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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An End User's Perspective of the Cloud

It will take a complete newcomer to the cloud about 15 minutes to realize one cloud size does not fit all. Much is written about the enterprise and its concerns over security, governance, compliance and configuration. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, a declining handful of skeptics still debate whether enterprise cloud computing will fulfill its promise.

But the debate does not encompass the millions of us who have been using the cloud -- knowingly or not -- for years.  In fact, most of us are pretty satisfied customers. In its most basic form, the cloud offers us the ability to store our data somewhere decentralized and access it from anywhere we have an Internet connection. The cloud reduces our worries about where our data is, whether it’s backed up, and where and how we access it.  It also makes it easier to collaborate and communicate.  If you use Gmail, Facebook or LinkedIn, you're in the cloud. Chances are, you use these and other applications from a computing device -- Windows, Mac or Linux and a mobile device -- Android, iPhone OS or Windows Mobile. In most cases, all you need is a password to authenticate yourself, and you have access to information that you store and manage on a range of incredible applications via the cloud.

As an example, I'm writing a draft of this blog on Evernote, a cloud application that I have become dependent on for a number of uses in ways that I would never have envisioned just a few years ago.  I write my draft in Evernote, and Evernote keeps a duplicate of my notes on their web servers and automatically synchs the local copies of my notes. So my information is accessible locally from my MacBook Pro and through the Evernote web interface via my Macbook Pro, my iPad and my iPhone.  In fact, I can install and synch my notes with as many computing devices as I choose.  That is the power of the cloud for an end user and the beauty of Software as a Service (SaaS).  Evernote users don't have access to infrastructure; Evernote does that for us.  All we do is access the application we need -- when we need it on the device we want at that point in time.

Evernote gives me redundancy of my notes and ensures that I will access them consistently over any device.  It lets me share my notes in a variety of ways that I control.  It instantly stores what I create and lets me find it easily the next time I need to access it.

While the debate continues over when and how enterprises will adopt the cloud as a replacement for data centers, millions of us who have had our heads in the cloud for several years would ask what all the debate is about.  The cloud works in ways that opens endless possibilities for us all.

Image reprinted from Cloud Computing Use Cases White Paper, Version 3.0, published by the Cloud Computing Use Case Discussion Group.

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