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I think we all know–or think we know–what cloud computing is. If you don’t then you’ve probably been hiding in a cave with your mainframes for the last five years and fine tuning your COBOL skills. At its most basic, cloud computing is accessing services that you do not host or manage using TCP/IP. The derivation of the term is mundane–network diagrams have for years used a “cloud” symbol to represent the Internet. The term “the cloud” is now commonly used to refer to services available using the Internet–as in “our corporate e-mail is on the cloud.” This translates to something like “we have outsourced management of our e-mail to a third party which hosts the mail server(s) in a data center that we access using the Internet.” Based on those criteria, Google Mail, Hot Mail and Yahoo Mail are all cloud services–even though they are rarely referred to as such. Maybe the cloud only pertains to services you pay for. It’s all in the marketing.

Money, Money, Money

Google Apps provides an online service that offers e-mail, calendaring, productivity products, collaboration sites, and file shares for businesses that do not want to host or service those applications using on-premise resources. The basic cost for this service starts at around $50 per-user per-year. Google Apps is operating-system and browser agnostic. And that is a very attractive proposition. What CIO really wants to measure his success by providing core services? Microsoft’s BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) will provide Exchange, SharePoint, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications for $2-$3 a month per user. To my way of thinking–using these sorts of cloud services makes good sense. I’ve been around IT services for some time now and providing the infrastructure, support, and service-level agreements (SLA) around e-mail service is totally boring. I would welcome the opportunity to allow a vendor–one that has a core competency in providing services such as these–to provide them. But that’s just me. I don’t do my own yard work, either.

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