The term ‘cloud’ emerged in the construction industry years ago, and quickly became a common buzzword. However, now, IT professionals within construction companies increasingly need to understand the cloud and its role in an organization—especially as the market continues to uptick.

At the end of August, IDC, www.idc.com, Framingham, Mass., announced factory revenue in the worldwide server market increased 2.5% year-over-year to $12.6 billion in the second quarter of 2014. In particular, server unit shipments improved 1.2% year-over-year in the second quarter to 2.2 million units shipped. The analyst firm sees this as a sign of a server refresh cycle that is expected to lift the market in the future.

Kuba Stolarski, research manager, enterprise services, IDC, says demand for servers in the public cloud continues to be a major driving force for server market growth, with public cloud demand for new servers continuing to outpace the general market in the immediate future.

With this growth in mind, construction companies are faced with the challenge of identifying which technology applications are best suited for the cloud, how to establish practices for moving key applications to the cloud, the true cost of moving to the cloud, and securing data in the cloud.

Applications for the Cloud
Which technology applications are best suited for the cloud and why? From estimating, to project management, to collaboration, there are a number of cloud-based solutions available to the construction industry, but which is the best fit for your company?

On Center Software, www.oncenter.com, The Woodlands, Texas, indicates applications that help a workforce collaborate through the project lifecycle are ideal for the cloud. With a single source of data residing in the cloud, this ensures no matter where the data is being accessed from, everyone is working with the same set of data.

For many construction companies, using the same data across a project is key, and cloud-based applications offer the opportunity to do this.

Additionally, applications that don’t require access to a corporate network are well suited for the cloud as well, according to ToolWatch, www.toolwatch.com, Englewood, Colo. These applications allow contractors throughout the organization to easily access realtime data from anywhere.

Moving to the Cloud
After identifying which applications to move to the cloud, the next step is to establish best practices for migrating applications to the cloud.

With this in mind, Explorer Software, www.explorer-software.com, West Vancouver, B.C., suggests developing and implementing a plan that delivers the right balance of protection, cost, accessibility, and flexibility. Additionally, companies should consider the cost of lost productivity due to outages.

When creating a plan for any type of technology implementation sometimes a step-by-step plan is a good route for some construction companies.

LoadSpring Solutions, www.loadspring.com, Wilmington, Mass., suggests these five critical steps: move your existing software; ensure your business processes handle your migration seamlessly; match new software versions to objectives; test the new software in the cloud; and transfer data and users.

True Cost of the Cloud
For years one of the benefits of the cloud was the fact the cloud would save a significant amount of IT costs. However how much can the cloud really save?

HIKUU, a CMiC Co., www.hikuucloud.com, Toronto, Ont., says the cloud can only save money in the long run, as upfront costs are marginal in comparison to the weight of progress to your organization’s operations.

Looking specifically at some of the hard number, Newforma, www.newforma.com, Manchester, N.H., indicates cutting paper and shipping can result in a 90% savings, cutting RFI (request for information) and submittal turnaround times can result in a 50% savings, and the cloud can help increase transparency and the risks of tasks slipping through the cracks.

Finally, Procore Technologies, www.procore.com, Carpinteria, Calif., says switching from on-site servers to SaaS (software-as-a-service) provides cost and security benefits, as there are no depreciating servers, less IT consulting, more storage space and security, and accessibility from any Internet-connected device.

Securing the Cloud
After all is said and done, one of the big concerns still facing many construction companies when it comes to the cloud is if the data is secure. Gartner, www.gartner.com, Stamford, Conn., recently announced worldwide information security spending will grow nearly 8% in 2014, as organizations become more threat-aware. In particular, the adoption of mobile, cloud, and social will drive the use of new security technology and services through 2016.

Looking specifically at the cloud, the analyst firm says by 2015, roughly 10% of overall IT security enterprise product capabilities will be delivered in the cloud, and more than 30% of security controls deployed to SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses) will be cloud-based by 2015.

Certainly, this trend of moving to the cloud is impacting the construction industry, and now could be the right time to determine which applications to move to the cloud and how to ultimately secure data in the cloud.

Interested in learning more about how construction companies are approaching cloud strategies? Pick up the Sept/Oct issue of Constructech magazine to read an in-depth feature about creating a plan for the cloud in your construction business.