Cloud computing: special report

Cloud computing could be as important, and as game changing, as the first PCs. So how should businesses use the cloud, how should they prepare for it, and who are the vendors to watch? By Stephen Pritchard.

In some respects, the future of cloud computing matters more to IT vendors than it does to IT buyers: those vendors that do not embrace the cloud now risk losing out to companies that have moved sideways into enterprise technology, such as Google and Amazon, as well as start ups that have the potential for rapid growth.

Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, told the recent Gartner Symposium IT conference that his company is "all in" in the cloud. If a company as big as Microsoft is willing to make the cloud one of its big bets, then IT departments can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that the cloud is here to stay.

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