The cloud: what is it and how did it all begin?

By QuickBooks UK

2 min read

Once a mind-blowing concept, now part of everyday life, we look where the cloud began and what makes it so utterly indispensable to small businesses.

Once upon a time…
Back in the days when computers were so big they filled an entire room, someone had a brilliant idea. Why not make the power of a mainframe machine accessible to users of other terminals? That was 1950-something and the genius concept behind cloud computing was born.

Back to the Future
In the Sixties both skirts and computers got smaller and among the far-out thinking was JCR Licklider’s vision of an Intergalactic Computer Network. It was Licklider who predicted that computers would revolutionise communication (not just do a lot of really tricky sums).

The ZX81, Spectrum and BBC Microcomputer brought IT into ordinary homes

The Seventies saw the birth of virtual machines – several computers operating in a single machine – and in the Eighties, the ZX81, Spectrum and BBC Microcomputer brought IT into ordinary homes. But back then, the idea of being able to watch any film or listen to any music ‘on demand’ still seemed like something out of a science fiction movie.

Send in the clouds
In 1997 the term ‘cloud computing’ was used for the first time. Two years later, Salesforce delivered both software and applications over the internet that could be accessed without being downloaded and there was no going back.

The real cloud revolution happened when Amazon joined the party a few years later with its Web Services (AWS), hosting its own content as well as giving other businesses a chance to build and operate without having to invest in their own hardware. Netflix and Dropbox both set up their online empires through AWS, but there were still some concerns about security and some banks and financial businesses took their time to get on board.

Onwards and upwards
As mobile phones got more powerful, tablets and touchscreen interfaces were developed and the idea of getting things done on the go became increasingly achievable. Meanwhile, bandwidth was getting cheaper and processing power was going from strength to strength making it more practical and profitable for providers of cloud storage services to get up and running.

Better encryption meant more confidence in security and the competitive advantages of moving to the cloud were becoming clear. Why invest large sums to buy software that will soon be out of date, when the latest version can be accessed as and when you need it for a fraction of the cost?

Simple solutions found in the cloud

  • Agility – it’s easier to grow your business when you can subscribe to software at the click of a button
  • Lower costs – no need to invest in bigger buildings or expensive infrastructure
  • Collaboration – secure data sharing makes working together a breeze
    Efficiency – automation cuts the number of time-intensive tasks and software updates are instant.
  • Protection – automatic back up options vs storing everything on your desktop which is vulnerable to fire, flood and theft

These days as we binge-watch our favourite TV series, upload pics to Instagram and check our accounts online, it’s hard to imagine life before the cloud. An incredible idea conceived more than half a century ago is now part of our daily existence in and out of work.

Tap into technology by moving to QuickBooks Online. Find out more.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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