How GDPR can benefit your business

We can’t avoid it or ignore the fact that the GDPR deadline is looming, by the 25th May 2018 we all need to be ready and be GDPR compliant. With threats of potential crippling fines and legal action many businesses are finding the whole process to be a headache seeing it as a threat and a disruption that they could do without.
Companies are having to create new procedures, review their privacy notices, rewrite their terms and conditions, update records and vigorously read up and scrutinise legal frameworks – all of which let’s face it, an inconvenience to say the least.
But we could look at GDPR in another way, flip it on its head and view this new legislation in a positive light. It could actually be good for businesses, read on…..

Look at it as giving your data ‘a spring clean’

We all love a good sort out and a deep spring clean to wipe away the winter blue’s, well this is exactly what GDPR is wanting you to do with your data. This new regulation is in essence forcing us to look at our data, review and analyse exactly what data we hold, whether it is necessary to still be holding onto that data and if not then to delete it, basically we are cleaning up our systems something which is normally on the bottom of our to-do list.
GDPR requires companies to have a clear documented process of exactly what personal data you hold, who has access to it, how this data is used, who it is shared with and to have a clear lawful or consensual purpose for processing that data. Not only that but it is required that you document how communication with individuals is managed and documented and that the information is easily accessible should an individual wish to amend details, limit the details or delete them completely.
These new processes and documents that businesses will have in place to be compliant will help you to work more efficiently with added quality control and overall better organisation. See getting GDPR compliant is looking better already.
Tailored Ltd can provide cloud solutions which has all the necessary tools to assist you to develop strategies to achieve GDPR compliance.

Look at is as de cluttering

We all get inundated with irrelevant emails, nuisance phone calls and are bombarded with marketing campaigns which we have no interest in. We get sent promotions from companies that we may of signed up to 20 years ago, which show no clear way of how to unsubscribe – well under GDPR this is set to change and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and so can our inbox.
Now under the enforcement of GDPR we can request that we are taken off a mailing list or a data base and companies have to oblige if there is no legal reason for them to hold onto that data. This is a much needed shake up in the world of marketing, and a welcome change under GDPR.
The cloud solutions that Tailored Ltd creates make it easy to export, update and delete your data in machine readable formats which enables users to fulfil the requirements under GDPR.

Look at it as sieving for gold

Many businesses rely heavily on using emails and cold calling for marketing purposes, as more and more people are becoming aware of GDPR and companies are being forced to review their marketing lists to make them GDPR compliant, these lists are shrinking.
Seeing your mailing list decrease overnight can make you feel uneasy, but let’s look on the bright side shall we? Apart from scam email marketing companies that require an extensive marketing list to function, This dwindling mailing list could actually benefit your business as what you are left with are the golden nuggets.
Everyone is a winner! ,as you will be contacting people who actually want to hear about your product or service and by narrowing down your audience your messages can be more targeted to the individual.
Yes you’ve got a smaller list but it will be of higher quality, the chances are you will see a greater return for the time and effort that you put in.
As you will now be only targeting those who want to hear from you, guess what? Your reputation has just soared too and you are no longer that annoying company that pesters everyone.

Look at it as clearing the air

We all need to know who is responsible for what but at the moment many companies don’t necessarily have a clear idea of who is accountable for the customer data that they use. Who actually owns the personal data and who is in charge of ensuring that data is correct and up to date, and who is responsible for keeping that data safe and secure.
Well here is the moment of clarity, as GDPR dictates that there is a need for accountability and requires named data processors and data controllers and a designated individual as a point of contact for the data subjects and the Data Protection Authority.
We should embrace this opportunity to organize ourselves, establish clear responsibility which will steer us clear of any ambiguity surrounding ownership which will in turn limit our risks and liabilities.

Let’s summarise

So we either bury our heads in the sand and hope that GDPR goes away (which it won’t) or we grab it by the horns and tackle it head on. We can use it as the opportunity to organise our systems and procedures to improve the way we work. Marketing will be optimized, engagement levels with your target audience will rise as will your reputation as a transparent and responsible organisation.

