What is cloud computing and does it matter for ecommerceIf you’ve been hearing a lot about “ecommerce in the cloud” lately, you aren’t alone. Cloud-computing is all the latest buzz and unless you are a closet techie, you probably are wondering, “What is cloud computing? Does it matter for ecommerce?”

Those are both very good questions.

First, what is cloud computing? Without deep diving into the technical stuff that will make your eyes glaze over, cloud computing is computing that doesn’t take place on your local machine or on a local server. It can also refer to a way of storing and accessing data that is not stored locally but is accessible via the Internet.

Scratching your head yet?

Don’t worry–real-life examples will make the concept of cloud computing easier to wrap your head around.

While you might think that all of the tasks you complete each day on the Internet are happening on your local computer, they’re not. For example, I use a Gmail account as my personal email account. My emails are stored on a server on the Web independent of my laptop, but I can log in and view my mail account, calendars, etc. from any computer with an Internet connection. That’s cloud computing.

Another example would be a Flickr photo stream. Your personal images on Flickr are not hosted on your laptop. They are hosted on a server, owned or leased by Flickr, somewhere in the world. While Flickr is physically located in California, your data (in this case, photos) could be hosted in New Jersey, Texas, or Canada. Regardless of where they are hosted, I can access them from Germany, South Africa, or Chile–as long as I have an Internet connection.

Another way to think of it is to ask yourself–is this application installed on my machine (like Microsoft Word) or accessed via web-only (like Gmail)? It becomes a question of whether the software is installed here–locally–or there–in the cloud.

Does cloud computing matter for ecommerce? Yes, it does! Deploying your ecommerce site in the cloud has some distinct advantages over a locally installed ecommerce platform.

First, there’s the issue of accessibility. With a cloud-based ecommerce site, you can make updates and changes to your site from any computer with Internet access. You are no longer tethered to your office work station.

There are also financial benefits to a cloud ecommerce deployment. With hosting handled away from your physical site, you can eliminate on-site hosting costs. In addition, cloud-based applications often allow you to purchase only the components that you need right now and add additional functionality at a later date as the need arises or the budget becomes available.

Ready to learn more about the first B2B ecommerce platform certified for cloud computing with Windows Azure? Check out the on-demand webinar, Ecommerce Website Best Practices today!

Photo credit: KarinDalziel via Flickr