Cloud computing has come a long way since its beginnings in the first few years of the 21st Century. The origin of the term to describe the outsourcing of IT operations is debatable but, as early as 2006, it was a permanent and indisputable fixture not just in the IT sector lexicon, but in that of the corporate world in general.
The concept, as we know it today, is the result of two major developments that came together around the turn of the millennium.
The first was the emergence of the internet as a major feature of modern business functions, which enabled companies of all shapes and sizes to access a host of computer services online.
The second was the evolution of the outsourcing of IT operations by major companies and even by businesses in the IT sector, as they became more confident that they didn’t need to own or manage the infrastructure underpinning their computer systems.
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These factors combined to provide an opportunity for the likes of Google and Microsoft to offer browser-based applications to businesses to enable them to outsource IT processes over the internet.
Overcoming business concerns
Back in 2006, when cloud computing first appeared in the corporate world’s collective consciousness, the model was alien to many people.
At first, there was great uncertainty as to how far organisations should trust cloud service providers with data, and there were questions about the security of the remote server networks where company information was being stored.
This insecurity hasn’t quite gone away – even in 2018, business leaders have concerns about cloud computing, bombarded as they are by media reports of high-profile security issues, such as last year’s Equifax breach and controversies around Wannacry ransomware. These worries resonate in some sectors more than others – PCT has remarked upon a particular reticence in the financial services industry when considering putting their IT operations in the cloud, due to the perceived risk of hacking.
Despite ongoing worries about ransomware and similar issues, over the last two years, the perceptions businesses have about the cloud have undergone a radical shift. Business leaders have begun to realise that secure data storage is not a question of being on or off the cloud. Rather, it depends on the overall security of the entire computing environment – regardless of whether it is in the cloud, or on a business’s premises, in either a physical or network form.
This shift is the result of the growing commitment by cloud providers – large and small – to protecting their customers’ data, by creating huge teams dedicated to security and compliance. For instance, Amazon Web Services boasts more than 1,800 security controls around its services. Microsoft, meanwhile, reports that it has helped to rescue as many as 10 million computers infected by malware.
Evidence suggests that this diligence has seriously boosted confidence in the legitimacy of cloud computing. Indeed, reports show that 80 per cent of Fortune 500 companies and at least 25 of the world’s 38 largest financial institutions and insurance companies trust the Microsoft Cloud today to provide their business with IT operations that are efficient, reliable and, above all, secure.
As we look forward to the future, there is every indication that cloud computing will continue to play an ever more important role in business operations across all sectors and markets. Forecasts from Forrester, for example, suggest that, by the end of 2018, over 50 per cent of companies worldwide will be using a minimum of one public cloud platform. The total value of the global public cloud market will reach a value of $178bn, with a CAGR of 22%.
From our perspective at PCT, we expect this trend to continue well into the next decade. By 2028, we believe that only a small minority of businesses will be operating without some form of cloud computing.
As we move into the future, business leaders will grow less and less concerned about whether they should move their operations over to the cloud or whether it is secure. More and more, they will look at how they can access the cloud more effectively and efficiently, in a manner that best suits the needs of their business.
We can expect the implementation of the cloud in the future to rely less on hardware, and to focus more and more on subtle combinations of software and applications to create an ever-greater array of services designed to meet the specific needs of both businesses and their customers.
For instance, the taxi service, Uber, incorporates Google Maps’ API for its in-app location finder, as well as Braintree as its payment processor. In doing so, it accesses reliable, ready-made systems to ensure its service runs smoothly, without the need to invest in creating its own expensive bespoke solutions.
Such models provide a good glimpse of how companies could use and combine different cloud applications to launch new business propositions in the future. As long as businesses can pay for these cloud services as they require them, this trend will continue to develop.
Into the future
Gazing even further into the 21st Century, we can expect cloud computing to transform further. Innovations, such as the advent of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, the growing use of bots and neural networks in big data, as well as the closer integration of humans with computers, will all serve to utterly redefine cloud computing and its place in society.
With such changes, the cloud will become more than a nice-to-have. It will be truly omni-present, integrating seamlessly with every facet of our business and personal lives. Here in 2018, it’s clear that cloud computing is still in its infancy – it is still some time before we truly begin to leverage its full potential. When we do so, the possibilities for businesses and the way they operate will be almost endless.