Cloud Computing is an application that allows people and businesses access to a variety of web based services that include everything from email accounts to customer relationship management software. While the term "Cloud Computing" is relatively new, end users have been using cloud services such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail accounts for years, probably without realizing it.
One of the primary advantages of cloud computing is that it shifts the workload of running applications offsite (aka to the cloud) which decreases the end user's need to add storage, hardware, and/or software. In fact, a user running cloud-based applications exclusively would only need the use of a browser to access a virtually unlimited number of computing services.
Cloud-based services, which had been used by individuals and small/mid-sized businesses for years, started gaining traction with enterprise sized users due to the complexities of deploying, supporting and maintaining massive software applications such as those used for customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning. One of the major issues of these programs was that they were loaded with tons of features so that they could appeal to a broad audience. Potential buyers would then be obligated to pay for all of the included features, whether they were using them or not.
Seeing a problem begging for a solution, cloud service providers began delivering enterprise applications that could be customized to meet specific needs at a fraction of fully loaded software programs. These cloud-based solutions dropped expenses further for enterprise-sized businesses by eliminating the costs associated with building and maintaining the infrastructures that were required to run applications on site.
From the consumer side, cloud computing minimizes costs while enabling mobility between devices such as a PC, tablet, laptop, and mobile phone. This mobility is enhanced by the fact that the only real difference in user experience between these devices lies in the size of the screen.
These advances, along with a growing list of additional advantages inherent in cloud computing, put commercial interests and society in general on the move toward a world where an unlimited amount of services and applications can be accessed with a browser and a few keystrokes. In the process, it could also make today's packages full of downloadable software look like yesterday's Betamax's.