Cloud Computing and the Construction Industry (part 2)

Last week I discussed three of the biggest perceived reasons why companies hesitate to put their data in the cloud or rely on cloud-based construction software. By perceived, I mean reasons that are based on impressions, sometimes false impressions, of what cloud computing is all about. This week, as promised, I’ll focus on a couple of the real reasons why some companies are slow to adopt computing in the cloud.

The PC Legacy

Windows-based software was in use at about 95% of businesses at its high point. This represents a significant investment in hardware and software. The cloud offers savings in cost of ownership and operation of software, but it does not offer rebates. So many of these savings in infrastructure are not going to be fully realized until existing infrastructure is more fully depreciated and more business software is available in the cloud.

We might be living in a “post-PC” world, but I don’t see folks throwing their software disks and desktop computers into the trash quite yet. The dominance of the PC and of client-server software is declining, and Windows-based applications are clearly not the future for software development, but the PC legacy still represents significant inertia in the market.

Cloud Claims

I sometimes make a distinction between “being in the cloud” and “really being in the cloud.” Because after all, it isn’t hard to put software in the cloud. Find a place to host the application and data, provide your users with access software from a company like Citrix, and voila, your Windows-based software is in the cloud. Sort of.

The scenario above is pretty common as software vendors rush to stake their “claim in the cloud.” It does give users remote access to software and data. But that’s where the benefits end and where problems can begin.

First, being able to use the Windows-based software may require a certain level of memory, processing power, or peripherals (e.g., a mouse). So those tablets or smart phones you want to purchase for remote staff might not be good enough for that cloud software you want to run.

Second, you will likely have to purchase or at least manage the distribution and loading of remote access software onto all user devices – a potential problem if you want to grab any spare computer, tablet, or smart phone and log on.

Finally, when accessing Windows-based software hosted in the cloud, you typically work in a virtual environment. You are in effect working on another computer, not your local device. You are working in a bubble with access only to the computer resources and applications in that bubble. So doing simple things like moving information in and out of the virtual environment or printing something locally can become quite complex.

Cloud Conclusions

So does this mean that contractors should back away slowly when faced with cloud-based software? Not if that software has been designed specifically for the cloud. Construction software designed for the cloud can run on a local device—on most any connected device—and only requires you to open a web browser. You avoid all the limitations of the virtual environment and enjoy all the benefits of anywhere, anytime, any device access. This software will run just fine on your legacy PC equipment until you do finally toss it and replace it with tablets, holograms, or whatever new technology keeps us connected to each other and to our information.

Do you have any questions about moving your construction software to the cloud?

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