Back in the old days of the Internet (think late 90s), if you thought you had a brilliant startup idea, the first step in the business plan involved stocking up on cash and stuffing a room full of servers. If millions of dollars later it turned out that no one wanted to buy your [insert product here] online after all, well then, maybe you could unload your server farm on eBay.
Building a company was capital- and time-intensive, and the only way to plan for possibility of success was to pay up front for a technological infrastructure that could handle huge demand.
Not anymore. The proliferation of cloud computing services — essentially cheap, on-demand computing power — has completely changed what's required to build and run not just Web companies, but all kinds of small businesses.
Now, if the concept of cloud computing has always seemed rather… nebulous, read on. We've put together a package of stories that will break it down and tell you how companies are using these services to launch faster with less money and stay more nimble.