The average tenure of a CEO has dropped from 8.1 years to 6.3 years (Favaro et al), which means there is less time to enact strategy and accomplish goals. In the midst of hitting sales goals and strategically aligning organizations, for most leaders keeping up with technology requires more time and energy than is available. With so much talk and news about cloud computing, we’ve taken a closer look to see what we can learn and share and how we should expect to see it affect our lives and businesses in the short and long-term.

We’ve heard the term “cloud computing” used in a number of ways that don’t always align. With that perspective the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) definition released earlier this year makes the most sense.

Even the experts at the NIST acknowledge that the definition of cloud computing continues to evolve amid much public debate and discourse. As time passes, they agree that the definition, use, underlying technologies, issues, risks and benefits will be refined and better understood as public and private boundaries are determined. But for now aspects of cloud computing are still nebulous. This information is designed to provide a slice of information as to where cloud computing is in the summer of 2011. Clearly, as technology changes and one or the other format becomes the standard, the definition, attributes, characteristics, and underlying rationale of cloud computing will evolve over time.

According to the NIST, cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud computing stands to enhance our disconnected connected world. At its core, the cloud is about simplification. How do we weave all the technology coming from so many directions toward us and our organizations to make our lives and businesses work better and not simply add another technological gizmo and new set of wires to the mix?

At its core, cloud computing is about allowing your company to focus on what it does best, so you and your company can deploy projects faster with more capabilities and less infrastructure and personnel to maintain.

Simply put, cloud computing is storing data somewhere else—something most of us have used for a long while. For example, facebook is cloud computing. All those photographs and updates users post via computer and smartphones are stored elsewhere. Essentially, cloud computing saves users the costs of creating, configuring and maintaining the physical computing infrastructure required in years past. With the cloud, users pay for services and resources they use. In today’s market, those differences create the opportunity for savings for most business. Plus, with cloud computing, you’re not investing in technology that literally becomes obsolete the day you buy it. If your competency isn’t technology, you’re constantly chasing the next thing out there. It’s a waste of time, energy and resources.

Additionally, without the support required to maintain and manage a massive infrastructure, support costs are reduced in the cloud computing.

Cloud technology offers convenience. Many financial institutions, governments and large businesses and organizations are shifting their trust to clouds as safest place to store data.

Gartner Research estimates worldwide spending on cloud computing neared $70 billion in 2010, with nearly two-thirds spent in North America.

On the other hand, Forrester Research issued a recent report suggesting that so much connectivity is leaving many of us confused. Many of us tap into so many online services that we end up unsure where things are—from money to photographs to stocks to healthcare. In fact, according to Forrester, 29 percent of Americans can’t keep track of all their usernames and passwords.

Clearly, the biggest shortcoming of cloud storage is the risk of others tapping into the information you’ve stored. Recent data security breeches at Citi, Lockheed Martin, Sony and the International Monetary Fund are examples of the risk. A report from Ipsos, a private advertising research think-tank, said nearly 40 percent of Americans feel that saving to the cloud is not as secure or private as saving to a hard drive.

However, the world is pushing aside security concerns and voting for cloud technology with unfathomable quantities of bits and bytes. Convenience is winning over security concerns. Users value the benefits of any time/any place access and multiple backups more than they do potential privacy concerns.

As the clock ticks, technology companies race to define the consumer cloud because they know that the winner will win big. In fact, Forrester Research predicts the U.S. market for personal cloud services will, by 2016, hit 196 million consumers and $12 billion. According to Gartner Research, overall cloud computing services revenue is expected to go from $56.3 billion in 2009 to $150.1 billion in 2013.

Why does the cloud matter to the world of business? Because, in a world that, in many ways, is getting smaller every day, connectivity capabilities will continue to change the way business happens. According to Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institute, “The locus of economic power in the world is shifting. The top 30 metro performers today are almost exclusively located in Asia and Latin America. The 30 worst metro performers are nearly all located in Europe and the United States.”

In other words, individuals or teams from anywhere in the world, more than ever, have the means to compete against you in ways they never have before.

Or, they can work with you.