What Is Cloud Computing?

If you’re a home-based or other small business or franchise owner who already knows the answer, then you’re ahead of the pack.  A recent survey by Newtek Business Services, The Small Business Authority found that only 29% of independent business owners know or have ever heard about cloud computing.  In addition, just 26% of them could even begin to describe what it is.

That’s all about to change.

Overall public cloud computing is predicted to grow as much as 112% or more across all sizes and types of businesses in the U.S. between now and 2014 according to a March 2011 study conducted by In-Stat, a technology research and consulting company of more than 30 years running.  More recent findings from a study regarding the anticipated growth of all segments of overall cloud computing infrastructure conducted by the same organization show the industry is on track to reach $4 billion by 2015.

With numbers like that, smart business owners will want to read up sooner rather than later on what cloud computing is all about  and, more importantly, what it can possibly do for them.

When it comes to understanding the basic premise of cloud computing, the concept is really quite simple.  In fact, most of us are already cloud computing more or less every day without even knowing it.  For example, are you running an anti-virus program on your computer at home?  And is the provider occasionally updating that software for you from somewhere else?  Yes?  Well, welcome to the “cloud.”  Is your Internet service provider protecting you from spam, again from some other remote location unknown to you?  Yes?  Once again, it’s a “cloud” thing.

Although some would argue that the so-called “cloud” is really just a silly and unnecessary buzzword.  Silly or not, it’s quickly becoming the accepted vernacular when it comes to describing Internet-based computing services of any kind.

In a nutshell, cloud computing describes the movement of the technological infrastructure, software-based operations and/or data storage needs of your business from your own desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile phone or company-based server to the web and the care of a cloud service provider.  The cloud service provider, of which there are too many to count, is then responsible for all the information technology assets you’ve entrusted to them, as well as their associated maintenance.

In return for any number of specific kinds of services in this regard, you pay a monthly fee.  In some cases, certain cloud computing services and applications can actually be obtained free-of-charge.  So depending on the exact needs of your business, it’s quite possible that cloud computing in some shape or form could save your business a whole lot of money.

Choosing to turn over your computing needs to the “cloud” as opposed to managing them in-house is a bit like renting instead of buying.  Each option comes with its own set of benefits and potential drawbacks, the magnitude of which will wholly depend on your individual business’ needs, goals and available resources.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of cloud computing as an entrepreneurial opportunity, join us next time as we shed some light on the overall pros and cons of this rapidly growing business trend.