any service that operates over an Internet connection, allowing immediate access from any computer or mobile device with Web access. Business owners can access software or store information—such as customer contacts, accounting data and presentations—and leave the technical maintenance to the cloud provider.

As of April 2010, only about 7% of small-business owners were using cloud services, but that number is expected to grow to more than 10% by mid-2011, according to a survey by technology-research firm IDC.”

See article at: WSJ 30Dec10: “Small Companies Look to Cloud for Savings in 2011”

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Microsoft Corp. said it notched a victory in the increasingly competitive field of “cloud” computing, signing a deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supply online e-mail, collaboration and other online applications to the agency’s 120,000 employees. …

Microsoft, Salesforce, Google Inc. and other technology companies are jockeying for leadership in cloud computing, in which the functions of corporate applications once run internally are operated remotely in data centers and delivered as a service to customers over the Web.

See article at: WSJ 09Dec10: “Microsoft Wins U.S. Agency Deal”

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 Google Inc.’s online software won a key endorsement from the federal government Wednesday, as the General Services Administration said it will use the company’s Gmail, word processing and other applications for the agency’s more than 15,000 employees. …

[Microsoft and Google] already compete to win contracts from companies as well as state and local governments, which hope to cut costs by switching to Web-based software from programs installed on their own computers. The GSA move gives Google’s applications a beachhead in the federal government.

It also affirms the broader concept of Web-based software, sometimes known as cloud computing. The GSA described its effort as the first agency-wide use of cloud-based email in the federal government. Cloud-based systems store email, documents and other items on distant server computers instead of personal computers at the user’s desk.

See article at: WSJ 02Dec10: “GSA Picks Google Email"