The Cloud Gets Green

The Cloud Gets Green

We are all, at this point, at least fairly well aware of cloud computing’s capacity to slash wasted time and spending for both homes and businesses. But many of us are now wondering if this significant boost in economy and efficiency could potentially translate into an environmental advantage. For the fourth year running, technology products vendor CDW has staged a report that investigates if the cloud can actually make good on its green promises. Its Energy Efficient IT Report this year says much to corroborate the understanding that cloud computing can make a positive, potentially sustainable difference.

The professional opinions of 760 individuals involved in businesses, nonprofits, government, and education comprised the bulk of the CDW’s report. It found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed believed that cloud computing could present a significant benefit to improving the energy efficiency of data centers. In 2010, just about half of those who responded agreed with this statement.

What about the cloud might make it such a green goodie two shoes? Its environmental charm lies in how cloud computing uses virtual means to store data, as opposed to physical resources from the earth (like paper, coal, ink, et cetera). Storing data on the cloud can mean a potential reduction in emissions and conservation of Earth’s raw materials — both beneficial to the planet.

But thus far, the cloud’s green assets remain inspiring conjecture; we are still not sure of exactly how, and how much, cloud computing can offer by way of sustainability. Those who responded to the CDW’s survey estimate that the cloud can reduce the use of energy by nearly 30 percent. (This figure more specifically pertains to virtualized servers and / or storage). Also cementing the current truth of a “green cloud” as theory, and not yet actuality, is that one third of those surveyed reported that the environment weighs heavily on their head when considering cloud products to purchase.

The biggest hurdle the cloud faces in fulfilling its green potential is the same challenge it encounters in terms of its popularity with the masses — getting the word out. Though a CDW-like survey has not been carried out to measure the general public’s regard of the cloud, it’s a safe bet that the majority of Americans are still not quite sure what to make of this cloud talk. Coupled with equally little (yet increasing) knowledge on being green, the conversation on cloud and sustainability needs to reach a fever pitch before it can be capitalized on.

By Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman is a freelance writer currently based in New York City. He's moved into writing about cloud computing from substantial work in culture and the arts. He earned his undergraduate degree in English at Stanford and has studied at Oxford and Cambridge.

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