Cloud computing has been a part of the information technology discussion for years, but there is still some debate about whether transitioning to the cloud is a good idea, at least for everyone. Proponents have claimed that the expansion of cloud services will lower IT costs for individual businesses and give small businesses access to the same technology as big businesses. Opponents have dismissed the notion of a wide-scale transition to the cloud, citing security concerns and network reliability. As the influence of cloud computing has slowly expanded, however, it is clear that the widespread implementation of cloud-based services is more than just hype. And one thing is for sure: Cloud computing will have a significant impact on the type and availability of IT jobs for the foreseeable future. (Get some background on the cloud in Cloud Computing: Why the Buzz?)

How Cloud Affects IT

Before cloud technology, the traditional corporate IT department struggled with self-sufficiency. Companies bought their own hardware and software, paid for expensive, custom-designed solutions that met special needs, and ran their own servers and internal networks. IT staffing requirements were high because companies needed professionals on-site to keep everything running.

With the advent of the cloud, companies were encouraged to outsource the majority of their IT needs. Outside vendors would invest in hardware and software and make tech-based services available to companies over the Internet. Instead of paying for an in-house IT department, companies could buy tech services as needed. This type of outsourcing lowered the upfront investment in technology that was required to enter a new market. For example, a small business could use Amazon's cloud services to offer a tech-based product at a fraction of the cost of buying hardware, developing software and hiring IT staff in-house. By using cloud services, the small business could present the same customer service facade as a big business - and offer a product that delivered the same quality to customers. (To learn more, check out A Beginner's Guide to the Cloud: What It Means for Small Business.)

Where Cloud Comes Up Short

While all that's certainly great from a business perspective, outsourcing IT needs via the cloud comes with some drawbacks. For one thing, using cloud services often requires businesses to transfer confidential or sensitive information to a third-party vendor, and forces businesses to rely on the vendor's ability to keep its servers and network operational at all times. For many years, cloud computing failed to reach its hyped potential because companies were not willing to absorb this risk. (You can read about more cloud computing drawbacks in The Dark Side of the Cloud.)

Thanks to an increase in Internet-based security options and the development of highly stable cloud networks, companies have finally become more inclined to adopt cloud-based services. In response, analysts are beginning to discuss the likely impact of this transition on the availability of IT jobs. On the surface, it seems that cloud services will likely decrease the need for in-house IT professionals, particularly in the areas of programming and server management. However, a 2012 study by IDC, underwritten by Microsoft, predicted that cloud computing will generate more than 15 million IT jobs by 2015. The bottom line seems to be that cloud computing is here to stay, and it will drive a redistribution of IT jobs from in-house positions to outsourced partners.

How Cloud Computing Is Changing IT

So how will cloud computing change the IT landscape? Here are a few key things that have already been set in motion.

  1. The Concept of IT Is Expanding
    The IT world is expanding and the responsibility and experience is being shared across the board. Managers and professionals are accessing cloud technology more and more as this concept grows. As a result, more technology professionals are going to be entrenched within lines of business outside of traditional IT shops, creating space for more IT positions.

  2. Cloud Creates Innovation
    As cloud computing becomes more popular, more companies are jumping onto the bandwagon. This technology allows for more rapid innovation, which allows even start-ups faster entrance into their market niches at a minimal expense. The more money a company saves on technology itself, the more it will have to hire technology professionals. (Learn more about this in INFOGRAPHIC: How Technology's Boosting Startup Success.)

  3. Budget Constraints are Shifting
    Cloud technology has advanced to the point where end users are able to design their own applications. The days of having to spend years in school are coming to an end as more self-service business intelligence is making its way into organizations. Not having to hire outside consultants to set up and use cloud technology saves companies money, thus providing more of a budget for hiring individuals for higher level tasks that drive business.

  4. Building Products and Services Is Getting Easier
    Having access to cloud services means that companies no longer have to own the technology they use. In the past, companies had to develop and maintain their own unique methods of production and delivery services. With the cloud, they can more readily assemble what they need and can quickly and cheaply tailor their products and services to the client.

  5. Access to Technology is Becoming Democratized
    Cloud technology is available for all core businesses, which means that no one needs to be left behind. Some companies will even take on the task of becoming cloud providers themselves, allowing them to offer the service to customers and partners, thus leveraging their revenue options.

If you're in IT, now is probably a good time to learn all you can about cloud computing and to add that experience and knowledge to your resume. As demand for this technology continues to increase, more IT professionals will be needed.

Cloud technology is beginning to realize its full potential, moving from hyperbole to functionality. Undoubtedly, future adoption of this technology will impact the IT job market. Job seekers with experience working with cloud-based services will have an advantage, along with people who are flexible enough to weather the transition to a greater reliance on third-party partnerships.