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Cloud Computing - What does it mean? 
by Brian Dwyer

I am frequently asked by client and colleagues about the exact nature of “Cloud Computing”. Recent commercials have end users charging “to the cloud” and this further blurs the lines between real business value and consumer marketing for cloud services. Here I will try to break down common services that can be obtained from the cloud. I think that you will find that you are well aware of “the cloud” and have already come to depend on it. This does not exhibit an all-inclusive list, but these simplified categories will give you an idea of the variety of available services.

1. SaaS (Software as a Service)

This type of cloud computing delivers a single application through the browser to thousands of customers. On the customer side, it means no upfront investment in servers or software licensing; on the provider side, with just one app to maintain, costs are low compared to conventional hosting. Salesforce.com is by far the best-known example among enterprise applications, but SaaS is also common for HR apps and has even worked its way up the food chain to ERP.  And who could have predicted the sudden rise of SaaS "desktop" applications, such as Google Apps and Zoho Office?

2. Utility computing

The idea is not new, but this form of cloud computing is getting new life from Amazon.com, Sun, IBM, and others who now offer storage and virtual servers that IT staff can access on demand. Early enterprise adopters mainly use utility computing for supplemental, non-mission-critical needs, but one day, they may replace parts of the datacenter.

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Is the 3 year refresh cycle a reality or myth?  

As PCs age, the number of IT issues they have typically begins to rise, increasing total cost of ownership (TCO) through a combination of factors including the cost of keeping those machines patched and up-to-date and the diagnosis and repair of machines after hardware and software failures. On average, the routine task of updating and maintaining PCs is the greatest cost driver. Failures become commonplace as machines age and manual resolution of these issues can become time consuming and expensive. Gartner estimate lifetime costs for repair and maintenance to be as high as $2,162.89 per PC, nearly half of the average PC TCO of $4,850.33.1

The recent economic downturn is forcing many agencies, businesses, and IT departments to test traditional IT lifecycle as a means to save money. If nothing is done to improve performance and system health, extending the life of those machines could become very expensive, very quickly.  But all these figures make an assumption that desktop and laptop performance will gradually degrade over time.
 
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