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Cloud computing – are the skies the limit?

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As an increasing number of businesses invest in cloud based computing, it is easy to be blinded by blue sky thinking.

The exciting launch of the iCloud service by Apple earlier this month, showed the massive commercial possibilities of the technology and the promised advantages of adopting this type of system make it seem very appealing to firms.

By transferring the management of all of their computing services onto a third party, retailers can cut costs by taking away the need for a large bulk of their existing hardware.

Added functionality is also a massive advantage for the early adopters of cloud computing, with all staff members able to access company systems from any internet connection.

Tom Henson is the Chief Operating Officer of Hypercloud, a technology firm that runs an all-in-one cloud service for traders called ‘Retail-in-a-box’ which provides all front-of-house in-store equipment along with the running their computer systems.

“You turn it on and it works,” Henson explained.

“For a retailer it is about taking away all the technology implementation, hassle and upfront investment and delivering a service with a monthly payment scheme for as long as you need it.”

This bother-free approach, which Henson compares to a mobile phone contract, is obviously attractive to traders and he claims that a “major national brand” is currently in talks to integrate the system.

It is not just data management as the iCloud shows client services can also be improved by incorporating the cloud, an example of which is the latest fashion app from French Connection which was created by technology firm Answer.

When it was launched this month, Steve Dobson, Head of Design & Innovation at Answer, said: “Building apps in the cloud is more cost effective for businesses, provides greater flexibility and passes on faster speeds to users.”

With any new technology revolution it is always wise to err on the side of caution however, and a historic fear regarding cloud systems is that they increase security risks.

The theory goes that storing all of a company’s critical data in one virtual space makes it more vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacking, but Eric Abensur, CEO of another cloud provider Venda, says that security is improved all the time.

“All organisations, from private sector to public defence, can be vulnerable to hacking,” Abensur added.

“However, companies that run cloud based systems are experts in their field, they invest heavily in security experts, hardware and software and procedures.

“Through the cloud, retailers can benefit from the expertise, focus and investment into security at a level they may not be able to attain on their own.”

Convenience and cost saving may have been exploited at the expense of service however with new data suggesting that the cloud delivers slower speeds then traditional severs.

A white paper from technology performance specialists Compuware claims there is still considerable concern amongst more than half of businesses about poor cloud performance, and that slow speeds are costing adopters on average $750,000 (£465,000) a year.

Slow loading applications and web services certainly cost e-tailers customers and sales but even if these figures are accurate you would anticipate performance to improve with time.

Like all evolving technologies, problems still need to be ironed out but momentum seems to be on the side of those switching to the cloud. Expect a lot more big name adopters.

Published on Thursday 23 June by Editorial Assistant

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