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Despite the naysayers, the majority of companies have started to look to cloud computing for part or all of their IT solutions. However, cloud computing really should extend beyond the IT department. Industry leaders have demonstrated how the cloud can spur innovation, expand a business into a new product line or provide business insights through big data analytics. The following seven companies have taken cloud computing by storm and show us that we should expand our thinking of just how valuable the cloud can be.

1. Netflix

The movie streaming giant has made a huge comeback since its fall in the eyes of consumers and the stock market by proposing to split the company in two. Now Netflix is producing its own shows to critical acclaim and dealing with every business’s favorite problem, handling the huge number of customers. When Netflix found that it was outpacing its traditional data center’s capabilities, it turned to the cloud for help with scalability in order to meet spikes in demand and lulls in activity. How much scalability does Netflix need? On the average weeknight Netflix accounts for nearly a third of all Internet traffic in North America, peaking around 10 p.m. By midnight Pacific time, use volume falls off like clockwork.

2. Xerox

It might be surprising to see a company whose name is synonymous with paper-photocopy on an up and coming technology list, but in 2012 Xerox announced that it would not be left behind. Not only does Xerox offer a Cloud Print Solution, which allows users to access printers from wherever they may be, but also offers its own cloud service catered toward small and medium-sized businesses. Xerox had been developing its service for several years before choosing to go vocal about it last year.

3. Pinterest

No list about cloud computing would be complete without mentioning social media’s latest success, Pinterest. The thing that sets Pinterest apart from many of the companies on this list is that it has relied on cloud computing from the start. As one of the fastest growing sites on the web, PInterest uses cloud services to conduct experiments and adjust to varying traffic levels all while maintaining an incredibly small team. Since the online pinboard is specifically designed to aggregate large amounts of data, it’s no wonder Pinterest has also turned to big data as a service to store and analyse its data.

4. Instagram

Like Pinterest, Instagram turned to Cloud Computing to handle its growth and to have greater scalability. Instagram first launched in 2010 on a single computer in L.A. Within a matter of a couple of hours, the server was overwhelmed, and Instagram had to move to the cloud to handle the activity. Six months later Instagram was handling three million regular users.

5. Etsy

Scalability isn’t the only reason businesses are moving to the cloud. Cost-effective analytics is by far one of the most alluring features of cloud computing. Etsy, an eCommerce site that specializes in homemade goods, was analysing a terabyte of data a day way back in 2011. With so much data to sort through, Etsy turned to big data solutions to help with its predictive analytics, such as the site’s Taste Test feature which helps determine which products are the right fit for a particular customer.

6. Apple

Apple’s hallmark is to be on the cutting edge of technology, so it comes as no surprise that Apple turned to cloud computing to manage the release of Siri, a program that mimics a person listening ability and offers answers to users’ questions. While most recognize Siri by its voice, the actual magic happens in the cloud where users’ questions are sent and processed before an answer is given. The cloud has allowed Apple to expand and adapt Siri overtime without Apple users ever knowing there was a change.

7. MediaMath

MediaMath is a digital media-buying platform that develops tools for marketing-managers. Its flagship product, TerminalOne, captures several terabytes of structured and semi-structured data each day. Due to the amount and complexity of the data the tool was collecting, MediaMath turned to a cloud database with a big data analytics solution to help it process the data being collected in order to get deeper insights into audience segmentation and campaign optimization. While the seven companies listed above all provide good examples of how to use cloud to further innovation, they are not alone; there are hundreds more that are doing the same thing. We will most likely see many more emerging ideas from established and new companies alike as business owners continue to explore all that the cloud has to offer.