The term “cloud computing” gets used often, but sometimes with a lack of understanding of what it really means. My colleague Don Rippert, Accenture’s chief technology officer, recorded a video podcast discussing the value of cloud computing in the enterpriseDownload the video transcript here.

Four types of cloud computing

Just as there are different types of clouds, there are different types of cloud computing. These have been broken down into four categories:

  • Infrastructure cloud, sometimes called a storage cloud. This is the electronic equivalent of having a storage locker. In essence, your business is buying storage infrastructure capability.
  • Platform cloud, sometimes called an environment or hardware cloud. This type of cloud computing provides all the functionality that computer hardware provides: storage, bandwidth, and a compute unit. Your business is renting time on a server.
  • Application cloud, sometimes called a functional or software cloud. This is also referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), meaning that a software application is made available online. Some customer relationship management (CRM) tools are run as a SaaS.
  • Process cloud,sometimes called a desktop or application environment cloud. This supplies all the capabilities that your desktop computer provides: storage, network, compute unit, software and a platform for developing and running applications.

Which one is right for you?

With so many options, it can be daunting to enter the world of cloud computing. The bottom line is that it must be cheaper and faster for you to use cloud computing than to do something yourself. For instance, it may make sense for your business to use an online CRM rather than to develop your own. On the other hand, it may not make sense to use a desktop cloud if your in-house systems are already cheaper and more efficient.

In most cases, a relatively quick business case will often indicate whether it is cheaper and faster to use cloud computing or whether it is better to do it in-house.


We have only just begun to talk about cloud computing and its capabilities. Over the next three weeks, I will discuss each type of cloud computing in more detail and try to provide insight as to whether cloud computing is right for your business. Next week, I’ll introduce infrastructure and software cloud computing.

Do you currently use cloud computing? What are the benefits of doing so?

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