It would be hard to find a new technology that has impacted the IT and business world more than the cloud has over the past five or so years. In a fast-paced digital age powered by copious amounts of data, storing it all became one of the defining questions for the tech industry. In just a few short years, the cloud managed to redefine the way that companies treat information. Gone were the days when firms had to spend large sums on servers and storage space; the cloud eliminated this need for a fraction of the cost. Before long, its long-term value in the marketplace became a foregone conclusion. But what if we told you that the cloud is more than just a trendy innovation? Many experts predict that the cloud is not simply the start of a successful product, but the foundation of a booming industry. Here we'll discuss why many believe that cloud computing is one of the keys to our economic future. (Get some cloud computing background in Cloud Computing: Why the Buzz?)

Cloud Computing's Backstory

Cloud computing, much like the Internet, has rapidly evolved to become the tool we know today. While the vision for the cloud dates back many decades, its first implementation was in the early 1990s. At the time, telecommunications firms would service their clients using point-to-point data circuits. Eventually, they realized that this method was inefficient. To remedy this, they expanded their offerings to make virtual private network services available to their clients. Through this new tool, they found that they were able to provide comparable service more efficiently and at a much lower cost. A little over a decade later, companies such as Amazon and Google realized that improving upon cloud technology provided great opportunities to maximize data storage, and even provide useful services to end users. It wasn’t long before a series of companies also started to see the value of using the technology and started to build and run infrastructure in the cloud. (Find out how the cloud is being used in 5 Ways Cloud Technology Will Change the IT Landscape.)

The cloud's advantages in the workplace extend far beyond the IT department. So far, medium- and small-sized businesses have found many valuable uses for cloud apps. The increased flexibility and efficiency that these apps provide has resonated with employees of these firms tremendously. According to research released by Gartner in June 2013, eight percent of office workers report using cloud email and desktop apps. They cite the cloud’s easy transferability across multiple devices as one of the key reasons for this. As the cloud continues to become more valuable to businesses, the percentage of office workers using the technology is expected to rise as high as 33 percent in just a few short years.

From Public to Private

The wide adoption of the cloud has fundamentally reshaped the way that businesses think about the sharing and storage of their data. Businesses are not just interested in using cloud services, they want to implement private cloud services because of the added flexibility they can bring to the CPU, RAM, disk and bandwidth they provide. In fact, a survey of 341 important IT professionals conducted by Palmer Research and QuinStreet Enterprise in 2013 revealed that 36 percent of respondents now use a private cloud and 29 percent of respondents plan to use a private cloud in the future. This is solid evidence that the cloud is en route to becoming a staple of business in the IT industry and beyond. (For more insight, read Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds: What's the Difference?)

The Future of Cloud Computing

It should come as no surprise then that cloud computing, especially through mobile devices, is enjoying a very strong demand in the marketplace. Some experts already view it as one of the most significant recent developments in information technology.

"Cloud computing - in all its variations - is one of the two most important trends in the global IT industry," Chris Preimesberger, editor of features and analysis at eWeek.com, said in a June 2013 press release. (The other, of course, is big data.)

The new technology has already created numerous opportunities for growth in the tech industry. The question that remains is how far it can go. If the experts have it right, we are just scratching the surface of the cloud’s economic potential. A recent report released by the Mobile Cloud Survival Series produced by Heavy Reading and BSG Advisory, suggests that the cloud is expected to become a monumental industry. According to the report, cloud computing is set to explode into a $1 trillion industry and will play a pivotal role in the growth of the national economy.

Victor Schnee, the president of BSG Advisory, co-authored the report, and he believes that cloud computing will be the greatest contributor to growth over the next five years. For this reason, the market drivers in the information and communication technology sectors must strategize about how to successfully integrate the mass market cloud into their businesses. According to a study done by Cisco, cloud computing use is expected to increase five-fold between 2010 and 2015. The fact is, cloud computing use has grown at a rapid rate over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing down.

An Economy in the Cloud

For those who may be wondering what the near future of IT holds, they need look no further than current developments in cloud computing and big data. If cloud computing maintains its growth trajectory, it has the potential to be a major driver of growth in business, and perhaps even the economy as a whole. This represents a huge opportunity, both for cloud service providers and the companies who use their services. It's hard to determine the size of that opportunity for certain, but it isn't hard to imagine that it's about as big as the number of problems cloud computing holds the potential to solve.