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Who Benefits from Cloud Computing?

Let’s face it, cloud computing isn’t for everyone. What types of users, then, are best suited for cloud computing—and which aren’t?

Collaborators

If you often collaborate with others on group projects, you’re an ideal candidate for cloud computing. The ability to share and edit documents in real time between multiple users is one of the primary benefits of web-based applications; it makes collaborating easy and even fun.

Suppose, for example, that you’re in charge of an upcoming presentation to the senior management of your company. You need to work with the heads of your company’s various departments, which happen to be based in a half-dozen locations. Given everyone’s busy schedules, it’s tough enough to schedule a group conference call. How in the world can all of you get together to create a cohesive presentation?

The solution, in this instance, is to use a web-based presentation program, such as Google Presentations. You and the department heads can access the main presentation document at your leisure. The changes one person makes are automatically visible when the other collaborators access the document. In fact, more than one of you can edit the document at the same time, with each of your changes happening in real time. Collaborating with a web-based application is both more convenient and faster than trying to assemble everyone’s pieces into a single document managed by one member of the team.

This type of collaboration isn’t limited to the corporate world. I like the way families and communities use web-based scheduling programs, such as Google Calendar, to manage their busy schedules. On a personal note, my wife and I share a single Google calendar; when she adds an item to the calendar, it automatically shows up on the version that I see. It makes it easy for the two of us to keep our schedules in sync.

Similarly, community groups and sports teams can use web-based calendars to alert their members of upcoming activities. If authorized, group or team members can add their own items to the calendar, helping the entire group plan around individual conflicts.

Road Warriors

Another prime candidate for cloud computing is the road warrior. When you work at one office today, at home the next day, and in another city the next, it’s tough to keep track of all your documents and applications. You may end up with one version of a document on your work PC, another on your laptop, and a third on your home PC—and that’s if you remember to copy that document and take it with you from one location to the next.

Far better, therefore, if you can access a single version of your document from any location. When you’re in the office, you log in to your web-based app and access your stored document. Go home and use your web browser to access the very same app and document via the Internet. Travel to another city and the same application and document are still available to you.

With cloud computing, you don’t have to remember which document is where, or to bring a copy of a document with you. You don’t even have to worry about whether a particular application is installed on all your PCs. Because the apps and docs you use are stored on the web and accessible wherever you have an Internet connection, versioning and compatibility simply aren’t issues. It’s the same application and the same document wherever you go.

Could life get any easier?

Cost-Conscious Users

Another group of users who should gravitate to cloud computing are those who are cost conscious. With cloud computing you can save money on both your hardware and software.

Hardware-wise, there’s no need to invest in large hard disks or super-fast CPUs. Because everything is stored and run from the web, you can cut costs by buying a less fully featured PC—without sacrificing anything in the way of performance.

You can save just as much—if not more—when it comes to software. Instead of laying out big bucks for the latest version of Microsoft Office, you can use Google’s versions of these apps (Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations) for zero expenditure. That’s right, these web-based applications—and many more from other companies—are completely free to use. When your budget is tight, free is a lot better than the hundreds or thousands of dollars you might spend otherwise.

This is why many universities are abandoning Microsoft and turning instead to Google’s suite of online applications. Money is always tight on college campuses, and a few hundred dollars savings per student adds up quickly. As long as the web-based application does everything you need that a traditional software program does, why not use the free solution?

Cost-Conscious IT Departments

Many corporate IT departments are also becoming enamored of the cloud computing model. Although they might appreciate the software savings we just discussed, for them bigger savings result from having to buy fewer central servers.

You see, on a corporate network much of the computing takes place on the servers centrally located on the organization’s network. When users need more computing power, more servers need to be purchased.

This need for more computing power becomes less of an issue when the organization embraces cloud computing. Instead of purchasing a new server, the IT staff just redirects the computing request out to the cloud. The servers that comprise the cloud have plenty of capacity to handle the organization’s increased needs, without the IT staff having to spend a single dime on new hardware.

Users with Increasing Needs

Hardware-based cost savings also apply to individual computer users. Need more hard disk space to store all your digital photos and MP3 files? You could purchase a new external hard drive, or you could utilize lower-cost (or free) cloud storage instead. Having trouble running the latest version of your favorite software program because it’s power hungry? Abandon that power-sapping program and use a less-demanding web-based app instead. Need more computing power to tackle a particularly vexing problem? Use the power of the cloud, where thousands of computers are at your disposal.

In the old days, the only solution to increased needs was to purchase more powerful hardware. With cloud computing, the solution is in the cloud—which saves you money.

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