Cloud Computing for Construction Companies

cloudsAs an owner or manager of a construction company, you have undoubtedly heard about cloud computing. Cloud computing gets some much attention that you may have trouble separating the facts from the hype. In this post we’ll cover some of the basics of cloud computing right and some things to consider when deciding if a cloud based solution is right for you.

What is Cloud Computing?

“Cloud”, “the Cloud”, and “Cloud Computing” are a set of technology buzzwords that get thrown about quite a bit these days and have varying definitions depending upon who you talk to. Here is a fairly simple definition that we like to use:

“Cloud computing is the use of a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet (rather than a local server or a personal computer) to store, manage, and process data.”

What this means for you as a construction business owner is that rather than having to maintain your own computer server and the costs associated with maintaining that server like you did in the past, you now have the option to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use someone else’s computer infrastructure. In other words, the cloud should free you from the time and expense of managing computer systems so you can focus your time on what you do best – selling and completing construction projects.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Computing?

The main advantages of cloud computing are related to the fact that you are turning over the maintenance of your program and/or infrastructure to a company that specializes in doing just that. Because these companies specialize in providing these types of solutions:

  • They can afford better hardware and redundant systems, helping to minimize downtime
  • They employ experts to maintain and monitor the system
  • They handle the monotonous chores like applying upgrades and patches
  • They monitor the latest data security threats and protect your data from them.

These are all things that, even if you can do them, you probably shouldn’t as they are taking you away from your area of expertise – running a construction business.

Cloud computing also lays the groundwork for remote access and mobile computing (see below) which can provide multiple advantages to your business.

What are the Drawbacks of Cloud Computing?

Of course, one of the main drawbacks of cloud based solutions is that you have to be connected to the internet in order to use them. So if your internet service goes down or you travel to a location with poor or no internet access, you can’t use those systems.

However, many cloud solutions offer a way to work while “disconnected”, allowing you to synch your data the next time you do connect to the internet.

The other main concern business owners have about moving to the cloud is the security of their information. While top tier solutions include bank level security, it is still important to do your due diligence when evaluating cloud based solution providers.

Where Should a Construction Company Start?

Just about any computer and/or software system you use in your construction business can be replaced with a cloud based solution, so where should you start?

Data Backup Solutions – many construction companies dip their toes into cloud computing by selecting a cloud based data backup solution. In addition to saving money on extra disk drives or tape backup systems, and added benefit of cloud based backup systems is that the backups are stored offsite by default.

Basic Office Software – like word processing, spreadsheets, email, and calendaring software are available in cloud based solutions. Some solutions are purely online (meaning you need an internet connection to use them). Some, like Google Docs are designed to be used primarily online, but do allow you to do some work offline and allowing you to synch your changes when you reconnect to the internet. Solutions like Microsoft’s Office365 allow you to work with your desktop software (i.e. Word) when it is available, and via a web browser when you are away from your desk.

Time Collection – One challenge many construction companies face is collecting time card and payroll information from job sites. By utilizing a cloud based time entry system, workers and foreman can enter their information remotely from the job site, saving time and giving you more up to date information about the status of your projects.

Construction Management Solutions - While you may not want to change your accounting and construction management solution just to be “cloud based”, if you are beginning to outgrow your current solution or due for a major upgrade, you should definitely evaluate your cloud based options as you may be able to save some money while expanding your capabilities at the same time.