The term “cloud computing” popped up about five years ago to describe a relatively simple concept: the ability to consolidate and outsource computing resources to (often) external entities in order to take advantage of economies of scale, resulting in cheaper, more flexible, and more secure computing. Cloud computing enables many computing resources to be used much like a utility.
Today, cloud computing is an integral part of the high-tech landscape, from consumer-grade services like cloud email (e.g., Gmail), document storage (e.g., DropBox), and collaborative editing (e.g., Google Docs) to specialized enterprise services such as customer relationship management software (e.g., Salesforce.com) to full servers (e.g., Rackspace).
In the health care field there is a fair amount of uncertainty about adopting cloud services, especially around sensitive health data. However, while the use of computing resources to store and share sensitive health data always merits a thoughtful approach, there is nothing inherently dangerous about cloud computing. Health care organizations should be able to benefit as much as other sectors have from cloud computing.
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