Recently, in one of my areas of business consultancy, I was asked by a client – a manufacturing company, how he should ‘get in the cloud’. At a management meeting, one of his directors had asked him as operations manager, if he had a strategy for moving to cloud based working and, like all of us when confronted with a question he couldn’t immediately answer, he hedged and played for time. I then talked through with him what business systems his company currently employed – banking, business management software, email marketing and etc. and told him “you’re already using software services that are cloud based. Do you stream TV programmes or films at home, in which case you’re fully in the cloud at home as well”

What is ‘The Cloud’ ?

The point is, that ‘cloud’ and ‘cloud based technology’ are merely  generic terms that describe operating systems whereby all data handling, file storage and complex processing are undertaken remote from the client’s PC on the service provider’s high speed servers, with minimal file storage and/or pre-loaded operating software required at the local site. A good example and one most commonly encountered in the home and the business is internet banking. Once set up, all account information, archive data, payment and receipt processing etc. is undertaken on the banks secure servers with no serious software requirements, other than security set-up, required at the local PC. All that is required is a reliable internet connection and all banking is then undertaken using ‘cloud based technology’.

Now internet banking has been around for at least 15 years and this is not the greatest of examples of cloud based operating because internet bandwidths and speed have never been demanding and response speeds are not of particular interest (I mean how quickly to get an image of your current account statement on screen, not how long it takes to get a mortgage). But internet banking ticks all the boxes; all account data is held on the bank’s server, similarly with cash processes such as bill payment, movement between accounts etc. All your computer is required to do is send instructions and receive data on screen as requested.  Internet banking is a cloud based technology service.

What has changed?

The roll out of higher speed internet services – particularly with fibre optic networks providing 100Mb/sec download speeds to domestic users routinely, has offered a transformation of cloud services which hitherto were limited to those that did not require near instantaneous link times. Again using a domestic market example, services such as Itunes provide cloud services where multi-thousands of audio and/or video files are held at the Itune’s server bank and downloaded near instantaneously to PC or smart phone as required. And, of course film downloads are now streamed and watched in near real time as they download from the service provider. Virtually nothing is transferred as a file to the remote PC.

None of this was practical for the home PC until high speed internet became a reality. But the other massive revolution has been the explosion in smart mobile technology; smart phones, Ipads, laptops etc. The need to be able to work on the move means that work data, email accounts, factory management services must be accessible using relatively low capacity file storage and processing hardware v- ie a smart phone.

What about my business?

I set up a business management software system about 18 years ago. Finance package, factory MRP, stock management, CRM (contact/customer relationship manager) and all file and process software was held within the local network. This required a significant investment in hardware with continuous update, refresh and backup requirements. This was not cloud based! Recently, the same business required a completely new management software system and, of course, all systems offered were – you’ve guessed it, ‘cloud based technology’. The requirements in-house were merely to have a LAN which was linked via a high speed internet link to the service provider’s servers where all of the heavy software was held.  Hence my answer to the client mentioned at the beginning.

At Email Blaster UK we offer email marketing software which we emphasise is fully   ‘cloud based technology’.  All client address files, templates and all transmission and analysis services are held and processed on our secure high speed servers, which provides complete security, fast emailing and enormous software capability with no download requirements at the user’s PC. This is the ultimate use of cloud based technology as none of these levels of performance can be achieved without the processing and storage capability at the data centre. – for more information on the email marketing service offered by Email Blaster UK please click the link – EmailblasterUK.

The other huge aspect of cloud based services is that, because no heavy file storage is required locally, such services can be accessed via an internet link to the service provider’s servers. The Ops manager can review factory loading and order book in real time from the golf course using the smart phone.

I am in the cloud then?

Pretty well all accounting software packages, payroll, book-keeping, material requirement planning (MRP) software, banking and of course the domestic audio/video services are cloud based. So yes, you are in the cloud as a user of cloud based services. But do you offer cloud services via your own website? That is another blog.

Mike

Email Blaster UK