10 Ways Cloud Computing's Touching Everyone's Life—And Why Businesses Are Embracing It

By Phil Rainsberger

So we've now got mainstream TV ads about the cloud, we've got luxury-car companies like Porsche emulating the cloud business by offering "subscription" contracts based around an app, and we've got young people entering the workforce who've never experienced "traditional IT"—all they know is the cloud.

In a stunningly short period of time, the cloud has gone from a wonky and mostly niche technology to a disruptive force that's not only turned the tech business upside-down but is now changing the way that millions of businesses around the world operate.

• And we're all seeing the impact of all this in our personal lives as well as at work: Instead of calling a taxi and hoping for something less than a terrible outcome, how many of you subscribe to both Uber and Lyft? 

• Instead of staying at hotels, do you use Airbnb some of the time, most of the time, or all of the time?

• WalMart Stores is changing its name to simply WalMart Inc. to reflect the new reality that a huge and rapidly growing portion of its business is conducted online rather than in stores.

• Fitbit's helped revolutionize fitness and our awareness of our health.

• And then there's the Netflix phenomenon: anybody still have their antiquted "video-store membership card"? 

Businesses have been surging into the cloud because it allows them to spend more time and attention on customers, and less time running in-house "IT factories; it makes it easier for them to access existing and new streams of data that help drive better decisions; it helps them engage with customers and prospects more intimately and in ways that put customers in control of the buyer-seller relationship; and to accelerate internal operations to allow businesses to move at the speed of their customers.

If you're still scratching your head about whether or not the cloud is touching just about every facet of our lives, check out this quick list:

1. Banking: still depositing and writing lots of paper checks? And what percentage of your banking do you now do via your phone? That's all cloud.

2. Movies: As noted above, Netflix has torpedoed the traditional movie business, and Amazon, Hulu and other newcomers have surged into the rubble to connect with and serve movie-loving customers in entirely new ways.

3. Transportation: On top of the Uber, Lyft, and Porsche examples cited above, most airlines do the overwhelming majority of their business online—and some airlines report that if passengers could choose to have either a meal or internet service on a flight, the majority would prefer the internet service.

4. Retail: Traditional retail stores are being transformed from exclusively buy/sell places to hubs of live and frequently hands-on experiences.

5. Jobs and Careers: Job-seekers search online, do their research about prospective employers online, and voice their opinions online about past places where they've worked previously. And new SaaS HCM apps put a premium on career-mapping and development—something younger workers absolutely insist upon.

6. Music: Spotify has almost become a verb to represent the complete displacement of a long-established business model or industry construct. "The luxury-car companies better watch out or they're gonna get Spotified"—translation: the buyers of today want to be in charge of what they want, how they want it, where and when they want it, and how the engagement model will work.

7. Agriculture: mobile technology plus IoT plus advanced analytics—all hosted in the cloud and operating in real time—allow farmers to dramatically increase their yields per acre.

8. Medical Care: From Fitbit to telemedicine, cloud-based healthcare innovations are leading to patient-led care that, unlike the old treatment model, is focused on prevention, prediction, and precision.

9. Design: we can now use online tools to custom-design our clothing, shoes, bikes, cars, computers, food, paint, wallpaper, furniture, and much much more. And we're only in the early stages of this "co-creation" experience.

10. AI, or Artificial Intelligence: With the cloud making access to near-unlimited computing power to every type of business, we're seeing AI surge into our everyday lives in everything from home-control devices to security systems to self-driving cars and so much more—and again, we're only at the beginning.