We’ve been hearing about the cloud for years, decades even. The first cloud computing concepts first arose back in the 1950s, when academics and workers in large corporations realized how useful accessing the same information from separate terminals would be. The term “cloud” wasn’t coined until the 1990s, and it’s only been over the last decade or so that cloud services have been rolled out and utilized in earnest.
Yet it appears we’re only scratching the surface of what cloud computing can do both as a service for individuals (though the main takeaway for many so far as been backing up their personal photos and documents) and for enterprises. Google Cloud chief Diana Greene, who started cloud service VMware before her company was bought by her current employer, says that cloud computing is “the biggest IT revolution ever.”
It’s ironic then that the company Greene now serves is, by her own admission, behind the curve set by Amazon and Microsoft. There’s nothing Google can do to make up for the years lost out to Amazon, which has long hosted virtual machines on the cloud, but they can set their sights on the next goal: Providing companies with the big data needed to glean much-desired information on trends, both past and future. As Greene puts it:
“It’s going to be about data analytics and data insights… That’s one of the huge benefits of the cloud. People couldn’t share data very easily. So the ability to get these data sets and increase and grow them can lead to extracting insights from them.”
Related Article: The Best Companies Move Beyond Spreadsheets
Data collection and analysis means the world to inventory and asset management software providers, and so the development of cloud computing isn’t just for the world’s largest technology companies. Wasp Barcode reportedly spent over 20,000 hours creating a cloud-based system that companies can use to track the location, status and security measures of their fixed assets (the property used in the creation of income, such as laptops, vehicles and buildings).
The question is, why are cloud-based systems so much more effective and efficient than older systems at collecting data and drawing analytical conclusions? The answer is many-fold.
The Benefits of Cloud-Based Asset Management Over Manual and Web-Based Systems
It may be hard to believe in an era where we communicate and complete most work tasks digitally via smartphones and laptops, but there are still companies out there utilizing Excel spreadsheets to track their fixed assets and inventory.
Companies that deal with assets worth thousands, hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars understand why an asset management system is worth the investment; companies that don’t routinely find themselves losing assets to employee theft or misplacement, or dealing with inaccurate financial reporting that can result in fines and even jail time. The most obvious way that spreadsheets disrupt the efficiency of asset management is the lack of real-time information. Changes to one spreadsheet will not be reflected in the general records, which then need to be manually updated as well. Any errors to do so can result in a ripple effect that ends with inaccurate asset ledgers, which is a problem both in the short-term (if an asset isn’t available when it needs to be, production and/or warehouse activities like storage may be halted) and in the long-term, when the company applies for a loan and overstates the worth of its current assets.
Furthermore, a cloud-based system isn’t hosted on your own server but that of the service, which means the cloud service takes care of things like patches, updates and fixes IT issues. New versions of your software appear instantly and can be downloaded in a flash, rather than needing to go out and buy and install a new program yourself.
While it’s clear that using an Excel spreadsheet (or even a manual hand count, as tedious and time-consuming and inaccurate as that sounds) isn’t enough to compete in this modern era, there are more benefits to cloud-based data collection than just knowing where your assets are.
The Impact of Analytical Analysis
Analytics is a word that’s thrown around a lot in today’s business culture, but its actual meaning is often lost. Real-time knowledge of where your fixed assets and inventory are along the supply chain is invaluable for a few reasons, including: how business is doing, via inventory turnover ratio, gross margin and cycle time; the driving forces of business; the behaviors of your customers and how best to capitalize on that information; the efficiency of your processes such as pick, pack and ship time.
Additionally, from a checklist report from the The Data Warehousing Institute, here are a few more advanced ways a cloud-based management system benefits its users (via IBM):
- Consistent performance: As we all know, humans are not infallible, and while machines also make mistakes, they do so at an infinitesimally smaller rate. The in-memory computing and in-database analytics provided by cloud computing software helps reduce some of the “headaches” of asset management, which includes searching for missing assets and having to scramble to fix or replace assets that missed scheduled maintenance.
- Various deployment platforms and services: Deployment of the service includes the operating systems, databases, software tools, which can be utilized in different ways depending on whether the needs are ad-hoc, limited time/seasonal, self-service and so on.
- Analytics evaluations: A quality system can leverage the analytics already available to the company, and automatically make decisions on re-orders in response to expected surges in demand; or, conversely, a stay on re-ordering so the warehouse doesn’t become inundated with inventory that will go unsold and will eventually need to be marked down or wasted altogether.
- Security measures: Not everyone at a company requires access to sensitive data regarding assets, and the system can restrict or deny access as needed.
Cloud-based management may be revolutionizing the way companies track their assets, but it’s also a response to the needs of the industry. The world is becoming more interconnected and businesses are finding it easier than ever to work remotely, via smartphones, barcode readers and communication apps, which means the databases we use must become similarly flexible without losing important security features or making data overly complex to find and analyze.
This is a realization of the dream from the 1950s: We can now get the information we want, and information we didn’t even realize we could use (customer behavior being a paramount example) from anywhere in the world, on a myriad of devices. That’s the beauty of the cloud, which like its namesake floats above us all, ready to deliver.
How could utilizing Cloud technology change the way you do business?
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