04/15/2011 04:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2011

With the Cloud, Everybody Wins

The other day, I downloaded a Fandango movie app. It was easy, quick, and didn't cost anything. Then I went about my business, not giving it another thought.

It was just another day in a quiet revolution that has taken place in our lives -- we've been so busy, we hardly noticed.

First came connectivity: A rapid evolution from the desktop to mobile devices -- buying products, reading email, watching movies, playing games, and yes, even talking to someone -- anytime, anywhere -- in the palm of your hand.

Then came cloud computing: It's replacing proprietary, in-house, traditional computing resources with scalable, open-source IT services "in the cloud." Businesses can buy or "rent" all sorts of IT infrastructure services -- scaling up or down as needed and paying only for what they use.

Why is this important? How does this affect the average person? Small and medium businesses? Large enterprises? Society in general?

Combining ubiquitous connectivity with the cloud changes everything.

Benefits to consumers
The app I downloaded likely came from the cloud, where it was also probably created. The cloud makes it easier and cheaper for Web developers to get the necessary tools to do their work -- no need to buy hardware, software or space in a data center.

And the cost-savings in developing the apps are passed to people like you and me -- a free movie app.

That's just a small example -- cloud-related savings to consumers are potentially enormous when you consider all the goods and services touching our daily lives via connectivity.

Benefits to small and medium businesses
The cloud allows small and medium businesses to more effectively compete with each other and with larger companies. They're spared from making IT capital investments or expenditures -- they can buy the IT services they need, when they need it, in the cloud.

The message is getting through. A survey last year by the IT firm Spiceworks showed an increase among small and medium businesses in the use of cloud computing -- with smaller businesses jumping in much faster than their larger counterparts.

Benefits to large enterprises

Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, said CIOs identified cloud computing as their top technology priority for 2011.

Mark McDonald of Gartner says CIOs are seeing how "lighter-weight technologies" like cloud computing allows them to "redefine IT, giving it a greater focus on growth and strategic impact... two things that are missing from many organizations."

Gartner predicted a 16.6 percent increase in worldwide cloud services revenue for 2010 - totaling more than $68 billion. Gartner also said cloud service providers could expect strong growth through 2014, with revenues reaching $148.8 billion.

Benefits to society
Besides making computing less expensive and easier, there's another thing I like about the cloud: It's good for the environment because it reduces electricity usage and emissions.

The cloud requires less IT infrastructure and cooling equipment -- so data centers can be designed or reconfigured for optimum energy efficiency.

Cloud computing is here to stay. As it evolves, it will have a positive impact on just about everything we do -- at work and at home -- while helping make our global, connected world more sustainable.

And instead of buying a newspaper to see what's playing at the local cinema, you can even save a tree or two with a movie app downloaded from the cloud.