Lack of Space, Physical and Virtual, Pushes George Washington University Toward the Cloud

Cloud computing is the name of the game when it comes to technology in 2014. With 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data being created each and every day, most businesses lack the resources and the space to keep up with their storage needs without outsourcing to a cloud hosting service. Quite simply, it’s a matter of saving space and saving money on hardware. Subsequently, it’s estimated cloud spending is expected to eclipse $235 billion by 2017. While there is no doubt we need the cloud, we also have to be careful not to forget about the possible implications on human health.

Making the Switch to the Cloud

More than half of all American businesses have made the switch to the cloud. Naturally, this has led to a boom in the amount of data being stored virtually. According to most recent estimates, cloud-stored data has exceeded one exabyte, or 1.073 billion gigabytes of space. To put that into perspective, you’d have to load 67 million iPhones to their limit to store the same amount of data in a physical medium. Between cutting down on physical storage space, cost of IT infrastructure, and the cost to the environment, it’s no wonder that the cloud is seen as essential by so many.

GWU’s Recent Decision is a Case in Point

George Washington University recently announced that, like so many before it, it no longer has the resources to handle all of the data it needs to store. As it’s student body grew, so, too, did its IT needs. The problem, of course, is that the more IT functionality they added to support the needs of their students and teachers, the more they were spending. Eventually, the university realized that if their needs continued to grow, they could no longer afford to match them.

George Washington University CIO David Seinour said of the school’s decision, “We’re at a crossroad of what we’re going to do because now that we’re into high-performance computing, we’ve maximized our space that we have in those data centers.” By opting to make the switch to the cloud instead of adding extra onsite storage, the school will save approximately $1 million a year on their IT infrastructure.

We Can’t Ignore the Possible Impact on Human Health

George Washington University’s story is not unique — not by a long shot. Similar situations are set to grow cloud computing globally by 26% by 2017. Naturally, this will result in huge growth in the number of server farms found around the world.

As the industry rises to meet demand, there is a very real concern to human health that needs to be addressed. Computers need to be kept at certain temperatures to operate at peak efficiency and avoid damage. For a long time, halon gas has been used as a way of keeping computers from overheating and avoiding fires. However, the gas is also known to pop holes in the ozone, not to mention the list of adverse effects it’s known to have on human health.

Recognizing that increased demand means increased exposure, many companies are making the switch to inert gases that aren’t thought to hold the same risks; nitrogen and argon are two examples. Many companies are going as far as to submerge their servers in a viscous liquid similar to mineral oil. Just as oil keeps a car running at safe temperatures, so does this liquid help to better regulate server temps, while avoiding any health risks.

Cloud computing represents an opportunity for all businesses looking to expand their IT infrastructure without breaking the bank. That being said, it’s important that we not forget about the downsides of this wondrous technology. So long as cloud companies continue to adapt their technologies in a way that benefits their clients without harming their workers, there will be nothing but benefits to using cloud computing going forward.

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