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The Cloud Explained So Simply, Even Your Grandma Will Understand

The cloud can seem like a nebulous, vague concept, particularly for some folks of a certain generation who are more bound to tradition. When your grandmother sees a commercial for a cloud service on TV, for example, she may wonder what it's all about. With all the hype surrounding the cloud and what it represents, there's a good chance she might ask you to fill her in. So, in honor of Mother's Day, here's the cloud explained in simple terms even your beloved grandma will understand:

A man uses a tablet in an office, while his team members huddle around a table.
The cloud explained: What is it, and how does it work?

What Is the Cloud?

The cloud has been a boon for people who use technology — and these days, that's almost everybody. Once upon a time, if you wanted to use a piece of software, you had to install it locally on your computer using a physical medium such as a CD or a floppy disk. If you remember manually installing Microsoft Word on your computer using floppies, this must sound familiar. Thanks to the cloud, you can now simply log in to software someone else provides to you as a service, freeing you up to use the service while the cloud provider worries about maintaining servers.

Most of the time, you can do this one of two ways: via the web on your computer, or through an app on your smartphone or tablet. Behind the scenes, using its own servers and infrastructure, the cloud provider takes care of the time-consuming technical work of updating your software, ensuring it's running smoothly and regularly improving it. The cloud provider also stores your data and account information for you, making it possible for you to log in and access it from anywhere.

This is one reason why many cloud-based consumer services such as Netflix and iCloud charge monthly subscription fees. It's also why you may have seen acronyms such as SaaS (software-as-a-service). The cloud-based model has fundamentally changed how companies deliver services to their customers, from the online banking app you use to manage your money to the email account you use to stay in touch with friends and family. With a few exceptions, there's no limit to the types of services the cloud can enable. And the market is growing — according to IDC, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to reach more than $141 billion by 2019.

The Rise of the Cloud, Explained

The cloud had some brilliant timing on its side when it arrived on the scene. Right at about the point the cloud was taking off, smartphones and tablets became incredibly popular. The cloud made it possible for people to access services from any location with an internet connection, while mobile devices provided them with constant connectivity everywhere they went. As people got comfortable with the convenience of using apps to keep up with email or check their Facebook messages while out and about, the cloud became a part of their everyday lives — even if they didn't realize it.

It's also important to note the social media revolution could not have been possible without the dynamic duo of mobile devices and the cloud. The cloud and the services it enables have had a profound impact on our society and culture. And now, the cloud isn't just for consumers anymore. It's powering enterprise communications solutions upon which a growing number of businesses rely to improve employee collaboration and even enhance the customer experience.

Cloud and Communications Technology

Chances are pretty good that your grandmother has used the cloud herself by now, perhaps to enjoy a video chat with her grandchildren. If she's on Facebook, she's probably also chuckled at that viral video of the "BBC Dad," whose Skype interview got interrupted when his kids came dancing into the room. As communications technology has come into its own thanks to the cloud, both families and busy professionals have benefited from their newfound ability to stay in touch anytime, anywhere.

Businesses are discovering that business cloud services can help their workforces collaborate better and be more efficient. Employees can sync up in videos or web conferences on the fly, keep in touch throughout the workday via enterprise messaging, or host webinars for prospective clients — all from wherever they may be located. Some businesses find these features essential for creating a digital office in which the workforce is primarily virtual. Others may appreciate the fact that cloud services, since they are made available on a subscription model and can scale up as needed, help keep costs predictable and avoid expensive capital expenditures.

In many cases, cloud services can integrate with one another to provide additional value to the customer. One such example is how cloud-based unified communications systems integrate with cloud-based office productivity software such as G Suite, allowing employees to place calls directly from their Gmail contacts, either via the web or on the go using their smartphone. While pre-cloud software was siloed on individual computers and didn't easily talk to other types of software, these days, cloud services are often intentionally designed with integration in mind so their users can be even more productive.

As you've seen, the cloud is much more than a puffy meteorological phenomenon or a hype-filled concept. It's a game-changing innovation that powers the way we work and live today, from supporting a virtual workforce's collaboration needs to storing a proud grandmother's photos of her grandchildren. As the cloud matures, its capacity for integration is enabling even greater productivity and a broader range of services than ever before. Once a ubiquitous buzzword, it's now an essential technology we can't imagine living without.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can help your company.

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