Like the need for rain comes and goes, clouds follow (hopefully!). But what if the need for storage, server capacity, and overall website testing and use calls for a company to add expensive servers, finding room (if it’s a young startup, that might mean renting space, hiring professionals to install and maintain the servers, never mind buying the servers themselves)?
Oh, and by the way, you are not even sure that you will need the servers, you are just going on the hope and hunch that your website idea will take off and have a sudden glut of hundreds of thousands of users trying to visit your “brilliant, market-changing” creation.
For every promising website that takes off and sustains traffic, hundreds, if not thousands have flopped if not at first, shortly after early successes. Many a webmaster (indeed, web entrepreneurs) has had grandiose aims, goals, and visions of a future as a mainstay destination only to see those dreams fade.
But now, due to the widely available power of cloud computing, small web startups do not have to invest in costly equipment that may be necessary when traffic suddenly spikes to a couple hundred thousand users. For what happens when a company has a large spike in visits followed by a few months of slumping visits and then a spike once again?
On the one hand, a company wants to be able to handle the large number of visits because otherwise users will be turned away (literally and in disgust) by not being allowed to actually view the site. But assuming the visitors will come or will continue to increase in number can be risky business (at times, foolhardy). So how does a small startup with little or no revenue or proven success place a bet and purchase all of this equipment, the space to store it, and the expertise to tend to it? Again, I say, they do not have to!
Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, and many small startups offer a wide array of applications and server capability that now allows company to avoid this risk. For very cheap and on the fly, a company can often add server capability to handle spikes in traffic via Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services. Next month, if traffic drops back off, you can remove some of the server capability you had added. Server capability on demand!
Personally, I use many Google Applications, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Analytics, to name a few to run two businesses from home. EnviroHumanImpact is hosted by Bluehost and created through Wordpress. Both are cloud computing centers, Bluehost offering its services for very cheap and Wordpress being free! Google’s main cloud computing applications that I use are free — all you need is a Gmail address (which, of course, is free).
Our small media company, which owns and operates EnviroHumanImpact, Jepplin Media, has had very little startup capital but can function and add servers as necessary. Google applications, like Google Docs, allows our writers to share information, ideas, without emailing back and forth. In fact, changes can be made to the same document by different users simultaneously!
So what does this mean for the environment? Think about all of those servers being purchased, shipped, and installed, just to be removed months later when a “brilliant” website fails to take off, the small company, unable to justify paying for renting the storage facility (if they are even able to pay at all) and then what happens?
It’s hard to tell. Servers, large metal boxes full of silicon, metal, wires, and potentially heavy metals, like mercury and lead, may be able to be sold. But larger companies are likely going to buy brand new equipment directly from a manufacturer; they don’t want used goods.
And if a small internet startup is about to become a small internet belly-up, they’re unlikely to have the time and resources to wait to find another small internet startup willing to buy and come pick up the servers before rent is due. They have other problems, like generating traffic.
Most likely, these behemoths are ending up on the dock of the building they were ripped out of to make space for the next renter. Eventually, they end up either at a landfill or, hopefully but unlikely, at a recycling facility. But recycling is energy intensive and the landfills are rapidly filling up with usable materials, toxic substances, and taking up land that is difficult at best to use afterward.
By reducing the need for small companies to take on the burden of adding servers and from purchasing costly software (often carried on millions of disks shipped across the U.S.), we are seeing a much more level playing field where truly brilliant ideas can be given a chance because the costs and risks of trying them out is so small.
Web entrepreneurs can concentrate on what they know: running their websites, because they don’t have to buy and download a ton of software and buying and operating their own servers will not come until they get to be big enough companies, if ever. Beside the increased productivity and reduced risk, as you can see from the reduction in equipment that is bought and quickly turned to junk, the envirohuman impact of computing is improved greatly with increasingly available cloud computing.
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