Why Cloud Computing is A Vital Part of Today and our Future

Although for most people the cloud is far from a fresh new idea, its true potential is only now beginning to be realized. Here are some examples of how the cloud will change our lives over the next decade and in the future.

Managing Data

The cloud enables society to contend with the unavoidable growing volumes of data, large amounts of data presents itself as a challenge to store on fixed servers here in the physical world. Physically storing this information makes processing, transporting information, analysing and using this data in an efficient and useful way to benefit businesses near impossible.
Cloud computing solutions provide an underpinning support to identify and resolve the challenges that comes with sharing computer resources such as networking, storage, data and analytical software. Enabling businesses to tackle and utilise large amounts of data which in turn allows them to achieve impressive data advancements.

Constructing a Digital-First Infrastructure

Cloud will present the world with the digital infrastructure for the future which promises innovations such as driverless cars, drone taxis, trains and tubes, farms and power plants – all will be safer, secure and effectively managed, with credit due to the cloud’s capability to store and analyse data.
The cloud will also be transformational for organisations, especially small and medium sized businesses as artificial intelligence, data analytics and other capabilities become accessible as services. Each and every industry has varying needs, as we speak there are a team of communication experts working on what is known as the ‘Industry Cloud’ this is where there are thousands of separate clouds, all of which will work in harmony across a digital community of varying industry requirements.

Examples are:

A commercial aviation cloud to assist airlines and airports around the world to manage ground activity such as refuelling aircrafts, maintenance, baggage handling, cabin cleaning and restocking, thereby maximising efficiency and assisting flights to take off on time.
A utility service cloud will repair faults in the power grid accordingly to guarantee that homes and businesses have a constant and uninterrupted power supply.
A banking cloud will allow financial institutions to study hundreds and thousands of transactions per second to intercept and prevent fraud.

Artificial Intelligence

The cloud acts as a harness for impending technologies such as the next generation of artificial intelligence and helps them to harmonise with new platforms such as mobile. In 2011 the sales of smartphones took over the sales of PCs and mobile developed into the world’s leading computing platform. Artificial Intelligence has already began to make its presence into mobile phones.
Mobile phones take in an enormous amount of unstructured data like text messages, photos and emails. Most smartphones don’t have the ability or the power to process this data and analyse it therefore the data is sent to the cloud via the mobile which in turn slows down Artificial intelligence and its response time.
The solution to this is to split this job between the phone itself and the cloud. The operation where artificial intelligence learns and trains happens in the cloud where there are copious amounts of processing power present and therefore artificial intelligence can learn rapidly. Artificial intelligence can then take what it has learnt, interpret that information and apply it to real life scenarios, this happens on the mobile device.
Smartphones will interpret information continuously, this intelligence is always switched on and enables mobile devices to react rapidly to voice commands, catalogue photographs according to time, place & content and set cameras up perfectly for various subjects under varying shot conditions.
This interpretation of data needs to process information in real time all of the time which in turn means that even the most super advanced smartphones of the future will be unable to meet the computing requirements dictated by artificial intelligence. They will have to rely on the powerful processing power of the cloud to do that.

Autonomous Vehicles

The futuristic vision of driverless cars coasting up and down roads and motorways is still a way off, but soon will become a reality thanks to the power of the cloud.
Similar to smartphones, vehicles come equipped with cameras and sensors that generate an abundance of data. A high percentage of this data needs to be processed in real time so a lot of this processing will take place inside or on the vehicle itself. But many functions such as machine learning and software updates will happen in the cloud.
Video features will be predominant in the vehicles of the future, improving road safety, delivering in-car entertainment and enhancing car security. Many cars now are fitted with multiple security cameras to deter vandals and car thieves, video footage can be saved on a digital card within the vehicle or sent to the cloud.

For some people the cloud has become a regular utility and has therefore lost the mystery surrounding it, many now treat it as an everyday service such as electricity or water. For those who are still puzzled by it, that’s ok, people don’t need to know the full in’s and out’s of cloud computing to benefit from its powers.

Why is Bespoke Software Ideal for Your Business?

