There's been a lot of talk about "the cloud" when it comes to technology and IT in the past few years.
It's a revolution as big as the advent of the microprocessor and just as relevant as the desktop computer. If you've had to sit through a technology meeting at your business, this struggle to speed up and move everything to the cloud is probably on your IT roadmap. Now, the cloud is quickly changing business as we know it, forcing it to reboot how it thinks about its consumers in this ever-connected world. We're not just talking about everything from owning data centers to your accounting software to your email server, but the products and services that are being sold.
If the cloud isn't on your businesses mind, rest assured that it should be, and that it will (once again) change everything.
In simplistic terms, the cloud is just another term for the Internet as a storage facility. The core technological innovation is that instead of storing a single piece of software and/or data on your own, single, fixed computer, you can now store data and run software off of the Internet - giving it freedom to be accessed by any computer of your choice and creating the ultimate backup plan.
What does this look like?
Currently, the majority of my business software and data is cloud based. So, if someone should steal my laptop or if it should break down, all I have to do is grab another one and log on to the Internet. My information, pictures, music, videos and everything else are also backed up to the cloud (thanks to a great application called, Dropbox). It also enables everything I create and need to be available asynchronously. When I write a document on my MacBook Air, it is automatically saved through Dropbox and I can access it from any other computer and yes, even my iPhone - in real time. Companies like Salesforce.com have helped to innovate the cloud as a business model by offering software as a service (also known as SaaS) for years. Instead of buying software and installing it on every computer, you purchase licenses that can be used to access the software through the Internet. Not only is all of the data and customization also stored securely online, but when the company updates the software or fixes bugs, the platform is simply updated and the long hard work of having to update each and every workstation goes the way of the dodo bird.
Changing business forever.
While some of this may seem very technical and not relevant to your day-to-day work of trying to grow your business, these new ways to access and interact is creating some fundamental shifts in business. As the music industry continues to unravel and as the next generation of music business models evolve, the cloud is starting to weigh heavy on how we all connect to music. iTunes enables all of us to buy music, store it on our hard drives, iPhones and iPods. The ability to create playlists and organize our music has fundamentally changed how we buy and listen to music. Recently, services like rdio and Spotify offer unlimited music, everywhere. For a small monthly fee (usually under ten dollars), you get access to a massive collection of music that can all be streamed from the cloud to almost any device that has Internet connectivity. So, instead of choosing songs on iTunes, buying them, downloading and storing them, you can no simply stream everything from this massive collection. Think of it as a TV cable service for music.
I've been given an evaluation license to Spotify and it made me realize that the struggle between my CD collection becoming digital and now the lack of desire to actually own any sort of data creates a compelling case for the power of the cloud. Would I rather own a bunch of songs or have unlimited access to as much music as possible? Yes, both rdio and Spotify also allows users to buy and download music, but there just doesn't seem to be a point to physically owning the files (unless there are times when you're not connected to the Internet and want to listen to music - like on a plane or in an area that lacks connectivity). As mobile data and Internet connectivity converge with faster speeds and more competitive pricing, everything is quickly moving to the cloud - from your business data to your home entertainment to new and interesting products and services to buy. This creates new businesses, new job opportunities and much more innovation. With that innovation also comes massive disruption. Yes... more disruption. This is a time of great upheaval in business. With that upheaval comes considerable opportunity for the companies and individuals brave enough to see this as an once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something truly new and amazing in business.
A new world. New business models.
Tying this all together, I am thrilled to announce that my next business book is titled, CTRL ALT DEL - Reboot Your Business (and Yourself) in a Connected World. The book will be published in Spring 2013 by Business Plus, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Book Group USA) - the same publisher's as my last book, Six Pixels of Separation. CTRL ALT DEL will teach businesses how to identify these new opportunities and how to seize them. It will demonstrate how to transform your business thinking for this very different business world, and it will act as a guide through this time of mass disruption. CTRL ALT DEL will be about how businesses should be thinking and navigating through this very tumultuous time. I hope you will continue to join me on this journey both here... and when the book comes out next year.
The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - How cloud computing will change everything.
- Vancouver Sun - How the cloud reboots your business.