Not Just For the Office: The Cloud in Different Industries
The Flexibility of Cloud Technology
Cloud computing, as a concept, can be traced back as far as the 1950/1960s. Canadian computer scientist Herb Grosch imagined a future in which the world would be populated by so called ‘dumb terminals’ powered by a small number of large data centres. By the 1990s, large companies were beginning to see the potential of the cloud to increase their internal computing efficiency and lower costs. The dot-com bubble of the 'noughties' then brought the cloud into public consciousness and we started to see many popular services base their operations in the cloud.
Cloud computing in the office allows a workforce to run applications or programs physically hosted on central servers, rather than on their own laptops or computers. This offers greater flexibility, as back-ups, updates and security measures are handled centrally, and can be easily automated. It can also be quicker and cheaper so set up cloud-based solutions in the first place. Accessing shared data and services remotely is perfect for those who often travel with their work or may need to work from home and collaboration is easier, as users are able to work together on files and documents remotely, and in real time.
The benefits of the cloud are no longer exclusive to larger companies, although they are perfectly suited as ever. For small businesses, that need to remain as competitive as possible while keeping costs to a minimum, cloud computing offers a solution mostly free of upfront costs, as well as being quick and easy to implement. By outsourcing complex IT services to cloud providers, a business can streamline its operations and concentrate fully on its commercial enterprises.
Over the last 10 years, the use of cloud computing has steadily been ported to influence other industries outside of the traditional office set-up. Education is one such area now utilising the technology and this is set to grow rapidly over the next decade. Schools and universities are exploiting the advantages of the cloud to improve research, discussion and collaboration among students and the use of cloud desktop environments minimises hardware issues and brings down overall costs. There has also been a rise in remote teaching through cloud solutions, whereby teachers and lecturers can reach audiences around the world over the internet in real time, allowing students to benefit regardless of location.
Accessing Content From Anywhere
The cloud can be a powerful tool in trade and marketing too. The ability to run a marketplace without the need for extra hardware or expensive software licenses helps increase profit margins and consumers benefit from increased choice and ease of ordering. The same advantages can be seen in the entertainment industry, where online streaming using services such as Netflix or Amazon Instant now makes up a large percentage of the market. Accessing content from anywhere, anytime and on almost any device offers consumers flexibility to match their busy schedules. With advances in internet speeds and availability, streaming quality is now mostly on a par with traditional local formats such as DVD or CD. As cloud-based entertainment services increasingly offer exclusive and original content, their market share will only continue to gather pace in the coming years.
The cloud can also be of great use to industries where data management is a core concern. A good example of this is the healthcare industry, in which sensitive customer data must be both secure and easy to access by both patients and doctors. The finance and banking sectors also utilise the cloud in this way, storing their client databases and banking portals centrally and eliminating the need for costly, high maintenance local servers.
The advantages for both industries include faster access to data and fewer risks of hardware issues affecting business concerns. The hospitality industry is another example of cloud usage leading to better data management, with big hotel chains able to store reservation information in the cloud for ease of access and security. This is yet another example of the cloud cutting overall cost within a business and increasing profitability.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is a great example of a company using cloud services to lower its digital storage footprint and cut costs. In merging their own on-premise network with a public cloud solution and creating a hybrid environment, they have been able to run many complicated applications with increased efficiency and according to their chief cloud strategist David Nelson, this is “seamless to the end user”.
Once confined to office deployment but now prevalent in many different industries, cloud computing is being used increasingly by all of us, even if we don’t necessarily know it.
Whether it’s Google’s Drive or Play services, Apple’s iCloud or Amazon’s Cloud Drive, many of the major players are betting big on the continuing growth of the cloud in the coming years.