How Cloud Computing can empower end users?

Cloud computing is one of the strategic digital technologies considered important enablers for productivity and better services.

The most substantial impact of cloud technology could come in the cost savings and increased competitiveness of IT services available to public and private organisations, as well as opportunities leading to new services, but cloud technology could positvely increase other benefits for end users.

Lower computer costs.

A high-power computer is not needed to run cloud-based applications. Since applications run in the cloud, a desktop computer does not need the processing power or hard disk space demanded by traditional desktop software, or even a DVD drive.

Improved performance.

With fewer programs using the computer’s memory at the same time, it will perform better. Desktop computers that use cloud-based services may boot and run faster because they have fewer programs and processes loaded into memory.

Reduced software costs.

Instead of purchasing software applications, cloud computing applications can often be obtained for free. An example is the Google Docs suite for consumers.

Instant software updates.

Updates to a cloud-based application generally occur automatically and are available on logging into the cloud. When accessing a web-based application, the latest version is usually instantly available, without need for an upgrade.

Improved document format compatibility.

All documents created by web-based applications can be read by any other user accessing that application. There are fewer format incompatibilities when all users are sharing documents and apps in the same cloud.

Unlimited storage capacity.

Cloud computing can offer virtually limitless storage. A computer's current hard drive space is small compared to the storage space available in the cloud. Note however that large scale storage is generally not available for free, even in a cloud environment.

Increased data reliability.

Unlike desktop computing, in which a hard disk crash can destroy personal data, a computer crashing in the cloud should not affect the storage of data, as typically cloud services provide multiple layers of security (see however Section 4.2 below for a discussion of data security in a cloud environment).

Universal document access.

Documents stay in the cloud, and can be accessed from wherever with an Internet-capable device and an Internet connection. Documents are instantly available independent of location, removing the need to carry them when travelling.

Latest version availability.

When editing a document from one location (e.g. at home), that edited version is identical to the document accessed from another location (e.g. at work).

Easier group collaboration.

Multiple users can collaborate easily on documents and projects. Because the documents are hosted in the cloud, not on individual computers, an Internet connection is all that is needed to collaborate.

Device independence.

When changing computers or moving to a portable device, existing applications are still available. There is no need for a special version of a program for a particular device, or to save a document in a device-specific format.

Source: Fielder A. et al., Cloud computing, Study prepared for the European Parliament's Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, 2012, p.36.