The Cloud is NOT a Place

It was a cool fall day. Crisp, like when you take that first gulp of cold Shasta Ginger Ale after pouring it over fresh ice. I know you may be thinking at the moment, “Wait, do they still make Shasta?” Why yes they do. But back to the story. I was driving back from a meeting and just happened to glance up at the sky and noticed a very rare occurrence. Completely blue. So blue, I couldn’t find a cloud in my view. I am sure there were clouds up there, but I couldn’t see them at that moment. I didn’t want to search too long since I was driving and all. It got me thinking about something. Where have all the clouds gone?

A buzz word is a word that means a lot and nothing at the same time. It’s a word that offers a feeling of understanding, without an actual understanding. It’s a way to feel included in the conversation, but not really have to admit we aren’t quite sure what is being talked about. I’ve been guilty of this in my career. It’s just mentally easier sometimes to use a term you think you understand, than to really dig into what it means and truly understand it. Well, I finally got comfortable enough with my own ignorance.

I think the term “Cloud” is like that for a lot of people. Everyone is talking about it as if they know exactly what it is, but it’s clearly an ambiguous term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Further, I think the technical people who are responsible for using the term on us, should also bear the responsibility of not confusing us about this thing called “The Cloud.”

For example, there is an ambiguous qualification of the cloud. You hear terms like Public, Private, Hybrid (And now Edge) to denote its apparent location and ownership. In addition, all marketing material uses statements about “moving” to the cloud, as if it is this land of opportunity. A destination to be longed for, that you should hurry up and get to before it’s too late; lest your competition out smart you as they pack up those moving trucks and head to the land of tomorrow.

I think it’s all a bunch of hogwash. Let me put it very plainly, if you have an internet connection, you are “in the cloud” already.  You and your organization are part of the cloud. No matter where you go, you are already there, in the cloud. There’s no destination to get to.

So, if you are already in the cloud, what are companies like Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, Slack, Amazon, Salesforce, and Rackspace (to name just a few) actually selling you? It’s the perception that they “have something special you need and are not suited to provide for yourself. It is something you are not willing to deal with on your own. Too technical for you to understand, of course, and what possible good could come from you maintaining control over your own information? It’s not doing you any good just sitting there for your use only. Give it to us so we can properly monetize…I mean, you don’t want the hassle of maintaining your own hardware, do you?”

Sorry about the whining, just had to get that off my chest. In one sense, they are correct. But only one sense. It is difficult to keep up with the changing technology. Technology is becoming so specialized and why not trust the professionals. So sometimes it is just easier, if you really need them, to defer to their expertise. I do it all the time. But once I learned more and more about the technical side of it, as with anything, it became less of a mystery. This thing we call the cloud, really isn’t what we’re told it is. I just wanted to try to clear this up a bit.

So here’s is an alternate definition (not mine) of this thing they call the “Cloud.” The cloud is merely a capability. It is the capability to access the network and its resources in an always on, available from everywhere, and from any device manner. The Cloud is NOT a Place. As a business owner or decision maker, start there. Try to look at your business or organization through the following lens.

Determine which parts of your business you cannot access at all times, from anywhere, and on ANY device and start there. Then ask yourself an even more important question. Are my clients/donors/constituents able to buy/donate/access my services in that same manner. This will tell you if your organization is truly ready to Become Cloud Enabled or not and give you the areas you should focus on first. It might mean that you need to purchase a service from someone, but it also might mean you can sit right where you’re at.

Hope this helps. Would love your thoughts and feedback.


View posts by Nathaniel
Nathaniel Breitbach has nearly 20 years of experience in the technology, business, non-profit spaces. Much of the experience expressed in his opinions on this blog come from real world problem solving in a very broad spectrum of organization types and technology solutions. Growing up in an entrepreneurial home, he finally ventured out on his own after realizing the missing piece in his career was creating his own vision for how small to medium sized organizations can leverage technology in a simple, cost effective manner; that allowed those organizations to maintain control over their information.
Scroll to top