Is it time to stop talking about cloud technology and start talking cloud business?

By Daniel Newman Co-CEO V3 Broadsuite and president of Broadsuite Media Group, Broadsuite

It’s surprising how sometimes the most widely discussed topics can still be broadly misunderstood. Case in point? The cloud.

The cloud computing market could reach $270 billion over the next five years, but many people still consider it a buzzword—a fancy new moniker for the plain old Internet. A survey by Citrix found that 95 percent of people who claim they’ve never used the cloud actually do—often quite regularly—through activities like online banking, social networking, shopping, and streaming music and movies.

These everyday activities point to the real power of cloud computing: Its transformational impact on how we do business. Software-as-a-service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)—each of these markets enables new processes, tools, services, and training opportunities that are more cost effective, less intrusive, ready to scale, and easier to implement and maintain without heavy IT support.

They’re also powering entirely new business models. From Salesforce to Adobe to Microsoft, many software creators offer, or focus exclusively on, SaaS solutions. Netflix wouldn’t exist without the infrastructure provided by a service like Amazon Web Services (one of Dell’s Cloud On Demand partners).

Cloud in business: From hype to hope

Although more people understand the potential of the cloud, its actual definition is still pretty gray. As InfoWorld editor-in-chief Eric Knorr once explained: “Some analysts and vendors define cloud computing narrowly as an updated version of utility computing: basically virtual servers available over the Internet. Others go very broad, arguing anything you consume outside the firewall is ‘in the cloud,’ including conventional outsourcing.”

What Knorr highlighted is that understanding cloud computing is highly individual. The business case for using it depends on the specific challenges identified, the type of service that can help, and the strategy that can put the cloud to work for your organization. That variability has contributed to the confusion around cloud computing—and how it’s perceived in the C-suite.

What’s becoming less blurry is the impact the cloud’s development has on business. As Joe McKendrick explained, a survey of enterprise executives who recently moved to cloud showed they aren’t just meeting their goals, they’re also seeing surprising results. Nearly one in four reported that:

  • Internal communication unexpectedly improved.
  • Revenues increased in ways they hadn’t anticipated.
  • Customer satisfaction got an unintentional boost.
  • Security was actually improved by using the cloud.

In addition to the unexpected benefits, a majority of executives reported results that have a direct effect on their bottom line:

  • Faster access to technology.
  • Reduced delivery times to clients and partners.
  • More rapid delivery of services to new markets and geographies.

It’s this return on investment that has major tech companies and blue-chip firms throwing their hats into the cloud arena, expanding the market for the cloud fast and furiously.

Time to go beyond the technology

When you stop seeing the cloud as a tech trend and start approaching it as a tool that can have a meaningful impact—whether you’re a tech company or not—it becomes easier to incorporate it within your business framework. To make a strong case for moving to the cloud, ignore what other people are doing and consider it through the lens of your own business: What are the problems that can be solved by the cloud? What’s the bottom-line impact of a cloud-based solution?

Becoming more agile, eliminating IT friction, and meeting business goals more efficiently—and competitively—is incentive for any business to consider cloud computing. The vital first step is to outline how and why a move to the cloud is the right move for your business.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

Four Interesting Business Ideas Utilizing the Cloud

The 24 Most Popular Cloud Apps Used at Work

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

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