One often-overlooked advantage of cloud computing is the environmental benefit of moving resources from local computers to the web.
As worldwide computer usage increases at an exponential rate, the amount of electricity consumed by computers is increasing almost as rapidly. Cloud computing can help reduce energy consumption (and related greenhouse gas emissions) by centralizing computer power and driving the development of more efficient technologies. This is one of the many reasons we here at SingleHop are so excited about Cascade, our new cloud hosting platform.
In a recent report on the environmental effects of cloud computing, Greenpeace predicts that global carbon emissions caused by computer use will nearly double by the year 2020. The report identifies server farms and data centers as having great potential to reduce these emissions by choosing locations which rely on renewable energy (such as Google's facility in Oregon or Yahoo's new site in upstate New York).
On a smaller scale, cloud computing can help businesses reduce consumption and lower costs, especially through the use of cloud-based hosting. Compared to owning servers or operating a dedicated data center, cloud hosting allows businesses to conserve resources in two ways: by reducing material consumption, and by lowering electrical usage.
The material savings of cloud hosting are fairly obvious: since companies which use cloud hosting are relying on off-site servers, they are not buying servers of their own, nor are they buying any of the other materials they would need to support them: server racks, cables, backup power supplies, and so on.
The savings in electrical costs are just as significant, because cloud hosting does not require a separate server or server cluster for each client the machines are already up and running to serve other sites in the cloud. So, not only do cloud-hosting clients save the power their own dedicated servers would have consumed, they also save the electricity they would have used on environmental controls, monitoring equipment, and security systems, greatly reducing their carbon footprint.