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6 misguided misgivings about the cloud for AEC businesses

Cloud for AEC industry

The cloud.


We’re not talking about fluffy white things up in the sky. No, we’re talking about computing things online – like software, platforms, infrastructure, servers, applications… This is a conversation with a weight of inevitability about it; a conversation that’s moved from important to urgent for small businesses. The AEC industry will not, and cannot, escape this future. The problem is cloud concerns many people for various reasons. Here we highlight six misgivings and suggest why they might be just a little bit misguided.

The groundswell for change through collaboration and technology in the global architecture, engineering and construction design industry (AEC) is building by the day. At the recent Revit Technology Conference in Melbourne, Australia, the term ‘collaboration’ was ever present in the many conversations we had with Revit users from small and large businesses alike.

Collaboration is something that has been identified as an enabler for change in the Australian industry, and cloud technology is the enabler for collaboration. The irony is that the UK and USA industries are seeing faster uptake in collaborative technologies compared to Australia, yet Australia is adopting cloud software-as-a-service faster than their larger western cousins. Just ask Xero (cloud accounting) what kind of traction they’re seeing in UK/USA versus Australia/NZ.

So what’s ‘cloud’ all about? There are lots of software vendor companies talking about cloud in the hope that associating with the term puts them in the right conversations. There’s plenty of ‘cloud washing’ to be wary of. Cloud is pretty simple, though it’s important to understand what it is and isn’t. At Synergy’s annual client conference earlier this year, Synergy2014, Total Synergy CEO Scott Osborne took the opportunity to talk about his company’s journey to becoming a cloud-based company, as well as the journey in developing Synergy in the cloud after 13 years of on-premise software development, dispelling many of the myths concerning SME’s in the AEC industry along the way.Here are five myths about cloud that you really ought to know about…

1. WHAT CLOUD IS

In a way, cloud makes all that IT stuff become someone else’s problem – it’s rental of computing resources. Cloud resources can be infrastructure, platform or software as a service, data storage, or even services like phone systems, all on a hosted environment.


True cloud software-as-a-service is built entirely on public cloud infrastructure like Windows Azure, demands no long term commitment of its users, is available via web browser on any internet capable device, and exceeds the users’ needs in the simplest way.

The main benefits to this are:

It’s easier to get businesses and offices up and running as there’s nothing to deploy
The hardware infrastructure costs go down dramatically
It’s normally usage-based pricing with no fixed time limit
Lower financial risk, no up front investment (try before you buy – usually with a free trial)
Reduced need for onsite IT expertise

2. IT’S A TRUST ISSUE

How do you know you can trust your cloud provider with your data?

Ask yourself is your cloud vendor a reputable supplier? The big guys like Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft have the greatest investment and infrastructure, and the highest levels of service agreement. Look carefully at who’s behind the systems to take the risk out of that question. For example, if you think about Microsoft, you only have to realise that Hotmail is software-as-a-service which has been available since the mid nineties… Microsoft has been building and securing cloud infrastructure and services for nearly 20 years and around 90 per cent of the world’s businesses trust them for their computing operating systems.

3. I JUST NEED TO KNOW IT’S SECURE IN MY OFFICE

In terms of physical security, the answer here is that no small business can secure their on premise file and email server to the extent the big cloud providers can secure their data centres. These things are like military installations, with teams of hackers employed to test security daily. Also, who really cares enough about your data to expend the kind of cost and effort required to get it? The highest attacked site in the world is the US department of defence. The second highest in the early 2000s? Microsoft. They know what they’re doing.

4. I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO HACK MY DATA

A regular concern is data security – can other authorities get access to my data; am I allowed to host financial data in another country?

Legal and regulatory questions and sovereignty of data are often a key issue for any business moving to the cloud. The reality is that almost any friendly government can ask for access to your data if they have a reason to (something to do with mutual legal assistance treaties – most governments have them with their chums around the world). If all the legal hoops have been jumped through, they will get what they want. It’s more a question of what you’ve got to hide? Think of it this way – do you use internet banking? That’s in the cloud and you trust it with your own cash money…

5. IT DOESN’T MEET THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF MY BUSINESS

Or, can I get customised additions to the software?

Many small businesses like to ask for certain customisations in the software they buy – this is certainly a limitation with cloud software as it’s developed for a broader audience who all have to accept the updates they get, when they get them, in a shared environment.

Often these systems are designed more logically than the way your business works, so perhaps it’s time to think about updating your processes to benefit from these efficiencies. Or take a look at systems that can be customised for you – it’s usually only a matter of dollars.

6. WHAT IF THE INTERNET GOES DOWN?

No internet means no work. Or does it?

It’s true; cloud software is reliant on the quality and availability of broadband connections. If it’s a slow connection, it’s a slow service. The way we work in offices is changing, however – the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks (mobility) means you can simply get up from your desk and pop down to the nearest internet café, hook up to its wifi and get back to work. Or you can get your 3G or 4G phone or tablet and use it as a wireless hotspot. These days we’re almost all mobile hotspots! You might also find that heading out to the local café is a refreshing change of scenery – in fact, cloud software means you can hold your meetings anywhere you like.


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