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Opportunities in Cloud Computing Virtual 'cloud' holding space is replacing hard-drive-based PC storage.

By Dennis Romero

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The barren Santa Susana Mountains loom behind InfoStreet's offices in Tarzana, California. The topic of Microsoft comes up, and CEO Siamak Farah alights like a hillside wildfire. With its free online applications, Google is supplanting Microsoft as the king of desktops. This, he says, "is a paradigm shift."

Here's how to make cloud computing work for you:

Turn Microsoft off.
If you can get by on Google Docs, Gmail and other free cloud services, you can save big. Serena Software says that replacing Microsoft Exchange and Outlook with webmail could pare $750,000 from its annual budget.

Greenlight lower energy bills.
Cloud-based software solutions are greener alternatives because offices can do away with their power-sucking servers and switch to data-center-based companies like NetSuite that let customers share one database, storage space and server, and offer hosted business management software suites. Says NetSuite CEO Zack Nelson, "Cloud computing is far more green than traditional ways of running applications."

Everything from spreadsheets to file storage is moving from hard-drive-based PCs to the internet's "cloud," a virtual storage space and software holding tank. What's in the cloud so far? Services from Google's Gmail to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2, rental servers to Info-Street's own StreetSmart-to name a few. Cloud computing is booming: It's expected to reach $10.7 billion this year. Salesforce, the leader in SaaS, has a growing customer base. IBM, Yahoo, Intel and Hewlett-Packard have all invested in cloud technology. Even Microsoft has gone to the cloud with Windows Azure.

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