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What Really Is "Cloud Computing?"

Does my data really ascend into the clouds?  Are there really computers up there?  The answer is no.  There is no NSA-run secret storage area that is hidden in the clouds or circles the earth.  Cloud computing is an earthbound phenomenon with a cool Silicon Valley name.  Think remote storage.

The basic definition of cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a remote service rather than a nearby  installed product.  This has exploded in growth in the past two decades with the advent of the internet.  In the old days, computer access was only available via a hard cable plugged into the back of your terminal or PC.  Obviously, this meant you had to be in some relatively close physical proximity to the main computer.  Now with the internet, this is no longer necessary.  The computer can be “hosted” by someone else and you can access it and store data on it all over the internet.  And with wireless or satellite connections, you can access it almost anywhere.  The term “cloud” actually does have some inferred meaning.  For the computer user, the software services and hardware are “hidden as if obscured by a cloud.”

The true value of cloud computing is shared software services and shared hardware infrastructure.  Companies do not need to buy and install their own software and hardware connecting to their internal private network.  Of course the issue of network privacy and security needed to be solved, which is it was.

For Human Resources, the beauty of moving to the cloud comes in many ways.  Upfront costs of new software applications are minimal.  You don’t have to heavily rely in internal IT personnel to install and maintain the system or service (and you don’t have to recruit and replace them when they turnover).  As a result, you can bring up a new IT capability much faster, more reliably and much cheaper than in the past.  If you haven’t reviewed or changed your HRIS or other specific HR applications software within the past three years, you should consider the latest options now available in today’s market.  You might be surprised with something that works better and is less expensive.

Next up on the blog, we explore the term SaaS or Software-as-a-Service.