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How Cloud Has Permeated Our Lives - From Consumers to Businesses and Back

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The phrase "cloud computing" has moved beyond the vocabulary of a company's chief technology officer and is now a part of everyone's vocabulary. Even if people disagree on the exact definition, millions have been quick to grasp the benefits of cloud.

Millions of consumers using the cloud - whether knowingly or not - created a ripple effect in the business world. Suddenly, computing power became available anytime and anywhere, and people were used to having instant access to their favorite websites and media. They could use Gmail and Hotmail or Flickr for photos, or buy tickets to a movie or to the theater from their Smartphone. This anytime, anywhere access to computing power also permeated the business world. Start ups and small businesses - faced with very tight budgets - embraced the idea that the cloud would allow them to focus on creating real businesses in months rather than years, without having to build expensive, complex data centers. Larger businesses and governments recognized the advantages of cloud, namely the ability to provide more computing power without having to buy more hardware and software. Many took a conservative approach at first, creating private clouds that did not need to be shared with other companies to use their existing computing capabilities more efficiently. Cloud was not just advantageous in terms of making the most of resources and money; it was a "game changer" in terms of competitive advantage.

Cloud computing involves storing information and doing data processing in remote data centers where servers are used for many different jobs, depending on need. In the past, most servers were dedicated to a particular task, and companies had to buy new computers every time they started up a new service. Many enterprises have enough data processing work to justify operating their own private clouds, but increasingly government agencies and corporate giants are signing up to do some of their computing in public clouds operated by companies like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM.

The faster delivery of better products and services is now necessary to take on competition and meet demanding customers and shareholders. Customer executives and managers at long-established companies are discovering that cloud computing can give them a way to run their businesses or their supply chains more efficiently. Some are creating new lines of business or providing customers better service. And new research by IBM finds that 41% of them think it will have had a significant impact by 2015.

This capability is leading to a real change in the way organizations manage customer and industry relationships. For example:

- The flexibility of the cloud comes into play with seasonal events, such as The US Open tennis tournament. It harnesses the cloud to provide the latest stats, schedules, Twitter feeds, video streams and data graphics to both fans and broadcasters--as demand for resources skyrockets during the tournament.

- Cloud improves the way companies operate internally. Panasonic, the consumer electronics giant, decided to use cloud-based email and communications to replace local servers. It concluded that it could use the cloud to roll out worldwide collaboration, conferencing and file-sharing without big new capital investments.

- Cloud makes it possible for companies to provide services to customers much faster. China Telecom is selling customers new Smartphone applications in as little as three days after they are built and tested, compared to three weeks in the past. And companies worldwide expect this impact will increase rapidly, according to a recent survey by IBM. Business and IT managers stated that by 2015, more than half of those relationships will be driven by cloud capabilities.

- Cloud computing also provides a way for different companies to use the data to put products on shelves. True Value, the hardware chain, uses software in a cloud to pull together information from suppliers, freight forwarders and its 5,000 stores. Since implementing the system, it has reduced back orders by 85%.

What is new about cloud is what it allows everyone to achieve. Cloud is changing the way all of us- from our personal life to our work life - use and consume technology. And enterprises can and are applying the transformative power of cloud computing to reinvent the way they do business and improve economics to capture new business value.

To learn more on how Cloud can reinvent your business, click here.

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