[This is the first installment of an occasional series of posts on this subject.]

From the start, one of the primary goals of this blog has been to provide Records Managers with a better understanding of some of the critical technical issues they are likely to encounter while managing their records in a SharePoint environment.  And while I don’t expect readers to fully understand everything about any technical issues I write about (frankly, I don’t fully understand some of them myself), I do hope that I’ve provided enough information on some issues to give you fundamental understanding of how things work and how it applies to SharePoint-based records management. 

Which brings us to cloud computing.  The notion of cloud computing is certainly not specific to SharePoint nor is it specific to records management.  But it is relevant to SharePoint records management because it is an absolute paradigm shift in how information is managed and your organization will almost certainly consider moving some or even all, of their Information Technology services to a cloud-based solution.  And this includes your records repository and the solution you use to manage it.

So just what, exactly, is Cloud Computing, then?  Good question.  If you asked a hundred IT guys to define cloud computing, you are very likely to get a hundred different answers.  (And worse, I once asked a sales guy from a cloud hosting service what it is and he told me, ‘It’s whatever you want it to be’.  Thanks for the help, bud.)  I like to stick to a fairly simple definition.  To me, cloud computing is nothing more than Internet-based computing where an organization shares resources (hardware, software, technical support, etc.) delivered through data centers physically separate from the organization. 

Normally, customers don’t own the cloud computing infrastructure they use.  Instead, they essentially rent it.  There are two basic pricing models for cloud computing: a subscription based model and a utility based model.  The subscription based model requires a set payment for using the hosting service’s infrastructure and typically minimizes the restrictions it applies to the customer’s usage.  The utility based model packages the hosting company’s resources into a metered service whereby the customer pays only for the resources they use, just like they pay for their gas or electricity. 

To be clear, cloud computing offers tremendous benefits for managing your SharePoint deployment, but it also poses some potentially disastrous risks.  In the next installment of this series, I’ll explain what they are.