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Webinar: More on Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is not just for large laboratories. Data processing and storage requirements are increasing substantially for small laboratories as well. We talked about cloud computing in the April 21 edition of this blog. As noted then, cloud compu

Cloud computing is not just for large laboratories. Data processing and storage requirements are increasing substantially for small laboratories as well. We talked about cloud computing in the April 21 edition of this blog. As noted then, cloud computing enables remote users to connect to massive, warehouse-scale data centers comprising hundreds or even thousands of servers with a huge capacity for crunching numbers and storing data. These offer economy of scale, freeing laboratories from purchasing large numbers of servers, most of which they use only intermittently and the hassles of backing up their data and maintaining the servers.

Cloud services to grow rapidly

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), a global information technology services firm, information technology (IT) will grow at five times the rate of traditional IT products. Sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.4% to$16 billion in 2009 to $55.5 billion in 2014. These 2014 sales will equal saleas of traditional software.

Small laboratories

Cloud computing is about to get a lot simpler for many small laboratories. Microsoft has launched a new version of Microsoft Office called Office Web Apps. It allows users to store WORD, Excel. PowerPoint and other Office documents on Microsoft's data center servers. This places Microsoft in direct competition with Google's online Docs suite of programs.

These online software packages can enable employees to work more productively at home or while on road. Cloud computing benefits can be particularly valuable to small companies, which more often have limited IT expertise and cash for servers. Many small laboratories do not have a dedicated IT staff and setting up servers and worrying about data security and backup offer a major challenge according to Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps.

Other companies offering cloud computing services include familiar names such as Amazon, Yahoo and Facebook.

Currently few small laboratories have yet to switch to cloud computing. This is in large part due to the popularity of Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is used by 97% of all organizations according to the IDC. Cloud-based analogs of Microsoft Office software tend to have fewer features than the traditional Microsoft Office programs However, according to Google Docs, more than 2 million businesses now work entirely on Docs, and 3,000 more are switching every day. Google claims millions more use it on an ad-hoc basis to share individual files online, including Microsoft Office documents.

Faster Internet connections, improvements in browser technology and competition resulting in improved cloud computing software packages are overcoming the limits of cloud computing.

Other cloud computing advantages

Cloud computing offers the capability of overcoming the limits of firms storing documents on their own servers and offers them advantages in accessing documents from the cloud. For example, some trade and trade magazines now delete articles once available online from their servers in order to free storage space for more in recent documents. I don't know about you but I have already found this a very frustrating inconvenience several times. Cloud computing makes it possible for laboratories to save PDF versions of these articles in their own cloud and avoid this information loss."

Cloud computing makes it possible for your laboratory to share data with your firm's customers and suppliers located hundreds or thousands of miles away without granting them access to your corporate computer system and intranet. Using the cloud can accelerate work on joint projects on which your lab staff is working with supplier or customer personnel.

If your laboratory or your company is considering making a large investment in servers, cloud computing may offer a more cost-effective alternative.


John K. Borchardt

Dr. Borchardt is a consultant and technical writer. The author of the book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” he writes often on career-related subjects.