Communication, Carbon, and Cloud Computing


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cloudcomputing1-400

By Marin Blair

You are probably more familiar with cloud technology than you think. Do you use applications online that allow you to access information from any computer, such as email and social networks? Have you ever taken an online course that offers the ability to take exams on the Web? Do you stream movies online or house your pictures in online photo albums? Does your company store files on a network server? The list could go on for miles.

These are just a few of the many ways we utilize cloud computing, many times without even realizing its overwhelming power and complexity. It allows for fast, effortless data and information transfer across different electronic devices, literally allowing us to pull information from sources all over the world.

So what’s the big deal about cloud computing? The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) predicts that large US companies will be able to utilize cloud technology to save more than $12 billion in energy bills by the year 2020. The CDP is a nonprofit which houses global data on corporate climate change information. In addition to monetary gain, the CDP estimates drastic reductions in carbon, equivalent to powering 5.7 million cars annually—an astonishing 200 million oil barrels’ worth per year.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a way of providing communication services across multiple technological platforms. Think of that information transfer as a utility, like electricity moving through a grid to power our homes. Like the grid, this network allows people to consume information without having to understand the details of how all the pieces come together to make it function. This operation can be very powerful (pun intended!), as it allows companies to consolidate data into more manageable servers, as well as increase efficiency by ensuring different types of systems can communicate with another to share information across all units of business.

What are the benefits of cloud computing?

“The carbon emissions reducing potential of cloud computing is a thrilling breakthrough,” says Paul Dickinson, executive chairman of the CDP, in a statement, “allowing companies to maximize performance, drive down costs, reduce inefficiency, and minimize energy use—and therefore carbon emissions—all at the same time.”

  • Maximize performance: Performance is important to everyone—especially to customers expecting a certain quality level out of the products and services companies provide. Businesses can use cloud technology to involve their clients in their processes in order to improve customer satisfaction and limit their mistakes.
  • Drive down costs: Companies that are looking to diversify the services they provide to their customers can take advantage of cloud computing as a means to limit high capital investments in infrastructure. Network servers used to be time consuming to install and required manual involvement to design and build. Cloud technology allows for virtualized servers to be created quickly and implemented effectively, often without excessive equipment and material requirements. Those who communicate through the cloud can purchase only the resources they need as a unique characteristic of their business plan.
  • Reduce inefficiency: For routine tasks, companies can use automation to steer processes through the system steadily and in an organized manner. When business spikes and the system becomes overloaded, cloud computing provides companies with a way to expand their capacity. The result is a business plan with more flexibility and an increased ability to adapt effectively to change.
  • Minimize energy use: According to the CDP’s research , “cloud computing has the potential to reduce firms’ carbon emissions … through virtualization and running servers at higher utilization rates,” and also by reducing the total amount of energy used to power these systems. Simply put: Fewer servers mean less electricity consumed, and therefore less energy waste.

What are the disadvantages?

Obviously the system isn’t perfect. Security can be a concern as companies manage how their information is protected. Similarly, a business may worry that its increased dependency on cloud technology could come back to haunt it if something went wrong or if new advances in technology rendered the company obsolete to its competition. Finally, with any new trend, consumers are cautious about trusting new technology until it has proven its reliability and value.

Opportunity abounds

Regardless of the drawbacks, the opportunity for cloud computing today is astounding. It may have some kinks to work out, but cloud computing continues to advance the way we communicate—whether it is personally or through business—both locally and across the globe.

Read the entire study on cloud computing by the Carbon Disclosure Project here.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC. 

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