While adoption of software as a service, cloud computing and the use/storage of online data is becoming more common in the construction industry many contractors may still be on the fence about what these solutions can offer their businesses. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions potential customers have regarding using cloud-based solutions.
What is the Cloud?
If you’re not familiar with the cloud, the first question you’ll want answered is “what is cloud computing”? “Cloud computing is a new way of delivering computing resources to run websites or software applications,” says Jodee Barton, marketing manager for Data-Basics, Inc. “Anything sorted or hosted in the cloud is something that is stored or accessed off site via the Internet.”
Where is my data?
“The first question we usually address after introducing both new and existing clients to cloud computing is ‘where is my data?’” says software manufacturer Dexter + Chaney. Since the “cloud” seems like an intangible place, many contractors may be concerned about exactly where their data resides. Dexter + Chaney reminds contractors that they may already be using the cloud in other aspects of their lives and businesses, such as online banking. “Their money is effectively ‘in the cloud’ – it is stored virtually as information that can be accessed from many different locations.”
How similar is a hosted cloud application to an on-premise application? Do they look and work the same?
In regards to hosted applications, the system will look and work virtually identical to the on-premise counterparts. The difference is that the software is installed and maintained at the vendor’s facility as opposed to being installed at the client’s location,” says Mike Ode, president of Foundation Software.
What is required to support a cloud service?
The significant value of cloud-based solutions is the speed in which they can be deployed, implemented and operating as-designed with little resources required by the client, says Mark Sargent, director of solutions engineering for Telogis. “As cloud solutions are generally hosted off site, the technology requirements are typically as simple as a common web browser and Internet connection. There are no server and infrastructure requirements and no additional IT workload to administer and support a cloud solution.”
Can I use mobile technology with cloud-based applications?
Cloud solutions are being developed as both software solutions and services and apps, Barton says. “The advantage of cloud-based technology is that the only requirement is a compatible browser – or depending on what an application is built on, up-to-date Java, Silverlight or similar,” Barton adds. Of course, a disadvantage is that an online connection is required, which can be a challenge on remote jobsites.
What if I lose my hardware (laptop, tablet, phone, etc)?
Because data is stored in the cloud, it is not dependent on one device, says Gabe Authier, product manager cloud computing with Viewpoint Construction Software. “You can literally grab a new device, get Internet access and never miss a beat. All your data is there, and you’ll never have to worry about data transfer again,” he says.
What if I don’t have an Internet connection?
Cloud solutions are dependent on an Internet connection, so contractors should plan for and have both primary and backup options, says Steve McGough, chief operating officer for Heavy Construction System Specialists Inc. (HCSS). “Your primary connection should be relatively solid, and you must have a backup plan for if it goes down. Many people who rely on cloud services carry a cellular data card and use it as their backup solution,” he says.
Why is the cloud more expensive than my current solution?