With buzzwords like “Artificial Intelligence” and “Internet of Things” taking center stage in many technology-based news outlets, it can be easy to assume that cloud technology is old hat. However, many of today’s emerging technologies would not be possible without the evolution of cloud-based devices and services.
For business owners, understanding this evolutionary process can mean the difference between wasting tech dollars on inefficient equipment and making smart investments in cloud-based technology that will stand the test of time.
Cloud technology uses the power of the internet to offer individual users and businesses the opportunity to access both hardware and software systems remotely. Without cloud technology, businesses would have to invest heavily in developing and maintaining localized software applications to run the business, as well as the physical infrastructure required to support those applications.
With cloud technology, businesses can piggyback off the infrastructure of larger companies by accessing their programs, storage space, and networking power through the internet. Businesses can access public or private clouds, or they can utilize a hybrid of both. Public clouds are available to anyone over the internet who is willing to meet the registration and fee requirements set by the service provider. Examples of public clouds would include Facebook or Gmail. Private clouds are typically set behind a firewall with access restricted only to internal company users.
A brief history of cloud technology in businesses
While social networks and cloud-based email providers seem commonplace today, the history of cloud technology extends back less than an average human lifespan. Below are several of the main highlights along the evolution of cloud technology:
- 1969 – J.C.R. Licklider helps to conceptualize and develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, which was a primitive version of the internet that allowed multiple users to access computer resources from different physical locations.
- 1972 – IBM develops the concept of virtualization with their Virtual Machine (VM) operating system.
- 1997 – “Cloud Computing” was first defined as a term by Professor Ramnath Chellappa; companies then began offering cloud computing services to businesses in the late 1990s.
- 1999 – Salesforce was founded to pioneer the Software-as-a-Service business model for software applications.
- 2004 – Amazon Web Services (AWS) was launched publicly, offering on-demand cloud-based programs and services.
- 2006 – Google launched Google Docs services, allowing users to create, store, and share documents in the cloud.
- 2007 – Netflix launched video streaming services, allowing users to access movies and other video content without the use of physical DVDs.
- 2011 – Apple launched its iconic iCloud platform, giving users access to a variety of content and services remotely.
Modern Cloud Technology Services
Cloud tools, hardware, and services are already a routine part of many modern business operations. The cloud-based product licensing and delivery model is commonly broken down into several sub-categories:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – Businesses can subscribe to and access software applications via the internet.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Businesses can utilize this service to develop their own custom applications for internal company use.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – Large cloud technology providers offer virtual infrastructure, such as servers and data storage, to smaller businesses that are lacking in physical infrastructure.
- Desktop as a Service (DaaS) – Businesses can access virtual machines and virtual operating systems through the cloud.
- Backup as a Service (BaaS) – Instead of hosting localized backups of important company data, businesses can utilize a BaaS offering to manage cloud-based backups.
Although the above sub-categories represent the most common cloud-based services, additional nomenclature and associated categories are constantly evolving. Some more recent cloud services include Managed Software as a Service (MSaaS), Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), and Information Technology Management as a Service (ITMaaS).
As more businesses continue to embrace cloud technology and demand a wider variety of product and service offerings, cloud-based providers will work to remain competitive in an emerging marketplace by taking advantage of future developments in cloud computing.