On Sunday, I am heading to Print 17. As I do, I am preparing to run into the cloud. It’s a theme that keeps coming back to me this year. Some years it feels that everything revolves around variable data. Other years it’s been mobile. Other years it has been inkjet, or workflow, or standards. This year, it’s the cloud.

Not everyone may call it the cloud, of course. Sometimes it is discussed under the umbrella of workflow automation, much of which is being done in the cloud. It may be discussed as “Saas,” which is a term more familiar to most of us, since this is how we use services like Salesforce.com or the Adobe Creative Suite. Some may call it “cloud printing.” Others just call it “working in the cloud.”

Like web-to-print, the cloud has lots of names, but in the end, it’s the same concept—the software is accessed through a browser or an app rather than residing on a hard drive or server in your plant. Think the industry isn’t really being impacted by the cloud? Imagine life without Facebook.

What makes the cloud such an important evolution for this industry is that, as human beings, we just can’t keep all the balls in the air. Workflow and the demands of data-driven services are only becoming more complicated over time.

With new technology, new applications, and new client demands comes new software. This software has to be installed and maintained. It requires integration, upgrades, and patches.

Data and creative assets need to be backed up, too. They need to be secure in an environment in which threats, protocols, and security requirements are constantly changing.

We have jobs coming in from multiple sources, mixed offset and digital workflows, e-publishing, wide-format, and packaging. We need to be experts in them all.

We need to be assured, too, that we can recover quickly if disaster strikes. If a hurricane hits, or a pigeon takes a wrong turn and blows a transformer and your entire operation goes down, how quickly can you be back up and running?

Relying solely on our own internal capabilities, we are limited in how much we can handle. If we are going to take on more, we need help. Cloud services let us tap into capabilities bigger than we are.

So whether you are using the cloud to deliver a point solution, such as an email marketing platform, or whether you are entrusting it with your entire print scheduling and workflow, the cloud is becoming an increasingly important part of the mix.

Expect it to be front and center at Print 17, too. If you don’t see it right away, just dig a little. It’s there, even if it’s being called by another name.