Advanced Manufacturers: To Cloud, or Not to Cloud?

man standing in front of clouds“It went up to the cloud!”

“You can’t get it down from the cloud?”

“Nobody understands the cloud! It’s a mystery!”

Those lines, spoken by Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in a 2014 movie, are a pretty apt summation of how 99% of people feel about the cloud. However, the cloud is becoming more and more familiar to manufacturers and distributors who want to become more efficient, streamlined, and effective.

As Danesh Hussain, director of network services at American Technology Services explains, “A few years ago, the cloud was ‘the next big thing.’ It offered manufacturing and distribution companies cheap access to computing services accessible from anywhere without costly setup fees. The cloud also provided a convenient way to store massive amounts of data securely and affordably.”

Today, four out of five cloud adopters report process improvements within six months of moving to the cloud, while 82 percent indicate significant cost savings. Those numbers are tough to argue with, which is why so many manufacturers and distributors have invested significant amounts of money in cloud-based systems.

However, migrating to the cloud is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are so many factors at work, such as the size of the manufacturer, what type of business you have, and how much data you need to store. If you’re a manufacturing or distribution operation, will you need to move infrastructure out of your plant or warehouse and into a data center?

First, consider whether or not your organization will actually be saving money, or if cloud rhetoric has convinced you of value without running the numbers. As David Linthicum, consultant at Cloud Technology Partners, writes, “The first mistake is a lack of understanding of the cost advantages or the TCO (total cost of ownership) once the cloud solution is deployed and operational. Complex metrics are required to determine if the cloud will save money for your organization, but most enterprise IT shops are unwilling to look into the numbers. Moreover, you should have use-based accounting and cloud financial management systems in place to monitor the actual cost impact and value of migrated cloud-based applications.”

So, even though four out of five cloud adopters report process improvements and 82% indicate cost savings, these numbers are not guaranteed for your business. Once you’ve figured out whether or not the cost advantages are worth the effort, be sure to choose the right cloud system for your needs: public, private, or hybrid. Brad Anderson, chief operating officer of Gravitant, says that the number one mistake he sees companies make when moving to cloud storage is not choosing the right service package for their business needs. Rather than paying for services you don’t need and losing agility and control, consult with an advisor or cloud brokerage firm to make sure you’re working with the right management software.

Finally, only move to a cloud-based platform if you’ve done the due diligence on cybersecurity that cloud software requires. Ben Ow, president at StoAmigo, says that the biggest mistake he sees clients make is thinking that they know all the answers on privacy: “The cloud companies will tell you everything you want to hear to make you feel comfortable, but you need to look under the cover yourself and do some independent due diligence . . . Ask where your media will be stored, and who will have access to it.”

Are we experts on the cloud? Not by any means, but we are experts at understanding how to use and work with new technology, which we do every day here at Distefano. For many advanced manufacturers, the cloud is a game-changer, but make sure it’s right for your business before making any major moves.

photo credit: Among the Clouds via photopin (license)

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