Cloud computing means something a little different to everyone. To average consumers, the cloud is there to hold things: their pictures, their documents and the backups. To large corporations, the cloud is a somewhat fickle entity that seems at times a highly secure place to store sensitive information and others a playground for anonymous hackers. To a member of an IT staff, the cloud is a physical thing, a bank of computers in a humming room, just like any other data center. Although a cloud is a nice analogy for what this technology can do, it doesn’t accurately describe reality. At the end of the day, the cloud is just another computer with access to the web.
But that doesn’t mean the cloud is any less fascinating or useful, especially to enterprises looking to decentralize their workforces.
The mobile workforce is always connected
When you look at a traditional workplace, you can clearly see how all of the moving pieces are connected. On a basic level, the entire operation resides under a single roof. But more than that, you could follow a memo or sit in on a meeting to see just how each of the departments interact. Things get trickier when employees start moving out into the field. Some companies have always had mobile employees, but gone are the days of sending them out of the office only to hear from them once or twice a day. Nowadays, the mobile workforce is always connected.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology reported that cloud computing is already being implemented across a wide variety of fields. Even low-tech gadgets have some connectivity to the internet, allowing the home office to keep track of worker productivity and location and to collect GIS data. The way this technology is used depends heavily on the industry, of course. Some organizations may use cloud computing to gather data from the field and compile it into one centralized location for storage or analysis. In other cases, the employees may be doing their jobs entirely through the cloud. Small startups particularly are taking advantage of the fact that teams no longer need to be located in the same room, city, state or even country.