The Cloud is a collection of computers, remotely located, and accessible via an internet connection.

Last week I presented the concept of Collaborative Government for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship plenary session at the the National League of Cities Conference in Austin. Most of the attendees (elected officials and some city managers) seemed eager to learn about new startups that were trying to help government. When a Box.com Senior VP came on stage, I was surprised to see distracted looks and blank stares in the audience after the first 20 seconds. I mean this is Box.com, we are talking about! Surely, everyone knows about Box.com, right?

Wrong. The following day, I attended a Sharing Economy panel discussion and heard from one of the conference attendees say: "Yesterday I heard about Box.com. I have no idea what Box.com is, even though it sounded like I was supposed to know". This "filesharing for enterprise" company is obscure to most people, and this gentleman, along with his colleagues, likely felt caught off guard by the speaker's assumption that they were already familiar with it.

Yesterday I heard about Box.com. I have no idea what Box.com is, even though it sounded like I was supposed to know.

There is an emergence of new technologies and companies that flooded the marketplace and are being offered to local governments nationwide - yet there isn't a comprehensive guide that plainly explains these technologies. Many elected officials and city managers understandably feel overwhelmed and frustrated at the barrage of information thrown at them.

After thinking about it, I couldn't find a Technology 101 primer for those of us looking for a 'refresher.' I then decided to start my first post about "the cloud."

If you often hear terms like “the cloud”, “sharing economy”, and “open data” and were too proud to ask what exactly are these people talking about, this guide is for you and we are starting with the cloud.

The Cloud

The term is bandied about casually when describing ‘new technology,’ but is often used incorrectly. So what is it? The Cloud is a collection of computers that is remotely located, and accessible through an Internet connection. That’s it. Computers can be very far away, but thanks to fast connections, we can use them as if they were right in our building.

What's an example of a cloud-based solution that I use every day?

Gmail. All your e-mails in Google's e-mail product are remotely stored in hard drives far away from you. Log in to Gmail, open an e-mail and it’ll grab the text from these remote computers and display them on your screen. Gmail fetches this data from the cloud.

What is another example of something I can use at work?

AWS or Amazon Web Services. Amazon opened up their own cloud to offer access to their collection of computers to the general public. It is very affordable and they even have a dedicated team for government implementations.

So does Microsoft, Google and others. You can also use box.com :)

What changed?

Before internet connections were fast enough, companies and government agencies simply had server rooms in their offices. You probably still have a server room in yours. Is it necessary for your business? Absolutely not, you can survive without it. This is what the cloud replaces.

Hope this was useful. If you'd like to learn more visit our blog at MuniRent to learn about other Government Technologies we'll be publishing soon.