Now it's central to almost every company's business, connecting them with suppliers, employees, customers and partners. Stephen Armstrong has our top ten ways the cloud helps businesses with some shop-fresh examples…
1. SUPPLY CHAIN
Locking all suppliers into your supply chain allows a free flow of information, measurement, and cost and inventory control, says Debra Hofman, vice president of supply chain research at research giant Gartner. The company predicts that by 2016 60 per cent of banks worldwide will process the majority of their transactions in the cloud.
2. MARKET RESPONSIVENESS
"For business facing a changing market and client needs, the cloud brings incredible responsiveness," says Jacqueline Davey, IBM vice president, cloud. The company helped online game developer Mojang, of Minecraft fame, spin up its cloud presence for its new Battlefield 4 game. "Using the cloud allowed us to add an extra 25,000 players in just four hours," Ms Davey says.
3. NEW BUSINESS MODELS
Many large servers run at less than 30 per cent capacity, according to Peter Zonneveld, co-founder and chief executive of Greenclouds. The company buys surplus computing power from those with too much and sells to those with a temporary need. In Brazil, startup Audio Monitor links to the country's radio stations, via the cloud, and prompts artists when their tunes are played to maximise royalties.
4. DIFFERENT WAYS TO EMPLOY
John Winsor, chief innovation officer at Havas and chief executive at Victors & Spoils (V&S), says the cloud is restructuring the ad agency model. V&S uses a global team of freelancers paid per job. Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive of PeoplePerHour, argues that crowdsourcing talent is the future for flexible firms. The online marketplace lets small firms advertise projects; freelancers respond.
"For business facing a changing market and client needs, the cloud brings incredible responsiveness"
5. NEW WAYS TO MOTIVATE
Cloud-based software company CallidusCloud has developed MySalesGame, pioneering the gamification of sales. MySalesGame sets levels and missions into a company's customer relationship management software, such as sales staff adopting best practice, reaching milestones and hitting targets. Those finishing a mission or a level get rewards from peer recognition on social collaboration platforms or a perk.
6. SHARING INFORMATION
Newham University Hospital NHS Trust serves a population of some 240,000 in East London. The advent of tablets, smartphones, wi-fi and the cloud means doctors and nurses can access data instantly wherever they are. David Bolton, director of public sector market development for QlikTech, says the company's software speeds up production of reports and shares information via an online dashboard.
7. WORKING FASTER
"Usually it is easy to deploy wherever you want," says Rob Keenan, head of UK portfolio management at Siemens Enterprise Communications. London agency James Park Associates designs first-class seats for air operators, including Singapore Airlines, and uses the cloud to enable its Asian and London offices to collaborate on design, thus effectively operating a 24-hour working day.
8. DATA GATHERING
The cloud's real-time data recording and response allows TP Vision, a joint venture of Hong Kong-based TPV Technology and TV manufacturer Philips Electronics, to measure viewers' habits and fine-tune programming suggestions for Philips Smart TV customers. The company can personalise programme suggestions as people view and target adverts with the precision of a search engine.
Sales software hotshot Salesforce measures how influential employees are on the company's cloud-based internal social network Chatter. Chief executive Marc Benioff invites the company's top 20 influencers to the quarterly off-site retreat with top executives. "We estimate we have 25 per cent fewer meetings, 26 per cent less e-mail and access to 39 per cent more information using Chatter to communicate and collaborate internally," the company says.
Green eMotion is the European Union's continent-wide bid to promote the use of electric cars. The system has to link 43 countries, allow newcomers on stream, enable any GPS device to connect to the system and map electric car recharging docks across Europe. "This would have been completely impossible before the cloud," says Jacqueline Davey, IBM vice president, cloud. "Using the cloud, however, the system can grow as large as it needs."
Stephen Amstrong (Credit: Raconteur.net)