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New tech: A basic introduction to cloud applications

By: Brian Geisel

The era of the app is upon businesses and it seems as if there is no going back. The swiftly changing server-based computing environment has triggered the shift from applications that are the older-style standalone software installations, to apps that are the newer cloud-based programs. The essential difference is that when you install conventional software such as Microsoft Office 2013, all of the aspects of the application are running on your local computer, but when you go with the cloud version program such as Microsoft Office 365, you’re just installing on your PC the bare essentials to access the bulk of the software that resides in a server farm somewhere far away. By this description, the cloud Office version is an app in the truest sense as most of the computing that is required to perform the functions you require are executed in banks of exceptionally powerful computers in air conditioned racks not on your device. Apps rely on net access The advantages of this cloud paradigm are considerable, as you can use a computer that is far more limited in processing power and memory capacity since the heavy lifting to run your complex software is being done elsewhere. Another advantage is that since your files are stored on the remote server, it’s easy to access them from anywhere and on any device. You don’t have to worry once you’re travelling across the country that you’ve forgotten the vital presentation file back at your desk. However, there are some significant drawbacks as well. When you use fully standalone installed software you can use it anywhere at any time, whether or not you have an internet connection. With apps if you have no net connection you’re essentially limited to watching the colorful boot-up screen as there isn’t much more your mobile device can do. Business apps have a better survival rate Given that the availability of network connections is no longer as much of a hindrance as it was just a few years ago, the proliferation of WiFi in nearly every urban setting has created an always-online lifestyle that was unimaginable in the last century. The entire industry is mutating to a cloud-based app computing archetype as is demonstrated by the astounding statistic that nearly sixty billion apps have been downloaded to date. This number equates to more than eight apps for every man, woman, and child on Earth. Not all apps turn out to be invaluable to the user as more than a quarter of all downloaded apps are used only once and then either deleted or ignored for the life of the mobile device. Business apps have a slightly better survival rate as they tend to be more fundamentally useful than the average public app which is generally gaming or socially-related. But the bottom line is clear: Businesses that rapidly embrace this Brave New Cloud-y World will find themselves technologically ahead of competitors reticent to take the plunge.

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  • Author
    Brian Geisel

    Brian Geisel

    Brian is a life-long software developer who loves to help others succeed. A frequent source for media outlets, such as BBC, Entrepreneur and Bloomberg, Brian also frequently speaks at universities, conferences and the like. His new book, "Unravelling the Internet of Things" will be available soon on Amazon.com.