By Mike Berzinis II, RF, CSM.
For many folks in forestry, hearing about “cloud technologies” may create a strong compulsion to run away and into an open pine stand full of briars. There’s a good chance you didn’t get into the natural resources to be up on – or even interested in – technology. However, an inability to harness the power of cloud computing in your operations could limit your growth and ability to serve your customers’ and employees’ changing needs. We hope this plain language post about cloud computing provides some context for what continues to be the biggest shift in how businesses use technology.
1. The most powerful business solutions (and your smartphone) rely on cloud computing.
The most capable and cost effective business technologies are based on – and enabled by – cloud computing. Neglecting the use of cloud computing platforms is akin to milling your own home-building materials when standard dimensional lumber and other materials streamline the building process by fitting together uniformly. (you’d really have to want to do all that work!) Technology providers who have yet to embrace cloud-based computing platforms will spend more to deliver less by building out features that computing platforms have out of the box.
The cloud is “[the]#1 technology for the next decade. And ultimately be the foundation on which all smaller technologies in the near future are built. -The Motley Fool”
2. Always getting better.
In our experience, cloud computing technologies are always up to date and continuously improving. With desktop personal computers, it can be a challenge for providers to keep software up to date when each computer is different. In the cloud a provider completely controls the computing environment. By utilizing cloud-based capabilities, inefficiencies due to infrequent updates or obsolescence is a thing of the past. At the end of the day, a cloud based approach allows providers to deliver more value by keeping tools progressing and with minimal business disruptions.
3. More functionality and flexibility.
Need to enable more than just email on company smartphones? Many cloud-based software are multi-user based (e.g. many can edit at once) with tools which can function simultaneously across multiple devices, users and applications. These phone and web apps can function on a single source of data making it much easier to collaborate and maintain consistency.
4. Reduced (or no) dependency on physical offices.
Since cloud-based computing solutions are in the cloud, they don’t rely on computers in offices. This means software can function independent of office power or internet. One does not need to be at the office to access information, or rely on an office computer because it has a certain software or files on it. Our experience is that cloud-based software is more reliable than software which runs on a personal computer. The value of systems being independent of offices has really hit home during Covid-19 when people needed to distance and still use business tools and data and share information between staff. One client stated that “Had we not worked with you all to move our forest technology to the commercial cloud, we would have been dead in the water for running our operations during several staff quarantines”.
5. More secure.
We know of many organizations which have been hacked or had their server data held ransom in part because they have delayed cloud adoption. These events come at a great cost and disruption to operations. In the commercial cloud (Amazon or Azure, etc) there are much more security options, and the machines being used are kept up to date and secure for you while also being backed up.
6. Highly Configurable.
Cloud-based computing platforms offer “low code” functionality that moderately technical users can manage. This allows components and features to be re-arranged in different ways to meet your needs. Low code, configurable computing is a huge movement for many reasons including reduced costs and avoidance of risks associated with custom on premise software. One our favorite benefits of configurable apps is that we can set up tools for new projects in hours.
Many organizations are avoiding adoption of the commercial cloud because they heard something in the news or don’t feel they understand what it is. We hope this post provides confidence as you walk towards a future which will be increasingly digital and where business success is inextricably linked to technology success.
In a follow-on topic we’ll talk about some ways businesses can harness the potential of cloud computing.
SFC is a trusted technology partner and leading cloud solutions provider for numerous wood products and forest management organizations across the southeast.
Mike leads SFC’s Geospatial business line and is a military veteran and technology expert with 20 years experience in forestry technology.