understood how small businesses perceived technology and the Internet very well.

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