In today’s fast-paced construction world, technology and IT systems play a fundamental role in the long-term viability and success of an organization and its projects. New software, technology and tools to increase efficiency and productivity are introduced every day.
Many of those solutions revolve around cloud computing: software, desktops, server infrastructure and data storage systems that are hosted in data centers, accessed through the internet, and are continually updated, managed and supported by service providers specializing in IT.
Cloud computing isn’t a new concept; just think of the mainframe computers in the 1960s and 1970s. What has changed is the robust network and internet infrastructure to access those systems and deliver a highly effective end-user experience. The evolution of mobile devices, cloud-based systems and applications have only increased expectations to have access to everything users demand both personally and professionally, in real time. Cloud computing is in many ways affording the companies that do adopt these new technologies a competitive advantage over companies that don’t. Construction companies are prime candidates for, and well-aligned with, many cloud-based IT solutions and the benefits realized through the implementation of those solutions.
Remote Accessibility to…Everything
The typical construction company has a corporate headquarters, potentially regional offices and ever-changing jobsite locations. The need for access to centralized data and software required to successfully and effectively manage projects both in the office and in the field is real. Numerous factors play into the realization of a construction project from inception to successful completion and many are not tied to information technology, but a significant portion of those factors are, especially in today’s world. During the construction phase, the ability to access budgets, update schedules, track time and resources, manage the rapid deployment of information changing daily through submittals, RFIs, ASIs, change orders and field reports are critical to team collaboration, decision-making, planning and eliminating mistakes.
Protecting the Lifeblood of a Business…Data, Data Everywhere
Electronic data are compounding at historic rates and it is only accelerating. With the proliferation of mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), data will be generated at a rate of 400 zettabytes (ZB) a year by 2018, according to a study by Cisco. That type of data growth doesn’t apply to the vast majority of the business world, but almost everything is kept electronically, or should be.
In the construction industry with drawings, specification manuals, progress photos and other large files, the data demands are higher than in many other industries. If a company doesn’t have a thoroughly thought out approach to how it backs up, replicates and protects the data that resides on office servers, jobsite servers, PCs, staff laptops, etc., there is a legitimate risk tied to losing data that either causes the recreation of many manhours of work or, worse yet, the inability to recover the data at all. Maybe its noncritical data that gets lost, but what if it’s the smoking gun document needed to put a dispute to rest? Under any circumstance, data and the way it is stored, secured and backed up is essential in a business environment.
Significant data loss can cripple companies. Even companies with great IT infrastructure, management and policies can have a serious event and in those circumstances, the ability to recover is a critical necessity. Reviewing the capabilities and practices the internal or outsourced IT team employs is really important. Even in construction companies with the best IT programs, the internal infrastructure investment required to match the capabilities of an outsourced cloud computing provider is almost always a non-starter and worth investigating.
Get Out of the IT Infrastructure and Management Black Hole
With the rapid growth of data, almost rivaled by the rate of change when it comes to new technology, software and hardware options, as well as the ongoing evolution of cyber security threats, managing IT systems, software and end users is serious business and requires high technical acumen.
The current reality is that without massive investment, internal IT systems cannot match the level of server and storage redundancy, disaster recovery protocols, cyber security protection, hardware refresh cycles and ongoing management to keep everything up to date that cloud computing providers offer through their services. The cloud offers tremendous opportunity to realize phenomenal enhancements to an organization’s IT capabilities, both from the business owners’ and employees’ perspectives. These benefits extend to the bottom line as well.
Going through an assessment with an unbiased IT consultant is something that every business owner should invest time in. That assessment should deliver customized, relevant recommendations for the business that can save time and money, mitigate risk, increase efficiency and productivity and protect the businesses’ most significant assets: its data and the software and systems that house it.