Cloud computing seen as growing tech trend
By DAVID BERTOLA
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Since the term "cloud" entered the business computing lexicon, companies want to learn more about how it can help them.
The cloud refers to applications and office tools that can be accessed through an Internet connection. It means that while the computer is used to access data and perform work, the processing power is taking place somewhere else. Companies use cloud computing because it can help lower costs and scale back the products they use.
Area tech experts say a trend that more companies will explore and take advantage with the cloud is virtualized desktops.
"We anticipate doing a lot more of it," said Kevin Kelly of iEvolve Technology Services. "There are benefits, and everyone wins in the virtual desktop world."
That's a world where troubleshooting and maintenance are made easier, he said.
For example, if a software upgrade is needed on multiple workstations, it can be made on a server and update all staff - maybe 100 or more - when they log on.
"You do it once and everyone gets it," said PCI Vice President Mark Gaulin.
He said with a virtualized desktop, it isn't necessary for employees to have PCs at their desks. All that's needed, he said, is what's referred to as a thin client - a mouse, keyboard and monitor - and a reliable Internet connection.
"You can have your entire desktop delivered to you through the data center," he said.
Brian Maouad, CEO of Advance 2000, said companies can save money, increase scalability, have better redundancy and faster speed in a virtual environment. He cites Gartner Group data which estimates 90 percent of businesses will be operating in the cloud by 2013.
Kelly said the concept will ramp up in 2012.
"People are seeing more benefits of it. And from a manufacturer's standpoint, companies like Citrix and Microsoft are making products that are compatible with it," he said.
Also, while there's a cost savings for clients, iEvolve stands to make money on a virtual desktop model.
"More than half of our company's growth has come from the cloud part of our business," he said.
Kelly said the industry should benefit from these technologies because of a strong consumer-driven element to it: People are buying iPads and smart phones, which also can be used to access a company's private network, shared drives and desktops.
Maouad said virtual desktops would be good for his company, as well as the industry at large.
"It's good for the customer primarily because they will save money, they can focus more on their business and their data is protected," he said, adding that in recent years, his company has transformed itself from selling equipment to becoming more of a computing utility which offers cloud computing.
"We are about optimizing the customer's productivity, efficiency and making their data available from anywhere, and efficiently," Maouad said.
Among those companies - and one of Advance 2000's customers - that are running virtualized desktops is OGSI, which manufactures oxygen generators, equipment and machines.
Karen Kirbis, information technology director, said her company migrated to the model a couple years ago because it's a smaller company with 38 people, and it was cost-effective to go to a virtualized desktop environment.
"The capital expenditures got to where it was cost prohibitive to upgrade equipment, servers and infrastructure," said Kirbis, who estimated OGSI saved $80,000 in infrastructure costs over the last two years since migrating to a virtualized desktop model.
The overall cost depends on the customer and what they want. A desktop, Kelly said, can range from $30 a month up to $100, based on need.
Another benefit of virtualized desktops is that if a laptop or iPad gets lost or stolen, there's no data on it, since everything resides on a server someplace else.