In the IT world, there’s a new buzzword: Cloud Computing. IT professionals scramble to learn whatever they can about this dynamic new trend. In a word, Cloud Computing is the future of all Network Information Technology Infrastructure, not just retail businesses.
A couple of reasons exist for this:
· Flexibility is the key reason businesses are rushing to the Cloud. The Cloud allows your company to utilize a dozen servers on Monday and a thousand on Tuesday.
· Efficiency rivals flexibility in its importance. Clouds perform like a single massive machine, sharing tasks across huge networks. Essentially, each retail outlet is pooling its computing resources with the others.
With the resources of thousands of retailers shared across a vast network, you can easily see how versatile and powerful your network instantly becomes.
Examples of Cloud Computing Advantages
In practical application, the sky’s the limit insofar as where you can go using the Cloud. Let’s suppose your store sells hardware. You can design Cloud applications that track sales using filters.
Your computer, with no help from any human, has the ability to track the sales of every product in your store, contacting the supplier of any items it identifies as needing to be re-ordered and reordering those products. It can also retrieve the invoices for these orders, forwarding them to the billing department for payment. It sends alerts to the managers of the appropriate departments, as well as alerts as to the arrival of the products to the proper people in shipping and receiving.
Cloud Computing reduces the number of actual people it takes to get any job in your store done and that cuts your store’s budget, increasing your profit margin. Humans can often make mistakes. They forget to order one-inch sheet metal screws or bathroom caulk. Using the correct Cloud applications though, the entire process becomes almost effortless. Even the purchase order and invoicing are forwarded to the right department.
Are There Restraints to Moving Forward?
The problem in the world of retail however, has been that no truly exceptional applications of the Cloud have been created for retail usage. The reasons for this are varied and may include factors such as:
1. Lack of demand
2. Confusion as to the Cloud’s potential in retail markets
3. Slowness of retail store owners to accept and adapt to new changes
If you, as a store owner or manager, could quickly and cheaply possess real-time data analysis, think of the impact to your bottom line. The future of retail is real-time data streams from the point of sale. This allows you to fine tune your marketing strategies to where they become extremely accurate and efficient. A quick glance at the data analysis tells you that your price hovers just above the competition. Within days, your prices are modified and your sales become strong.
Confusing Terminology Explained
Service Oriented Architecture or SOA is an essential building block for those wishing to move into the Cloud. SOA provides a flexible, modular approach for your IT department in reaching the Cloud. It also provides lower costs and improved agility to your retail store than your current IT architecture. Your systems can easily adapt with SOA.
Another confusing aspect seems to derive from the terms “infrastructure-as-a-service” and “utility computing”. Although both of these bear some similarities to the Cloud, there are some key technical differences.
While utility computing and infrastructure-as-a-service basically allow a third party to provide you with computing resources, the Cloud should be thought of as a very specific type of utility computing. The Cloud encompasses each and every element of IT services and products and allows broad exchanges between networks in other retail locations.
A unique “Synergy” unfolds. You share or pool your resources with other retailers, and suddenly the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Emergence in its purest form is created. But G.H. Lewes, who coined the term “emergence” in 1875, probably never dreamed that mankind would reach the Cloud technology observed by retailers in today’s marketplace.
A Practical Comparison
At the moment, your store most likely owns its IT infrastructure. With the Cloud, you essentially lease the infrastructure. Think of it as the difference between owning and leasing an automobile. For a much lower monthly payment, you can lease a brand new Lexus and each time the company makes any type of modification or improvement to the Lexus, they replace your old car with a brand new, updated model at no additional cost to you. Hard to turn down a deal like that, right?
The Dangers of Waiting to See
With agencies like the Department of Defense jumping on the Cloud bandwagon, it’s a sure bet that the rest of the modern world will soon, in some form or degree, adopt and utilize this new technology. Normally, experience tells us that those at the forefront of any new breakthrough in science, technology or mechanics become the brave new leaders in that field.
Often, hanging back and waiting to see how some new system, product or service does, results in you paying more and waiting longer to have it integrated into your business. This makes it critical for retailers to move out into Cloud Computing, equipped with a keen understanding of what it can do to catapult your business into the future.