Our experience as a custom software development company has shown us that many business are using off-the-shelf applications and stock software to help them to run their businesses.  We can understand the reasons why they might do this – after all, this type of software probably fulfills an immediate functionality need. However, you will probably find that down the line, this off the shelf-software lacks some other features that you require, and may also contain features that your company doesn’t need – which seems a bit of a waste of money.

 

If our years of developing bespoke software have shown us anything, they have shown us that no two businesses are the same. The tactics and tools that one business uses to achieve success won’t deliver the same results for anyone else, and so it seems a little crazy that just because two businesses are in the same sector they think the same software will work for the both of them. In this day and age, software systems are absolutely crucial to business operations, with information and software being at the heart of all we do. Taking care when choosing the software you will use then is crucial, to discover whether it is relevant to how your employees operate, the processes your business uses and how your employees will access the system. You also need to make sure the software your business invests in produces data and analytics in a way that you can make sense of, and helps to make your company more efficient. This is where bespoke software comes in, as it offers many benefits to a business, including:

 

Branding

Using a bespoke software system which is made up of unique tools will ensure that you stand out from the crowd of other businesses in your sector, and can be a key differentiator with customers.

 

Complete Ownership of Development

When we work with you on creating your software solution, we never forget that it is your solution for your business. You will be involved in the development process from start to finish, meaning you decided what features you need and what changes need to be made. This means that you get exactly the solution you need that works for your business.

 

Efficient Workflows

Using a software system that has been developed with your existing business at the heart of it, means that it will be matched to your working practices and so your employees will find it easy to use, and it should therefore speed up their task completion time quite quickly.

 

Existing Tool Expansion

Many businesses we work with are logging company data using spreadsheets, which is fine when you are a small business but can get a bit time-consuming as the business grows. Logging data is a repetitive task at the end of the day, and changing this into an automated process through software that is tailored to your business means that not only will you free up employee time, but you will also make the whole information management process more open and allow the information to be accessed throughout the business.

 

Integration

We work closely with you to ensure the software we develop for you brings real benefits to your business, and one of the ways we do this is to ensure that it will integrate easily with other software that you are already using, saving you both time and money.

 

Simplicity

One of the main benefits of software that is developed specifically for your business is that it will be simple and easy to use as it will not contain any unwanted features or language that you are not familiar with. This will not only make it more efficient, but will also reduce the amount of learning time it will take your employees to adapt to it.

 

What does this mean for you? Well, our bespoke software development service is aimed at developing software that will work as you want it to, making it easier for you to access data and information, understand the data and information you have, and make full use of it in a way that you can share across your business. After all, if you want your business to be a success there is no point in working with a software system that doesn’t work for you and is bringing no extra value to you at all.

 

To find out more about our bespoke software solutions please give our friendly team a call on 0161 442 2860 or use our contact form (which can be found here).

Main Benefits of Cloud Computing Leading to Quantifiable Improvements in the Way Companies Do Business

The latest trends show that businesses of all sizes and industries, no matter where they are located, are turning to cloud services as a way to increase productivity. Spending on cloud computing infrastructure and platforms every year keeps increasing at an exponential rate and so far, according to Goldman Sachs, a growth of 30% has been predicted for the year of 2018. This means that the cloud market size will just keep increasing fueled by the massive cloud adoption. Whether it is cloud migration, bespoke cloud-based software or new solutions that can improve the way businesses organize their work load and manage costs, fast growth and implementation of new cloud services seems like the only way to go forward.

If we analyse how much most of these companies that invested into the cloud technology have spent so far, we will discover that most of them invested at least part of their I.T. budgets into the new cloud technologies. This is surely good news for companies like Tailored Ltd, as more and more businesses and their accompanying end users are ready to buy bespoke cloud-based applications, with centralised file sharing, communication, social media and content sharing capability being one of the main functionalities required by almost every new business in the process of transition onto a cloud.

There are numerous factors that are driving cloud adoption but for now we will take a deeper look into some of the main ones. Along with quantifiable improvements that the cloud-based solutions bring, such as improved productivity, lower costs and savings in time, these main factors make the principal driving force motivating all the businesses across all the sectors to make the switch for the cloud.

