Is The Cloud “Just Someone Else’s Computer”?

In this series, I’ll be addressing the most common questions we hear from our existing and prospective clients.

Is The Cloud Just Some Else’s Computer?

It’s an excellent question, and we’ve found this to be a common perception among owners, executives, and stakeholders; the idea of using the cloud, often pejoratively referred to by skeptics or curmudgeons as “just someone else’s computer,” can be seen as unnecessary when you can just do things yourself without it.

This perspective had (emphasis past-tense) merit for a long while, but things have changed in the last 3-5 years. The definition of the cloud has changed.  

The truth is the cloud is no longer “just someone else’s computer.”

As long as computers have existed, there has been a “cloud” option for anything and everything in specific contexts. By that, we mean a solution for storing files and databases off-premise and somewhere more secure, more resilient, etc. Any time someone had to consider building old-school IT infrastructure within their facility to store/host company stuff, they had the alternative option to have someone else do it for them.  

When we encounter the cynicism or snark mentioned above, we don’t fault the person expressing it because, in many ways, that statement has been true much longer than it hasn’t. Since the dawn of computers, one could accurately define the cloud as “just someone else’s computer.”

Now, let’s be specific, though. When said individuals say cloud, they usually mean an offsite service that includes hosting data or services you could have otherwise kept in-house. In a sense, they have defined the cloud as just “offsite hosting,” which until ten years ago is what it was. Ten years ago, very few business apps were 100% by default software you purchased or used for free as SaaS (Software as a Service). There were consumer apps like Facebook, instant messaging apps, but nothing widespread in the business world. I believe this is where naysayers get mixed up in their thinking.

Today, the cloud is not merely offsite hosting of things you’d otherwise keep in-house. We have some great examples of this:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Zoom
  • Google Docs
  • Practically any modern device security software
  • Youtube

I’d dare say QuickBooks online falls into that category as well, although we can appreciate the counterarguments to that one. Interestingly we are in the middle of transitioning from QB Enterprise to QB Online ourselves as a write this. But I raise QB Online because it can do things that its predecessor(s) cannot. Things like:

  • Real-time syncing to other apps, like time entry systems, industry tools you may use, etc
  • An always up to date mobile app experience
  • Substantially improved reliability and less need for tech support!

Essentially, the cloud is now a place where you can purchase services you otherwise couldn’t re-create using your own IT systems. It’s a collection of various platforms, which are in some ways a sandbox, i.e., a place where anything goes, and your imagination is the limit.