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Should contractors consider cloud computing?

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By now, you have probably at least heard the term “cloud computing.”

It may have been on the radio or television, but the term is becoming more a part of how businesses plan for their technology needs.

Cloud computing refers to an approach to information technology whereby you access part or all of your servers, networks, and, most notably, software applications via an Internet-based service rather than buying and hosting them yourself.

computer graphic

For contractors, there are a variety of reasons to consider this model. Here are three of the most compelling – and one caveat:

Technology is accessible to key employees

If there was ever an industry that could use anywhere, anytime mobile access to its mission-critical data, it is the construction industry.

On any given day, your workspace (or that of your key employees) could be the front seat of a vehicle, a jobsite trailer, a client’s home or conference room. As the construction industry becomes more advanced, the availability needs of your key employees must be considered.

Cloud computing puts all of your important information just a Wi-Fi connection away. And that includes job cost data, billing and payroll information, blueprints and accounting records.

Support, security and back-ups are off your plate

Many contractors struggle not so much with how to use technology, but rather with how to maintain it – and guard against risks. Maintaining an in-house technology staff to support your servers, desktop computers, laptops and help-desk issues in your business becomes more challenging every day.

Outsourcing most or all of your servers and software to a third party means that the provider, not you, retains the responsibility for keeping those assets and data safe, running and backed up.

Make sure that your provider has a 99 percent guaranteed uptime in its service level agreement. Additionally, it is recommended that the provider you select is in compliance with HIPAA/government standards for security and privacy.

Clearly, there is risk involved. If your provider goes down, your operations could be paralyzed. But the very survival of cloud computing companies depends on the consistency of their service.

Construction companies are doing it, including your competitors

Cloud computing has slowly but surely been catching on throughout the business community.

Revenue from cloud computing is on pace to rise from $11.1 billion in 2009 to $29.5 billion in 2014, according to a study by technical researchers, International Data Corp. Every day, the construction industry is making advances in using technology to operate its businesses and remain competitive.

More importantly, there are construction-specific cloud services from which to choose. One example Viewpoint Construction Software which offers a cloud computing option.

The caveat: Are you ready?

It is critical to carefully evaluate and maintain a close relationship with the provider. Are you prepared to do this?

For your company to reap cloud computing’s benefits, your people need to be on board. Will your managers, estimators and other key employees adapt readily to the changes in functionality and accessibility?

These and other questions will help point the way as to whether you are ready for the cloud.