If we wanted to view benefits that cloud computing has on businesses from a different angle, we would realise that the majority of company executives are always the ones who are the most actively involved in their organisations’ decissions about cloud strategy. These executives have a different perspective on cloud-based technology which is purely driven by numbers and productivity. Studies done by Goldman Sachs from 2017 show that, if we take all the companies into account that have implemented cloud-based systems so far, that all of them noted an increase of 19% in company growth.

 

Cloud Computing

1. COST FLEXIBILITY

Businesses only need to invest into server and cloud infrastructure when it is actually needed. Due to the technology’s high flexibility, more capacity can be added during peak usage times and then deprovisioned when it is no longer needed. This means that the cost of cloud computing is much lower than traditional systems. Compared to this, traditional computing was in a way wasting storage space because when the capacity wasn’t needed after peak times, it would just sit idle for the rest of the time.

2. COST-EFFECTIVENESS AND REDUCED EXPENSES

Collaboration within businesses in increased by allowing dispersed groups of people to meet virtually and easily share information in real time and via shared storage. All of this can reduce time needed market and improve product development and customer service.

During times of recession or business cut-backs (like the energy industry is currently experiencing), cloud computing offers a flexible cost structure, thereby limiting exposure.

3. SOFTWARE FLEXIBILITY

The latest software versions needed to run the business are made available to all staff and customers as soon as they are released. Further more, companies like Tailored Ltd can design highly specialised, sophisticated, bespoke software solutions that target a particular requirement of a particular business. These tailored software solutions offer frequent updates, 1 on 1 customer service and flexibility where businesses are given an opportunity to fine-tweak a particular option within the software as they go. In contrast, software solutions for the more traditional systems are usually developed by large corporations that might have major updates only once a year and it may take a significant time for these updates to come out.

4. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY

With cloud computing, companies can reduce the size of their own data centres, or eliminate their data centes completely. The reduction of the number of servers, the cost of software and the lower number of staff can significantly reduce I.T. costs without impacting I.T. capabilities of that organisation. Further more, cloud-based systems save time by speeding up the way businesses operate, improva data management, business organisation and work-flow, create hassle-free work environment which all leads to increased productivity.

5. IMPROVED MOBILITY

Data and applications are available to employees no matter where they are in the world. Business owners and their employees can take their work with them anythwere by using a lap top, smart phone or a tablet. Now going on a business trip would not necessarily mean relinquishing work obligations. With cloud solutions, work is where your portable device is, and working in the field or outside the office will not mean that the work load will suffer.

6. CLOUD IS ALWAYS ON

Tailored Ltd provides cloud hosting services that are always on-line and extremely reliable. The connection is always on and as long as employees have a functioning Internet line, they can get to the particular application they need from literally anywhere. Some applications can even work off-line.

7. IMPROVED COLLABORATION

Because companies do not have to purchase equipment and build out and operate a data centre, they do not have to spend significant money on hardware, facilities, utilities and other aspects of operations. With traditional computing, a company can spend millions before it gets any value from its investment in the data centre.

8. CAPACITY FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility of the cloud is reflected in its capability to be turned up, down or off depending on circumstances. For example, a sales promotion might be wildly popular so in these cases the need for capacity can increase. To avoid crashing servers and losing sales, an additional capacity can be added quickly. When the sale process is completed, capacity can shrink to its original size to reduce costs.

9. ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY

With fewer data centres worldwide and more efficient operations, we collectively create less of an impact on the environment. Further more, companies who use shared resources can have better environmental credentials than the ones that don’t.

Despite vast benefits of cloud computing, business owners have identified several barriers holding the cloud adoption back. The security of data is one of the top concerns holding back cloud development projects. That is followed by the concern regarding the regulatory compliance, followed by the loss of control over I.T. services and knowledge and experience of both I.T. professionals and business managers. As organisations address their security and compliance concerns by extending corporate policies to data in the cloud and invest in closing the cloud skills gap, they can more fully take advantage of the benefits of cloud services.

