Businesses do not have to spend a fortune on or deal with big-name vendors or developers to get their hands on the latest, cutting-edge technologies. Cloud computing, the most important and popular IT advancement of recent years, gives companies access to better and more powerful forms of computing at a fraction of the cost of on-site hardware.
Thanks to the cloud, businesses can afford larger IT infrastructures and a greater amount of applications in support of more users. The cloud also lets companies consolidate their IT resources, so that each branch or office no longer has to build and maintain its own infrastructure, and everyone in the business has access to the same, up-to-date versions of files and applications. Technological advances usually go in the opposite direction: entering the market at a restrictively high price, only the companies with the greatest financial resources can afford them. In contrast, the cloud lets small-and-medium-sized organizations measure up to their larger competitors by providing them with enterprise-level IT resources at SMB prices.
Cloud computing, affirming its position at the forefront of IT, figured prominently in Gartner’s declaration of the top ten emerging IT trends for 2013. Gartner, one of the leading IT research firms, puts out a new trend list every year. For a technology to be included on the closely-followed and hotly-debated list is a confirmation of its viability and value. Cloud computing, for example, was included in the 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 editions. Gartner did not include cloud computing in its 2013 list of emerging technologies, presumably because of the cloud’s maturity and widespread popularity. However, the cloud’s direct or indirect influence can still be perceived in a majority of the items on this year’s list:
–Mobile Device Battles. Gartner predicts that smartphones and tablets will overtake desktops and laptops as most workers’ devices of choice. Cloud computing, by letting people access files and applications and utilize high-performance and high-capacity servers from any location, made this evolution possible.
–Personal Cloud. According to Gartner, hard drives will soon be a thing of the past as people move all of their applications and data (not just files that they want to duplicate or share with other people) to a personalized cloud.
–The Internet of Things. Gartner says that consumer products such as pharmaceuticals and automobiles already have sensors and connectivity devices in them that integrate them with the Internet. In the future, people will not have to type any codes or commands into a system; everything will already be integrated and communicating with a cloud-based computer. Empty drug bottles will notify a pharmacy to prepare a refill and cars with a driver that has suffered a heart attack or stroke will maneuver themselves to the side of the road, for example.
–Hybrid IT and Cloud Computing. A hybrid cloud lets companies store data and host applications however they want. For example, they can store their more dormant records in an on-premise system while putting their more active files on a public or private cloud. Gartner predicts a rise in hybrid cloud computing, as well as a rise in the amount of tools, skills, and personnel that help support it.
–Actionable Analysis. The cloud can provide anyone with a mobile device with the computing power and storage capacity of a supercomputer. With this amount of computing resources at their beck and call, business owners can crunch a lot of data in a little amount of time. As Gartner puts it, “IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation for every action taken in the business. The mobile client linked to cloud-based analytic engines and big data repositories potentially enables use of optimization and simulation everywhere and every time.”
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