It’s easy for people to get confused by tech concepts today, especially with the sheer number of technology advancements, software developer kits (SDK) and concepts being thrown left and right in the media. The other half of that confusion is that the many writers assume that their audience knows exactly what they’re talking about. Yes, we’re reading you because there’s some technology tie-in to our line of business, but what did that mean?

We can often get lost in the range of terms that get tossed around the brainstorm sessions, technology presentations or regular reading. And, based upon many of the inquiries from colleagues and friends, the most recent example has come from “cloud computing.” No, there’s no “Puff the Magic Dragon” and Lucy’s not in the Sky with Diamonds. Cloud computing is a pretty difficult thing to describe, but I‘ll try and do my best.

Have you ever tried to push a car? If you’re a native New Yorker, probably not, but this analogy should work nonetheless. Cars are heavy, and require a lot of force to get them rolling from a dead stop. However, the more people you have pushing, the less the workload on each individual, thus making it to the gas station much easier.

Cloud computing does much the same thing for data. Computers have advanced substantially with higher connection speeds, faster processors and more powerful hardware infrastructures and networks. But even as the systems evolve, so does our need for more advanced computations.

Remember the car example? Well, in order to process the enormous amount of data required for certain advanced computations and calculations, the data now gets separated to a number of machines, not just one. It’s the network of machines and data that becomes “the cloud.” Previously, this concept was used by the military, government intelligence agencies, universities and research labs, and large companies to tackle enormously complex calculations. Today, a number of highly recognizable companies are incorporating the cloud.

Google is a prime example of a company that everyone’s interacted with. Instead of relying on one server to search the entire Internet for a keyword or phrase, they use a network of data centers that share the information to pool your results fast.

The second aspect of the term comes from the number of ways people can interact with the “cloud,” or all of the ways you can get the car rolling. Google has their applications developer platform for Maps, Blogger, Reader, etc. For Apple, its SDK has been released for both iTunes and the iPhone. And, IBM’s “Blue Cloud” could be the next virtual server and engine for it all.

What does this mean? Well, all of these companies use their own network to power the next age of software as application services. So, as someone builds a new game for the iPhone, they’re not only writing a program, they’re writing one that will operate a portion of Apple’s cloud. So, that game on your BlackBerry came from the cloud, and the ringtones, and many of the recent Facebook applications.

If you’re still in the clouds about cloud computing, it’s ok. It took a while for the definition to be clear for the entire industry. Just don’t run out of gas trying to figure it all out.

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