The Star Tribune has an article The Cloud Tiptoes In about how Cloud is moving into more companies. I've talked about Cloud before as an IT trend in higher education, including classroom technology. Cloud can help you move away from outdated technology and lower costs.
In other terms, Cloud is really just the new term for "outsourcing." But it's different from traditional outsourcing where you contract a portion of your work to a third party. Rather, you can use Cloud services to outsource your infrastructure, or running applications, or storing data. Security is an issue, so when picking a Cloud provider you need to look at this closely.
But Cloud can make a big difference to your organization. As the StarTribune article says, businesses are finding real benefits to Cloud computing:
Surprisingly, the most attractive thing about cloud computing isn't cost savings, which have been widely predicted but often don't materialize, Martorelli said. Instead, cloud computing is a way for midsized companies to be nimble.
Cloud is a growing trend in IT. At the U of M, we have opted to use several Cloud providers, depending on the service. Take email as an example. In 2000 or 2005, if you asked anyone in IT they would tell you that email should be managed internally. An organization was best suited to manage its own messaging and calendaring services, usually through a home-built and internally-supported system such as Microsoft's Exchange or an open solution such as Unix Sendmail.
But shift forward a few years … in 2012, very few IT organizations would volunteer to support their own email system. We just can't provide the same level of service that Cloud email providers can. Cloud email such as Gmail offers a desktop-like integrated email and calendar experience, at a fraction of the cost. (For higher education, it's actually free.) Email has become a true commodity service, and it now makes more sense to outsource this service so IT can focus on providing greater value to other things within the institution. At the University of Minnesota, moving our email to Gmail allows IT staff greater flexibility to support faculty research, and larger administration systems.
As the StarTribune article makes clear, many private businesses are starting to see the benefit of Cloud services. Not just email, but other applications and storage — even telephone (using "Voice over IP" technology, or "VoIP"). This is another example of the changing role the CIO. We've seen this shift over the last few years; CIOs used to provide servers to the organization &mdash. Now, CIOs broker services for the organization, and doing less infrastructure. This is definitely true in higher ed, and now a visible trend private businesses.