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Blog/February 7, 2012

Cloud Computing – It’s Here to Stay

Every now and then, we will be having guest bloggers to contribute to our pages. For this post on cloud computing, we welcome John Chaney, co-founder of Dexter + Cheney, a Seattle-based company that specializes in construction management software.

“The cloud” seems to be everywhere – I think every time I turn on the television, I see a commercial for something “in the cloud.” Not too long ago, I saw commercials from a well-known company that proclaimed in a super-hero-like fashion, “To the cloud!” And most recently, we’ve heard quite a bit about the iCloud.

I’d be understating the obvious if I said that cloud computing is the latest buzzword. However, I think there are a number of misconceptions about what the cloud really is, and what it means for businesses large and small.

From Connector to Utility

In the last 10 to 15 years, the Internet has transformed itself from a network that connects computers into a platform that delivers applications. For example, before Facebook, where did you get your social information? Probably via email or even through instant messenger. In other words, the Internet simply connected you to information. Facebook does more than simply deliver information. As an Internet-based application, it has transformed the way we socialize, just as Google transformed the way we find what we need to know and Amazon transformed the way we search for and purchase consumer items.

Business applications haven’t been left out of this information revolution. Until recently, software was delivered in a box on a disk. Now, web-based applications are accessible anywhere to anyone with Internet access and the right login credentials. These aren’t “lite apps” either, they’re the full version of the software.

You may be wondering, “How does this affect me?” Well, there are three very good reasons to pay attention to the migration of software applications from the disk to the cloud.

1. Access: Browser-based software provides anywhere, anytime, any-device access to business applications. In an effort to make it easier for their employees, some companies are moving their software and computing resources to an outsourced hosting service. While there are advantages to this type of virtualization model, it is not a true browser-based or “cloud” solution. Unlike virtualized environments, browser-based software typically only requires that the device (computer, tablet, smart phone, etc.) has the ability to launch a browser. With this technology, all employees, from management to field staff, can stay better connected.

2. Usability: When software is developed for use over the Internet, the developer cannot presume that the user is going to have any one particular type of device to access the product. Simply taking Windows-based applications and opening them up on a tablet or Smartphone does not make for a user-friendly experience in most cases. Developers have to rethink how they present complex information in ways that are fast, easy to use and intuitive.

3. Affordability: Browser-based software should not only create a happier user experience, but management also should be pleased with the lower costs of ownership. Whether the software is purchased or provided via subscription, the user enjoys a significant reduction in hardware and IT infrastructure costs. Browser-based software is “zero-footprint,” meaning that no server and no special user hardware are required.

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The Cloud and Construction
Construction projects vary in location, project team and general specifications. With construction occurring in remote locations and information changing quickly and often, browser-based business applications are even more applicable to the construction industry. The benefits of browser-based software help share this information by keeping everyone connected.

Do you have plans to move your software to the cloud?

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