Can Cloud Save the NHS?

The National Health Service (NHS) and associated organisations are a lucrative target for cyber hackers, with reports suggesting that medical records are 100 times more valuable than stolen credit card details.

Ransomware attacks are also rampant in the healthcare market because much of the sector relies on up-to-date information to function. With patient care potentially at risk if there are any delays in accessing data, the NHS and other healthcare organisations are often likely to pay a ransom.

At the same time, the UK healthcare sector is greatly fragmented – the governance structure is a confusing mass of public and private organisations interacting with contractors and patients.

Combined with the rapid digitisation of patient records in recent years, it’s been very difficult to implement consistent data security policies and training schemes to educate staff on keeping data safe.

The latest figures from the Information Commissioner’s Office highlight the extent to which this statement is true. The NHS and other UK health providers reported 221 data security incidents during the final three months of 2016, and the industry accounted for close to 40% of all security incidents from all sectors, reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) during that period.

As healthcare organisations in the UK scramble to better protect patient data, they will find relief in an unlikely place – the public cloud. Once feared as the slayers of security and compliance, major public cloud applications such as Office 365 have in fact managed to steer clear of massive breaches, cyber attacks and outages.

The reason for this is remarkably simple; major cloud providers spend more on security professionals and security infrastructure than most enterprise CISOs could ever hope to see in their annual budget.

For example, in late 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella committed to spending more than one billion dollars a year on security. When a cloud vendor’s entire business depends on its ability to safeguard customer data, a massive data breach could well be fatal.

The result is that the leading cloud based apps have very few application vulnerabilities and those that are found are patched at lightning speed. These vendors also invest heavily in protecting these applications as best they can from denial-of-service attacks and other attempts at service disruption and data exfiltration.

With such a strong track record for security, why do security and compliance continue to be cited as the top concerns of organisations making the transition to cloud? Aside from losing control of physical servers in a data centre, organisations are starting to realise that while the public cloud application itself is secure, the responsibility for keeping the data within the application secure lies squarely with the organisation.

Try as they might, cloud service providers cannot protect users from themselves. The biggest risk of data leakage, ironically, comes from the same features – such as ubiquitous access from any device and the ability to share data easily – that make the cloud such a productivity boon.

Cloud based productivity applications are a critical piece of the security puzzle because a great deal of sensitive health information inevitably finds its way into these systems.

Whether Google Drive, Dropbox, or Office 365, many healthcare organisations will start using cloud productivity apps in some capacity.

IT teams are responsible for enabling secure, compliant access to these apps and creating an environment where employees can collaborate more effectively without inadvertently leaking patient data.

In order to control how the cloud is used, many organisations have already deployed third-party tools such as identity-as-a-service (IaaS) products and cloud access security brokers (CASBs).

These technologies can help ensure the organisation does not take on unnecessary additional risk in its quest for increased productivity and better patient outcomes. These tools are used to control access from staff-owned mobile devices, to ensure that external sharing is managed appropriately, and to limit the possibility that user credentials could be compromised, amongst other things.

Inadequate security precautions and any breach of health information, no matter the size or cause, can result in substantial penalties. In the UK, any organisation that processes personal information must meet the eight requirements of the Data Protection Act.

The ICO has the power to fine organisations that miss the mark. For example, a fine of £200,000 was recently issued to HCA International, a private health firm, following an investigation into the way the hospital was transferring, transcribing and storing records of patient appointments.

In 2016, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust inadvertently published workers’ confidential data on the internet, breaching its data protection responsibilities and landing the trust a similarly substantial fine.

By procuring cloud apps with a strong security track record, and combining them with third-party tools to secure data in the cloud, the NHS and other healthcare organisations in the UK will be able to improve their ability to protect medical records. This, in turn, will help them avoid fines and focus on their core competency – delivering care services.

 

Sourced by Eduard Meelhuysen, head of EMEA at Bitglass

Age of the Cloud

Cloud technology will create a bright future for UK business says David Stokes, chief executive IBM UK and Ireland

The cloud has undoubtedly changed the way modern business operates, and in today’s digital economy there’s little room for error. Yet, with high stakes also comes a wealth of opportunity for the UK economy.

