Cloud computing... I just can't get away from this. The first time I heard it about a year ago, I literally laughed. I didn't understand the difference between Software as a Service (SaaS) and what the industry was calling "cloud computing." I remember the day my CEO walked into my office and said "We need to deliver cloud computing to our customers." This means so many things. Even 12 months later I'm trying to figure out exactly what cloud computing is. Here is my take.
When you access data not stored onsite, you are working in the cloud. You may decide to create a file server in a virtualized hosting space rather than manage it in house. This is ideal for a small/medium office who has many remote employees. The downside is it takes longer than it would if you were connected locally. Another cloud strategy is storage, archiving and disaster recovery. It is the most inexpensive option for storing data. Rather than spending thousands on storage arrays and network attached storage, you can store your backups in the cloud for less than $1 GB.
The "cloud" space is growing with start-ups as there is little barriers of entry. The main players like Microsoft's SkyDrive, HP's Upline and Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), have been working on this strategy for a few years. Rackspace recently acquired Slicehost and Jungle Disk to jump start their cloud strategy. Since there are so many options, do your research. Make sure they have service level agreements for uptime and don't use a consumer-grade cloud provider for enterprise needs.
I believe this will take off. Virtualization never really hit the SMB space but this newer concept of cloud computing will. It will lower the overhead for hardware and bring enterprise level solutions like business continuity to SMBs. We need to learn how to work with these solutions. Again... it comes down to being a client's trusted adviser. That relationship will not go away as various technologies will. The good news is the cloud will continue to bring monthly recurring revenue and predictability is key in growing a strong business.
You can learn more about this at businessinnovation.cmp.com.