Cloud Computing Can Make Firms Green And Clean
Cloud computing can make businesses greener and in turn cleaner, according to a new report. The study published in The International Journal of Business Process Integration and Management demonstrates that the adoption of integrated cloud-computing solutions can lead to significant cost savings for businesses, as well as large reductions in the size of an organization’s carbon footprint.
The research was carried out by Dietmar Nedbal and Mark Stieninger of The University of Applied Science Upper Austria, and focuses on the case of a mid-sized firm in Austria specializing in the production of safety boots. The company switched from a paper- to an e-invoicing system offered through a cloud-computing solution provider on a ’software as a service’ (SaaS) basis. The researchers have calculated that a complete switch to e-invoicing has the potential to reduce costs by up to 62 percent and slash the related carbon footprint by over half.
“It seems that the higher the degree of implementation and the higher the degree of displacement of ‘common’ components of IT infrastructure, such as servers and PCs, the greener the business gets,” says Nedbal. Nevertheless, he says, “It is necessary for a reliable before-and-after comparison to consider the complete system proportionally, taking into account the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions ‘moved’ to the cloud computing data center.”
While the researchers acknowledge that there are limitations to the case-study approach they have taken in terms of the generalizability of their conclusions, they argue that this research demonstrates the potential for cloud computing to lead to significant cost reductions for businesses and play a positive role in the fight against climate change. Experts believe the report can be an eye-opener for companies in the creation of a general adoption model for cloud computing, comprising economic, ecological, and social factors so as to optimize costs and reduce carbon footprints.
IT and environmental experts have long described cloud computing as a two-for-one deal. In addition to benefitting corporate balance sheets by lowering hardware and management expenses, they say, the cloud also benefits the environment by consolidating IT resources in large, energy efficient data centers that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Another study from the not-for-profit Carbon Disclosure Project, for example, argues that cloud solutions could help large U.S. businesses save $12.3 billion and generate 85.7 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2020. Analyst firm Pike Research, for its part too, predicts that cloud solutions will produce a 31 percent drop in global electricity consumption by 2020.
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