2016 saw many dynamic, political and socio-economic shifts, which will play out over the course of the next few years. But ultimately the game changer remains the same: businesses are realising the significance of flexibility and choice when it comes to data and the cloud, and how this can help their business to accelerate growth, be successful, and stave off future competition.

From Travis Perkins to Shopdirect and Dixons Carphone, brands are witnessing how cloud technology can transform their business to create a more seamless, personalised experience for their customers, and accelerate the digital transformation of a company.

As such, it’s unsurprising we’ve seen a huge amount of investment in the UK into datacentres in the last year by major players, to support the cloud’s exponential growth.

So why a larger footprint in the UK? Well it’s uncertain how Brexit will affect the UK business landscape, but it’s obvious that data sharing is at the forefront of the international business community’s agenda.

Data, the new oil

Data is the lifeblood of an organisation, a major economic opportunity – and one that countries can tap to spur innovation, create jobs and encourage entrepreneurs to create new digital products and services. It’s effectively become the new oil – the natural resource everyone is talking about and wants a piece of, and the fuel driving digital transformation.

As businesses become much more concerned with where their data resides across all industries, from retail to health/pharma to public sector organisations, there’s no one size fits all rule. Undoubtedly, the current data-sharing landscape is changing, and that’s thanks to the cloud.

In order for businesses to gain intelligent insight from data quickly and securely, it’s clear that having flexibility and choice when it comes to data storage is the key to a successful business and ultimately supporting the UK economy.

With so many on-demand services and the explosion of connected IoT devices, which will only continue to rise in the future, control is everything. Gartner reported there would be 6.4 billion connected things by the end of 2016 alone.

Hybrid cloud

Previously, we were seeing restrictions on where companies can hold data preventing organisations from moving their businesses onto the cloud, which often involves transferring data away from the country of origin. With regional and local data centres this issue effectively disappears.

Furthermore, there is a definitive commitment from the technology industry to ensure that data resides closest to the source to enable businesses to make their move to the cloud. IBM recently announced plans to open four new cloud data centres in and around London in the next 12 months. The new data centres will give UK business greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage their data, enabling organisations to deploy their IT operations locally in the cloud.

In terms of flexibility and choice, the adoption of hybrid cloud is fast enabling UK business to stay one step ahead of the competition. Hybrid cloud (a mixture of on-premise and off-premise technology support) provides organisations with enormous flexibility, scalability and the potential to optimise their IT cost and performance.

Cloud computing has been pivotal in helping businesses achieve digital transformation and supporting the UK economy. We saw Cloud revenues in Western Europe grow by 20.6 per cent in Q1 2016, and IDC forecasts that worldwide revenues from public cloud services will reach more than $195bn USD in 2020.

It has also fundamentally changed the amount of data (or business oil) available, how and where we store it and the actionable insights for businesses that can be derived from it.

For organisations to remain competitive in this new digital age, it is crucial we continue to store data in the right place at the right time – so it can harvested as and when it is most valuable to businesses.

AWS Launch UK Cloud Skills Programme

Amazon Web Services

Amazon has steadily been expanding the scope of its cloud storage business AWS beyond hosting websites and apps for businesses and today the company announced its latest venture aimed at increasing IT skills training in the UK.

During an event in London, the company announced its new training and job placement programme re:Start. Amazon’s new service, that was built in partnership with the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the Prince’s Trust and QA consulting, is geared toward educating young adults and military veterans and their wives. At launch re:Start will only be available in the UK though the company may expand it to other locations depending on its success.

Users who sign up for the new service will be able to gain training in a number of skills including cloud computing, creating cloud-based applications using AWS, building apps in languages such as Python and setting up new cloud environments. These skills will allow them to find jobs in new fields or to design their own apps using the cloud.

re:Start will offer 1,000 work placements initially from a number of organisations including the accounting company Sage, the insurance company Direct Line and the lending platform Funding Circle.

The UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley applauded AWS for launching re:Start which could help spur further investment in digital skills training in the UK, saying:

“Increasing digital skills in the UK is a major priority for the Government and we are working to make sure that everyone has the skills they need. We welcome the launch of AWS re:Start which is a fantastic initiative bringing together employers from different sectors and providing the foundation on which they can continue to train and grow the UK’s digital workforce.”

The Cloud-based Future

It’s the end of the year, and along with the grocery lists for parties and the lengthy wish lists from the kids, all good research analysts are building their lists of predictions for 2017.

Typically, a list of predictions will feature major themes that have come up over and over throughout the previous year. Security is a safe bet every year. IoT has been a popular pick recently. Big Data made the headlines a couple years ago before suffering from some backlash. But this year, there seemed to be many topics hovering as potential candidates. Between blockchain, hyper-converged infrastructure, artificial intelligence, bots, and VR, there was an awful lot to talk about.

At the same time, one of the constant themes for most of the past decade didn’t appear to have a specific aspect that would crystallise over the next 12 months. As important as cloud computing is to the shifts happening in IT, the vast majority of companies had bought into the concept and started moving systems to the cloud. Research this year found that companies were digging deeper into this transition, which sometimes led to a more restrained approach as the difficulties of cloud transformation became apparent.

So what was there to say about cloud that hadn’t been said before? And how were all of these new concepts going to fit into the picture? It turns out that the two things go hand in hand. As part of introducing a new era of enterprise technology, cloud creates a new platform. This platform is the foundation for tools such as blockchain or AI. It’s not possible to talk about these tools, or for a company to begin using them, without an established cloud baseline.

Given the speed with which companies jumped into cloud initiatives and the recent research showing a reality check on cloud usage, businesses need to be careful of moving too fast towards new technology. The Big Data backlash was largely caused by companies assuming Big Data was as accessible as cloud, then finding their current data management practices were not solid enough to allow them to jump into bigger things. Without a good foundation in cloud—including both the technical pieces and policy/workflow modification—organisations will not be successful with cutting edge concepts.

Even a good start in cloud may not be enough to immediately learn new tricks. Many of the newer trends take advantage of cloud’s scaling abilities to become far-reaching endeavours. For example, one of the primary IoT use cases is Smart Cities. While there are certainly pieces that can be carved off of these huge initiatives or ways that the technology can be used at a smaller scale, many SMBs will not have obvious applications for these tools until they trickle down in different forms.

From that perspective, the cloud era might look more like the mainframe era than the PC era. Mainframes defined a technical architecture for companies. PCs drove change in the IT function, but in many ways they were an extension of the existing architecture. Cloud and mobile are defining a new architecture. SMBs can easily access cloud to replicate existing functions, but re-architecture (including the use of new tools) is a much larger challenge.

In fact, it might even be accurate to view cloud (probably along with the Internet) as a dividing point in technology history, where each half is defined by a particular platform for creation and a corresponding distribution model. Perhaps the reason it’s getting hard to pick a specific projection for cloud is that cloud isn’t just a part of the IT landscape anymore—from here on out, it’s all cloud.

Cloud as a Utility?

AWS Cloud Tent

The idea is to leverage a seemingly inexhaustible supply of computing power, storage space and fast network connection pipes to deliver computing as a utility, much like power companies deliver electricity to all our homes and businesses.

From a technology perspective, the idea of delivering computing services from the cloud has gone mainstream. Every day, it seems, we end up hearing about or interacting with a new service or app that gets its capabilities from the ephemeral and, frankly, sometimes baffling idea of computers in the sky.

Well, okay, not exactly — advanced computing topics aren’t always known for their precision of language and clarity of meaning — but we all do use lots of online resources that are powered by servers and other computing devices that we can’t see or touch.

For consumers, these types of cloud computing-driven interactions are becoming regular and commonplace. Looking for transportation? Hail a ride from Uber or Lyft. Settle a debate? Ask your question of Siri, Cortana, Google Now or other personal assistants. Listen to your favourite tunes? Fire up Spotify, Pandora, Tidal or a host of other choices.

