Will Cloud Computing Really Cut Costs?

It's being sold as one of the key advantages of cloud computing. But is there really money to be saved, wonders Simon Brew?

The history of computing is littered with ideas, projects and innovations that have a habit of looking terrifically cost-efficient on paper, yet tend to have a sting in the tale. And as each new innovation shuffles in, it tends to do so with some promise of economies along the way, one that rarely seems to come true.

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That doesn't tend to deter organisations seeking new ideas, though, nor looking for ways in which to cut their budgets in any way they can. And right now, more and more are turning their attention to cloud computing technologies.

It's not tricky to see the advantages here. Firstly, there's a real paper economy to be made simply from software costs, at least if you follow much of the chatter surrounding the cloud. But to be fair, as many organisations have already found to the credit of their bank balance, using a cloud-based software resource such as Google Docs (to quote but one easy example) instantly cuts out the need to invest in individually-installed copies of office software.

This too has a knock-on effect, as fewer human beings are required to go around and set up individual terminals. To cut a long story short there, the savings can be quite substantive.

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Take cloud computing to its logical extension, too, and those savings can grow further. Assume, for instance, that Google makes a success of its Chrome OS operating system. That's pushing towards an entirely cloud-centric way of working, where the traditional way buying a computer, an operating system licence and software, then tying users down to a desk-based system is being eroded as fast as people will trust it.

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