Cloud-based services such as Salesforce, Dropbox and hundreds more can be leveraged by businesses. Just like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, many rapidly growing companies are offering cloud computing itself as a service.

Web-based companies are writing software that take full advantage of the cloud “utility” in a way that enables them to run services on top of the infrastructure to build a business model around them.

Traditional businesses, however, have been much slower to move to this new flexible but often technically challenging type of computing. Oh, sure, there has been a lot of talk about creating “private clouds” (companies build their own web-like computing infrastructure, leveraging the same kinds of tools and methods used for the public internet but keeping everything inside their own walls), or “hybrid clouds,” which mix some elements of “private clouds” with “public clouds” hosted out on the internet. In reality, however, adoption of these new concepts has moved slower than many initially expected.

The reasons for these delays are many. First, there is the basic question of trust. Many companies have been very leery of letting their digital crown jewels outside the walls of their organisation. Not as widely discussed, but equally problematic, is the issue of job security. If projects that IT used to manage are being handled by outside cloud companies, won’t that reduce the need for some IT jobs?

Another big issue is technical complexity and limited skill sets. Many cloud computing concepts, tools, structures and methodologies can be very challenging, and traditional business IT departments simply don’t generally have enough people with the capabilities to do the work. (Of course, this relates back to job security as well.)

As time has passed, however, many businesses are starting to recognise that their fears were either unfounded or not as troublesome as they first thought. In the case of trust and security, for example, it’s becoming increasingly clear that companies that specialise in cloud computing are so highly focused on security that they’re probably going to have a safer environment than a company’s own network.

We’ve also seen the rise of companies like Rackspace and other managed service providers that can help companies that don’t necessarily have the in-house expertise to make the transition to cloud-based computing services.

Just as few companies today think of running their own power grid, there may come a day when companies will look to a highly consolidated group of compute utility companies to deliver some of the services they now provide.

The net result is that we’re turning the corner on cloud computing models becoming mainstream options in traditional businesses, as well. This represents a significant sea change that’s likely to have important repercussions within the overall business computing environment for many years to come.

On one hand, the improved flexibility that the dynamic, quickly evolving cloud computing methods can bring to businesses should help them in a number of areas, from delivering mobile versions of custom business applications more rapidly, to integrating with partners and other web services more easily.

But the move also implies that many businesses will start to slowly get out of the business of hosting their own data centres, preferring to have that computing “utility” hosted by an outside party, such as an Amazon, Microsoft or Google. For companies like HP Enterprise, Dell, Cisco and others that generate significant revenue from selling enterprise hardware to companies that have been running their own data centres, the changes could be particularly profound.

Of course, not all companies will completely move away from running their own data centres, nor will the ones that start to do so make those changes overnight. But just as few companies today think of running their own power grid, there may come a day when companies will look to a highly consolidated group of compute utility companies to deliver some of the services they now provide.

Adjusting to the potential of that new reality will keep the enterprise computing market interesting to observe for several years to come.

Ford Invest in Cloud Computing

Seeking to boost its software expertise ahead of the shift towards electric and autonomous cars, Ford Motor Co. will invest $182.2 million in Pivotal Software Inc., the cloud-computing joint venture of EMC Corp. and VMware Inc.

The investment gives the automaker a stake of about 6.6 percent in San Francisco-based Pivotal, Ford said. Microsoft will also invest in a financing round that totals $253 million, Pivotal said, adding that it has no set plans for a public share sale. This is an option EMC Chief Executive Officer Joe Tucci said, in October, could happen in the “not-too-distant future.” For Pivotal, the investments bring in cash to fund operations at a time when an IPO now seems unlikely for the next year or two, according to a person familiar with Pivotal’s thinking.

Ford has been working to build ties in Silicon Valley. The 113-year-old car maker expanded a research lab in Palo Alto, California, last year and this year created a new unit, Ford Smart Mobility, to expand its presence and partnerships in the tech-focused region. CEO Mark Fields says he wants Ford to be viewed as both an automotive and mobility company to encompass its efforts in driver-less cars and ride-sharing.